an audio project for the elective Audionautical Journeys: (engineering sound)
I recently went camping with my friend Steef Kersbergen. We Travelled to the island of Terschelling on the Dutch Archipelago known as the Frisian islands for 3 days. During our trip I became obsessed with the word Archipelago, what it means to be an island and what it means to be a group. There is a clear, tangible relationship notions of islands and my research into detachment, ambivalence and queerness. I decided to record as much of the island as I could and sat down on a sand dune to talk with Steef
about their relationship to queerness, islands, bodies and flags.
The resulting audio piece is a culmination of this camping track and the culmination of learning about audio engineering on the elective Audionautical Journeys: (engineering sound) delivered by sound guru Daz Dislay
My researched is focused on theatrical techniques of detaching the voice from the body and then putting them back together in a disjointed way. These theatrical techniques such as lip syncing or voiceover are able to create a sense of ambivalence when a body is in the space, I’m interested in how this ambivalence, this effect created from the detachment of the voice can be viewed as queer.
The task of creating an audio project was an exciting proposition in context of my research. Effectively that’s what recoding audio does, it keeps it, it captures it, it detaches it. In away it ‘queers’ it.
When I visited the Island of Terschelling on the Dutch Archipelago, I was struck by a feeling of escape caused by the detachment from the mainland. This was a strange place, a different place. You could cycle around the island in a day. I started to talk with Steff about being an island, about being queer and the relationship between the mainland and the island. We also discussed the word Archipelago and what being a group of islands means in a queer context.
The main problems were the winds of Terschelling. It’s well known as for gusts so it felt important to include in the audio project – but how? I thought I would tackle the situation head on and let the wind ripple naturally through the audio project. After the first draft, made on my laptop, I was happy that the wind was not too intense and added a sense of place. However, after discussing it with Daz, it was evident that I had only listened through my laptop or through my headphone which have a naturally tinny quality. I played the first draft on a PA system and was horrified at the sound. This was caused by lots of low end frequencies and the solution was fairly simple, to take out he low frequencies wherever there was wind.
I also discovered the EQ section of garage band and after the elective I now have some knowledge on frequencies and how they work when they reach our ears. This meant that I was able to play with the frequencies, trying to understand when best to take out the low end and when best to leave it be.
Another problem I occurred was the translating the concept of detachment. I did lots of writing on the island of Terschelling; personal, poetic rambling on islands and queerness. I wanted these writing to serve as a narrative skeleton, on which the rest of the audio could cling to. I wanted my voice to sound different from the interviews I conducted with Steef on the island. The narrator had to feel detached like they were thoughts of the mind rather than reflecting ‘real life’ environments. I’m still not quite happy with the effectiveness of this approach. I would like to try to play with this more to discover a way placing the voice inside the head.
After consolidating the discussions with Steef on the island of Terschelling I (decided to frame the audio piece as on: relationship to an island and a body, what being an “islander” could potentially mean, the ‘queer’ flag of Terschelling and Elvis Presley.
Island as queer bodies
If an island was a body, where would the body parts be? What town would be the eye? What village wold be the belly button? I think I thought this thought because I am interested in how my own queer body could be considered as an island and therefore what it would mean for my body to be part of an Archipelago.
Being an ‘islander’
I’m interested in this though because I believe there is a strong connotation between islands and queerness. Both are separate entities from the mainland, outliers who think, survive in a different way. As much as I’m interested in Queer detachment, I am also interested ion queer togetherness and therefore what this means in connection to a group of island or an archipelago. Terschelling amongst the Frisian Islands.
Tershelling has it’s own flag and the Dutch love a flag so here, on the island you will see it everywhere.
It struck me at first glance as some kind of queer flag, like the island was declaring itself a sexuality.
At the far side of the island just above East End, the furthest place cars are allowed, on this remote place stands a bar. This bar is called ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and themed, quite brutally, around Elvis Presley. It’s so bizarre to see this bar at what seems like the end of the Netherland surrounded by sand dunes and sea. Soo bizarre, so out of place that it almost feels queer amongst this landscape. The bar also had a further secondary effect of getting the earworm of Heartbreak Hotel lodged in the head to the extent that every beautiful landscape view was soiled by my brains audio memory of Elvis Presley.
Island as queer bodies
Being an ‘islander’
This is for those who went to sea and never returned
Images: Steef Kersbergen/Ryan O'Shea.
A huge thanks to Steef Kerbegersen for making this trip possible and to seeing the beauty, joy and wonderment in the journey, in the wad and in every person who identifies as a non-something. You are an island my friend but together we are an Archipelago.