2019: Volume 1

  • Residents sitting and standing around picnic table listening to recording.

The first edition of CAMPBIENT took place at Bayview State Park on July 5-7, 2019.

CAMBIENT Volume One is a collaboratively produced recording by the participants of the inaugural session of CAMPBIENT, an annual sound art residency program sponsored by REALMOREREAL. Campbient brings together 22 participants for 44 hours to conceive and record two, 22-minute ambient sound compositions realized entirely on location at a public campground. Participants divided into two groups each responsible for one side of the record, building layers of sound from on-site field recordings, improvisation with electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and digital processing. The result is a work of ambient sound art that is listenable, cohesive, and compelling, with an induced, enigmatic narrative.

Participants had free rein as to the content of the final recorded pieces, as well as organizing the collaborative creative process in whatever fashion is mutually agreed upon. Recordings were made on a battery-powered, multitrack mobile recording rig with an assortment of transducers including an ambisonic microphone.

By combining deep listening exercises, critical discourse, and collaborative sound art production, Campbient is a catalyst for both a dialogue with nature and a soundscape intervention. Each Campbient takes place at a different site every year. Public lands are utilized to encourage community and inclusivity, environmental awareness, and the conflation of the social utility of art and stewardship of the commons.

Group photo of 2019 residents
Front row: noisepoetnobody, Meghan Fay, Olivia Sterne, Jessica Earle, Wiley_Soule. Second row: Olivia Massimiano, Aurora San Miguel, Kathleen Torrez, Aaron Allen Ussery, Brad Muller, Amber Cortes. Third row: David W Halsell, Rahikka, Josh Hughes, Riley Roberts, Ruth Kazmerzak, George Sarah. Back row: Marcell Marias, Aiken Bomers-Muller, AJ Lindner-Michaelson, James Wenlock, Edward Wolcher, Elijah Clark.

Notes from the record:

This recording is the product of the inaugural gathering of Campbient, the 44-hour sound art residency. Campbient (“ambient camping”) brings together 22 artists for 44 hours to produce two, 22-minute live ambient sound recordings. Cambient is an annual invitational event with all recordings conceived and produced in situ at a public campground within the allotted time period. Participants had free rein to produce whatever recording they wished, as well as organize the creative process in whatever fashion was most appropriate for their needs.

The genesis of Campbient was a thoughtful artistic exploration of the dialogue with nature in a society armed with noise pollution. The use of public lands is fundamental to Campbient, and directly related to tying art practice into the stewardship of the natural world, as well as an unconventional yet conscientious use of the public commons. This is based in the belief that as society moves into an uncertain future, all decisions and initiatives will increasingly demand an environmentalist critique. By making this awareness a core precept of Campbient, we are using art to make the “real more real,” that is, making manifest ethical ideals that are imbued in the process, a notion inspired by the essay “Art Is that which Takes Something Real and Makes It More Real than It Was Before’ by Tommy Akulukjuk and Derek Rasmussen1, one of a dozen essays ranging from the conceptual to the technical provided to the participants in a bound “field guide” setting the stage for the experience.

For the actual recording process itself, participants collectively decided to split into two groups, the AM and PM sessions, effectively becoming side A and B of the finished record. This took advantage of any unique characteristics in soundscapes at the different times of day, and helped form a conceptual narrative for the recording. The track titles reflect the different approaches the two groups took in their process, with AM’s reflecting a more observational approach (the title came from a parental admonishment overheard from another campsite), to PM’s use of systems of chance and randomness to make compositional decisions (their title comes from a text randomly referenced during the recording). The results are not merely the documentation of a summer’s day, but more interestingly, a compositional arc that leaves much room to the listener for interpretation in the interwoven ambient sounds and performative gestures. The two sides are cohesive, but starkly different both sonically and in their realization.

The location provided tantalizing sonic possibilities of the natural world coming into collision with anthropogenic sources. However, a number of parameters arose from both the practical considerations of the site, as well as the technical limitations of working outside the accustomed studio environment and off the AC grid. The recordings and a rough mix were completed within the time period of the residency, all on a battery-powered multitrack mobile recording rig with an assortment of transducers, including an ambisonic microphone. To this the participants brought a selection of acoustic and electronic sound-making sources. The monitoring system was a low-power FM radio transmitter providing zero-latency wireless monitoring for the recording, which also doubled as our own radio station, programmed by participants playing DJ after the day’s recording was completed.

These technical and environmental constraints, the conceptual framework, the vagaries of the collaborative process, and the site itself shaped the experience and the resulting recording in a manner that was unforeseeable, but gave rise to a unique and compelling work of sound art by a talented and varied group of creative humans.

1. Akulukjuk, Tommy, and Derek Rasmussen. “Art Is That Which Takes Something Real and Makes It More Real Than It Was Before Tommy Akulukjuk and Derek Rasmussen.” Art, Ecojustice, and Education: Intersecting Theories and Practices, edited by Raisa Foster et al., Routledge, New York, NY, 2019.

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