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hill + backyard + sound landscape architecture

22 November 2013 >

We were busier than elves in Santa’s workshop…

Here’s binaural-microphone recorded ‘wild’ sound of our workshop activity (Friday 14 December); use headphones for best effect.
If anyone wants the .wav files, let me know… 


A thin hue of sun lines my morning horizon — latitude 55 — the possibility of summer seems remote here. Cold.

Was it only last week, we shared a space with indoor tropical plants at Ausland?

Some reflections:

Kaffe makes an important point in her post and hints at a question that remains unresolved. Did everyone ask the plants — silently or expressed orally — if it was okay to enter into a communion with them? You might recall during our first meeting as a group, I made a small invocation (just shy of a sermon, ha… ) about our intention and seeking ‘permission’ and so forth. My encounters with the numinous and spirit-filled domains of flora and fauna have been a humbling teacher. I was serious about sentient plants. And I am equally serious now in proposing that we reflect on the conversation held with them last week.

The ‘bleeding’ aloe vera, for one, was communication. What did that mean to you? How did you feel? Set aside your intellect for a moment. Was it a dialogue or an interrogation?

I was outside with the birch and ‘live’ trees, so I could not be totally attuned to what the plants had to say inside Ausland. But I did ask the ‘live’ tree if it was okay to stick it with an antennae probe; the dead birches seemed grateful for any kind of company. And, yes, Melody I do understand implicitly how flakey and well… silly and stupid this might appear to be. As a media personality in Canada, I told a national audience about my encounter with a ‘ghost’ in a haunted house in the Rocky Mountains; I discovered through my work with the neuroscientist Michael Persinger that subtle pulsed electromagnetic fields, inherent in the geophysics of the ground underfoot, can create the conditions for ‘communication’ of an extraordinary nature. That was fifteen years ago.

Karl-Heinz, is it possible that the supernatural is science that has yet to be assigned a measurement? If indigenous people who still live close to the land declare that plants are sentient and have ‘personalities’, how might we — as artists — facilitate conversation between modern urban people who might require a prosthetic device to relearn, and please excuse the analogy, how to ride a bicycle or skate along the thin surface tension between the world as we interpret it and the reality of spirit-filled places.

I called the outdoor installation Deadwood Sings Slowly for good reason because I learned through direct experience that’s how ‘plants’ sing — slowly. The live and dead trees performed well as antennae picking up on human activities in constructed space — perturbing the electromagnetic spectrum, disrupting bands of frequency with more and more traffic (mobile phones and so forth). And it’s a noisy, cacophonous bit of racket that these trees have to continuously put up with in Berlin and elsewhere in the world. There is an intervention, I suppose, by adding drones to harmonize and transmute the ‘noise’  (as Derek did so wonderfully with his bowed bass on Wednesday evening following my talk with Martin Howse). That said, the temptation remains to think of ourselves as clever — we in the broadest sense of humanity — without ever once having to consult with the sentient creatures that share the same spaces (sic) apparent and transparent to our sensory modalities. Our intellectual capacity to engage the numinous is stunted; many people in our Western culture have lost the ability to know the landscape from its frame of reference because in many respects there is no such thing as a genuine wilderness close at hand.

The good news is I think we have prepared the ground for another residency. And I would like to explore that possibility of reconvening in an artist-friendly place such as the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Kindly let me know if you’re interested.

Finally, I am grateful for Sarah’s invocation that I ‘sing’ on Thursday evening. If you were there at Ausland, when Kaffe and I jammed and a spontaneous interaction — a kind of ‘channeling’ — Kaffe moved by the sound of the plants, the antennae outside and so forth, and my sequence of overtones (throat singing) in close harmony, well… Sarah, you’re right “it was magic.”

Best to you all for the holiday season and 2013!

Thanks to Martin Howse,  Derek Shirley and everyone who attended last night’s talk (and listened on the radio/stream).

Here are links to content presented during the conversation. Wear headphones to best hear the immersive binaural-microphone recordings:

The Harmony Of The Square psychoacoustics project >>

Magazine articles that provide context for ‘field recordings’ of earth-based drones et al >>

The ‘in situ’ location audio + interventions are here >>    (Old Big files)

The lightning storm track (with drone intervention) >>

Again, for best _affect_ use headphones.

Martin Howse and I also referred to subtle electromagnetic fields (generated by the earth itself) that have an affect on human perception. My work with neuroscientist Michael Persinger is discussed in these links >>

The [em/I] project:  a simulacrum birch-grove installation using a derivation of Persinger’s circumcerbral (sic) magnetic stimulation device >>

The transcript for the _radio_ programme Haunted House, Haunted Mind (which tells of an encounter with a ‘ghost’ in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and replicating the experience in a neuroscience laboratory) is here >>

There is a television documentary (which you may also find of interest). Derek Shirley has the DVD, which I’m sure he’d be willing to pass along (or perhaps screen at Ausland?).

For correspondence, kindly contact hilldon(AT)  (email address is truncated to confound the spam trolls…)

A fall chill. Temperatures dipped overnight. Trees shed their leaves, yellow then brown on the ground settling in for the long spell of winter.


I neglected to add: I will also need a glue-gun and soldering iron, please. Over & out for now…

Ruth suggested I put up our recent correspondence on the wiki:

RUTH writes >> ps: i got car alternators, the cobber wire seems thick to me. but it´s gdr stuff, maybe western countries produced thinner wire…??

DON replies: The thinner the better, Ruth. Standard antennae wire will do it — especially for the _first_ rigged tree. That said, I’m keen on recycling and repurposing as much found materiel as possible. The east bloc stuff should be useful for the _second tree_ (best I check it all out when I get to Ausland). I expect to unravel the altenator wire (below) and wind it again around one of the trees… 


——– Original-Nachricht ——–

Betreff: Re: material Don Hill
Datum: Wed, 10 Oct 2012 16:31:43 +0200Hi Don, questions and answers!


DON WROTE >You’ll see the tree branches are rooted in a base of recycled wood (compressed particle board material), which was used to transport hardware (exactly what I am not >certain because I retrieved the base from beside a dumpster at the university).  don’t necessarily have to have a base, as the tree stumps will work as well (as I’ve indicated). 

RUTH replies: We could also build feet out of wood, in case the tree stumps are not sufficient-In your old material list you mention sand bags, they were for the same purpose, right?

DON replies: Yes. I’m also thinking of shaping the branches, twigs and so forth into an unusual antennae array — a kind of sculptured arrangement — to complement a site-specific aesthetic. At the very least, I will mirror the rudimentary surround of deadfall depicted in the ‘test’ photo in my backyard. 
I think we have a pile of wood to build it here and find a solution. Sand is also around the corner.

DON WROTE >The branches — as you’ll see tower no more than half-a-meter over my head. The shortest branch is at my waist. Ideally, you would have 16 branches for me to work with, >please.

RUTH replies: ausland is 5 m high – wouldn´t it be ice to have som real high ones? We anyways want to use the space in the heighth as well.

DON replies:  Good idea. The more branches the better. Lengths are no obstacle. However, widths should be manageable that we’re not requiring lumberjacks to muster the deadwood  8-]

DON WROTE >> I intend to wrap fine antennae wire around the tree branches, like a cobweb of spider-like intent. It is possible (and probably ideal) to use wire from an old car alternator (which I will unravel in a prescribed length for the tree antennae, which need to be slightly different from one another). You should be able to find a useless car alternator for practically nothing (perhaps ‘free’?). It’s the copper wire I’m most interested in (as you’ll see from the VLF – very low frequency – antennae that I use as depicted in the photograph).

RUTH replies:  Great! Car alternator should not be a problem, i was just at the junk yard and found this (see picture at the head of the posting)
But pieces would be tp short anyways. A car alternator is great. 

DON WROTE >> I will need two XLR-audio connectors (as you’ll see in the photo). 

RUTH replies:
this one?
DON replies:  The links shows a FEMALE connector (but the Neutrik brand works fine;  Switchcraft works too)  the MALE connector (which is like you would find at the base of a microphone; for instance, a Shure Beta58A). Two MALE XLR connectors, please (which will couple like a microphone does). Trust this makes sense…

RUTH WROTE >> And ancillary connectors to the wire (again in the photo).

DON replies: Yes, thanks.
DON WROTE >> What isn’t shown is the cabling from the XLR into the Ausland studio space (standard audio gear, which I imagine you might already have on hand?). 
RUTH replies: That should be fine.

There is a few remains form your old techlist: 

– Recycled lengths of thin wire — various colours. The longer the better.

DON replies:  Sure. But don’t make yourself crazy looking for this stuff (the telcos, such as Deutsch Telekom, typically throw kilometers of wire away when offices are remodeled or old buildings and homes get rennovated). My overall intent is to add colour and sculpt the trees — make them look spikey and ‘reaching out’ to the sky.

RUTH writes: – Sandbags (or equivalent — filled with aggregate or snow?) to mask and anchor trees

DON replies: Yes, any kind of achnoring materiel — recycled stuff, such ‘found’ stones in the neighbourhood or where-ever… Remains of the GDR wire and so forth… 

RUTH writes: – Cans of fluorescent spray marking paint — turquoise, yellow, lime green, orange, red (think of the xmas season)

DON replies: Yes. As luminescent as possible. Glow in the dark, eyecatching stuff…

RUTH writes: – PCM microphones…

DON replies:  Pressure mics are no longer necessary (I had been thinking of creating a mic out of modified meat-thermometers, pound it into a tree, but sadly since the trees are ‘dead’ I suspect there won’t be much insect movement inside that can be monitored — a story which I will tell during the ‘talk’)

RUTH writes: what about these? And what about a preamp?

DON replies: Yes to the preamps (two). However, I’m reticent to leaving anything outdoors — the idea being the lineout from the XLR connector would conveniently couple with a preamp _inside_ Ausland (however, since I can’t completely recall how one enters and exits the building, your counsel would be appreciated!) On my VLF antennae (the picture I sent), I simply outputed to a SONY MINIDISC recorder (with a modified XLR to Tip&Sleeve jack), and then outputed from the headphone jack. So — that might do the trick, too. Cheap and repurposed is my motto!