one-minute vacation
as paredes têm ouvidos

As paredes têm ouvidos was the culmination of a three-week residency at Binaural's Nodar Guest Studio, in the small town of Nodar northern Portugal.

The project's name, which translates from Portuguese as 'the walls are listening,' summarizes both the project's inspiration and its realization as a set of headphones emerging from a wall in Nodar.


marincello unsoundwalk
rodeo soundial
handpans and the hang
as paredes têm ouvidos
flostam resonance #1
a day, a week, a year
field effects concert series
annapurna: memories in sound
quiet, please
serendipity machines
urban cycles
other recordings

As paredes têm ouvidos, as experienced in Nodar on April 27, 2007.

The recordings I used to make this piece were made by inserting very small Core Sound HEB microphones deep into nooks and crannies in the walls around Nodar.

The walls, made of hand-stacked irregular blocks and fins of local stone without mortar, were among the first things I noticed about Nodar and its environs. They enchanted me with their complexity, and with that of their resident ecosystems, yet they also continued to function as barriers; even as I was drawn repeatedly to study them, they came to embody my sense of being able to only partially penetrate the realities of life in the town during my stay.

The contradictory manner in which they simultaneously attracted and repelled me resonated and became the focus of my work in Nodar. And so I made a few dozen wall recordings over several weeks, aiming not only to explore the quiet soundscapes surrounding various walls in town and in the nearby pastures (which were terraced with stone walls and bordered with stone fences) — but also to burrow into them, extending my ears (as it were) in pursuit of the unique and secret resonant spaces within.


Recording within the walls of Nodar, Portugal; close-up of Core Sound HEB microphones protected from dust and sharp edges with foam.

To share these recordings I realized an installation based around five simple collages, each collecting excerpted wall recordings around a different theme. The collages were loaded on very small MP3 players, which were hidden in a wall in the center of Nodar.

The players were tucked into the wall so that they could not be seen; the desired effect was of headphones emerging directly from the wall. I hoped that a listener standing at the wall would be reminded in a very direct way that she was listening to the soundscapes that hide in the walls, but are always nonetheless there.

What you hear in these recordings are high-fidelity recordings of highly colored soundscapes. For me this is a departure; in most other recordings on this site, what you hear is my attempt to capture and share the most transparent recordings possible.

Doing otherwise widens my sonic palette as a composer; but more interesting I think is that it foregrounds the process (and inevitable failure) of my efforts at objective documentation. Paradoxically my intuition says that the results are ultimately more true to the world's soundscape, so much of which is, like what is captured in these recordings, imperfect.

For anyone interested, you can read my notes (PDF, RTF) for a presentation I gave on the project to the people of Nodar and the surrounding community; note that they were written for a 'lay' audience unfamiliar with sound art or my own work and concerns.

Sometime this year I intend to revisit the recordings I made for this project to assemble a single mix for CD release; in the meantime, here are my collages as they were presented in Nodar on April 27, 2007. (And here is a Flickr set documenting my residency.)

ouvidos collage a16 MB

Collage of recordings made within the walls of Nodar, on the theme of animal sounds.
A ubiquitous sound in Nodar is the bells of domesticated animals.

ouvidos collage b17 MBCollage of recordings made within the walls of Nodar, on the theme of human sounds.
I had a Portuguese speaker review my recordings to guard against any impropriety.
ouvidos collage c9 MBCollage of recordings made within the walls of Nodar, on the theme of nature sounds.
ouvidos collage d8 MBCollage of recordings made within the walls of Nodar, on the theme of thing sounds.
A joy of spending time in Nodar is that there is so little anthropogenic sound.
ouvidos collage e7 MBCollage of recordings made within the walls of Nodar, on the theme of water sound.
Still thirsty? Here's a secret link to a soundwalk following living water through town.