Field recordings with the children of San Roque – Jenny Gräf

For the first few weeks in San Roque De Cumbaza I acclimated myself to my new surroundings.  Exploring sound through my human ears and through the ears of the technology I had brought with me.  Microphones are like portals to alternate realities.  A subtle interplay of frogs, cicadas, and birds can sound like a war-zone through a certain mic.  A pack of wild dogs barking far away can sound louder than your own footsteps.  A changed perception of sound can alter your sense of space. 



Making field recordings is a process of allowing the environment to speak through these remote appendages.  Using contact, dpa, shotgun and hydrophone mics.   I tried to tap in to sound that the ear has difficulty hearing without the aid of technology: the low reverberating tone of the town bridge, termites moving in their nest, unseen insects chewing away inside of a tree or the sound of a wire fence, the sound of children playing as heard under water, or even a wild party off in the distance.


After a few weeks of listening to the environment with and without my recording equipment.   I collaborated with Amelia Ducker, an Australian artist/educator who was also at Sachaqa on a residency at the same time.   To come up with a week-long workshop for children based on listening and looking through the video and audio equipment we had brought with us.  We didn’t want to impose too rigid a structure on our activities with them, because we also wanted to see where they took the lead and what activities they responded to.  The week turned out to be a very organic flow of activities that involved children ages 4 to 16.   To listen, look and record their neighbors, families, environment and to participate in playful exercises about listening, looking, moving and sounding. 

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One thing the kids loved was the Sounding Bodies exercise that I’ve been doing with adults in Denmark. It involves giving and receiving a sonic/tactile experience.  In this exercise the givers gather scavenged objects that have weight, texture, sound.  They use these to activate the senses of those receiving and who are lying down.  After first receiving an experience, they kids were really excited to reciprocate, and become the givers, spending a lot of creative and empathetic energy in the process.

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We created an art show for the families to share what we did and let them take home some of their photographs and video stills. The below video was also part of the installation, which was held in the town square at the local café.

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