fieldnoise 04 - cool and divide

In describing her mental topography of Pittsburgh in the memoir An American Childhood, Annie Dillard writes:

I will see the city poured rolling down the mountain valleys like > slag, and see the city lights sprinkled and curved around the hills’ > curves, rows of bonfires winding. At sunset a red light like > housefires shines from the narrow hillside windows; the houses’ bricks > burn like glowing coals. > > The three wide rivers divide and cool the mountains.

Pittsburgh is also my hometown, and that description has stuck with me for many years—even though I’m too young to remember the industrial past that it so immediately recalls. I had Pittsburgh in mind when I originally posted this mix in May 2011, and I’m happy to repost it now that I’m back in this part of the world, where rivers seem to cool and divide the mountains all around me. “Rivers” are the guiding theme here, but in truth I never really interacted with them much until I took a job with an outdoor nonprofit after college. With them I began to regularly interact with the rivers in more substantial ways: I fished them, I kayaked them, and I led people on bike trips along their banks, among other things. This mix starts very literally, with a field recording of a river, but from there I dip into some of my all-time favorite records, from Richard Brautigan to, yes, Rusted Root. Please feel free to share widely.

fieldnoise mix 04: cool and divide by craig eley (30:06)\ originally posted May 18, 2011

1. Roland Etzin :: Two Sides of the River :: (0:00-3:50) :: This is from Autumn Leaves, a soundscape compilation put out by the field recording label Gruenrekorder.

2. Mountain Man :: River :: (3:39-6:05) :: One of my favorite discoveries of the last few years, thanks in part to heavy airplay by some of my favorite DJs on KRUI. Mountain Man is a group of women who make folk music from Vermont, and I think their record Made the Harbour is woefully under-appreciated. This track is a cappella and drop dead gorgeous.

3. C.W. Coates :: 5 Catfish :: (6:00-6:01) :: As the the title suggests, this 30-second track is a recording of 5 sea catfish (I know, not technically river-dwellers, but still). According to the liner notes of the album, the sea catfish makes “a dull, low-pitched grunting noise, which seems to come from the air bladder.”

4. Matt Schlanger :: Green River Blues (Excerpt) :: (6:22-8:43) :: This is a quirky, disjointed electronic number from Tellus #17, “Video Arts Music.”

 5. Harry Partch :: By the Rivers of Babylon :: (8:38-12:08) :: Beck and I’s favorite microtonal mastermind, this time with some serious vocal wailing.

6. Rusted Root :: Infinite Tambora :: (11:57-13:50) :: You think I was going to make a mix about Pittsburgh and not include Rusted Root? I mean, this is sort of on here as a joke, and sort of not. It’s an instrumental and very quiet song from Pittsburgh’s hometown darlings.

7. Richard Brautigan :: from Trout Fishing in America :: (13:45-17:03) :: I went through a pretty serious Brautigan phase when I read Trout Fishing in America in college, and when I found out he had a spoken word record I had to track it down. The vinyl is exceedingly rare, but in 2005 it was reissued on CD, and I was lucky enough to snag one before it sold out and got really expensive again. Brautigan really uses the medium to the fullest, especially on tracks like “Some sounds of my life,” where he records himself brushing his teeth, eating breakfast, etc. There are also more traditional “readings,” like this one, which is accompanied by some well-placed sound effects.

8. John Morton :: River Weeds (mix edit) :: (16:58-22:37) :: A terrific piano piece for four hands, from Tellus #4. Played by Morton with Shelley Robbins.

9. Andy Hawkins :: River Blindness (mix edit) :: (22:32-28:07) :: Almost 10 minutes long, Hawkins’ composition is a barrage of guitars, congas, and distorted noise—everything including the kitchen sink. This is the last 5 minutes of the piece.

10. Audrey Hepburn :: Moon River :: (28:02-30:06) :: The fact that she’s not really a singer only makes it better, right? I was actually just talking about this song with a friend this weekend, and how it may or may not have been written to showcase the approximately four notes that Hepburn can really hit. A classic.

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