As paredes têm ouvidos was the culmination of a three-week residency at inaural’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.
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.
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 tucked into the wall so that they could not be seen; 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 presented here is a collage collecting favorite moments from the installation: clean recordings of highly colored soundscapes. In most of my work, I attempt to capture the most transparent recordings possible. This project represents a new strategy: foregrounding 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.