• Liz K Miller

Jana Winderen's Underwater Soundscapes

Listening to Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone (2018) by Jana Winderen

15th September 2019

Audio event series: Music and other living creatures at Café OTO, London


Crackling, almost hissing popping… Could this be air bubbles? Popping around and from what? Sounds like they could be from a frying pan, but also gassy, airy and cold. It feels cold. Perhaps this is due to the title with ice in it…

There is a driving, swooping, descending whine, dropping in frequency in double beats, double pulses, pairs descending together. They are melodic, yet not animalistic, perhaps even plant-like. What could be making this sound? The thin cries of an animal? And tapping… could this be a fish?

The ever present and persistent frying pan crackle and pop…

Crashing waves, stones and sand shifting, high cracks, ticks and squeaks of dolphins, diving whistling firecrackers…

How many sounds and recordings are layered to create this composition?

The musical composition on which the soundscapes are layered is dark, bass-y, ominous and foreboding. It is a warning of bleakness, cinematic, low, rumbling, grumbling, even dangerous. The sound builds, crescendos, increases, takes over and obscures the layered and varies soundscapes, allowing only moments to creep and sneak back into audition… some waves… then crackling, then dolphins squeaking and trumpeting.

Listening in Café OTO with about twenty other Saturday afternoon listeners is incredibly rare, special and comforting. We are immersed underwater in a layered, textured, busy, thriving, flourishing, growing, sounding, moving, vibrating, pulsating watery world. The low conversation from a few people, and occasional chatter from a couple of young children adds to the soundscape. The sound washes over us, envelopes us, folds us all up inside the space of Café OTO, a cocoon, a clam shell of sound, we are all within it.

An animal bassoon swoops low, so vibrant and smooth in sonic texture before we return to the frying pan, bursting and crackling. A hissing cricket with a cicada-like swell.

Could they be frogs croaking? A chorus of high-throated croaks, like running the bristles of two plastic combs together.

Drops and pops of exploding air, loud, noisy and breathing. Loud, noisy and living. What hears these sounds? What is attracted to them? What uses these vibrations for survival?

It is a revelation that so much activity and life sounds out underwater. The sound of this blooming is a celebration of life. The juxtaposition of the dark sonics blended with the sound recordings are like a warning. Was this the intention for the composition? How many locations were used to gather this soundscape?



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