How is the living form remembered after it’s own lifetime? While the genome provides an instruction set that gives hints of a possible form, it shifts over time, loosing the specifics to a cursor pointing only at success. Living progeny it seems are the only long-term biological memories that matter. Through fossilization, bones, body, skin, and even entire slices of an ecosystem are committed to the Earth’s memory, keeping records of the once living, not just the currently living. This might have been a meaningless coincidence of chemistry had we not come along, curious about where we came from.
As a species, we have begun deliberately preserving natural history, supplementing genes and fossils with artifacts – some of our own choosing. It is possible that this tendency to record is not directly in the service of man, as we might assume, but rather done so on behalf of nature herself. Perhaps it is an extension of a more natural and deeply biological force of memory. In fact, our recordings were not historically always so self-conscious as they are today. The earliest cave paintings, such as those at Chauvet, are rarely of the recordist – they are of aspects of the recordist’s natural environment. These are the original field recordings.
While recording at Shangi-La, I wondered if the residents saw the conspicuous microphone arrays as anything besides an intruder, or perhaps a benign curiosity. I wonder had they known, or cared that those objects could remember that day for them, to bear witness to their existence, what they might have wanted to say or do. How would they have wanted to express themselves, how might they have wanted to be remembered?
There is perhaps nothing particularly special about the sonic events at Shangri-La on the evening of June 1st, except that a machine was dutifully holding vigil. It was the second time in about as many days – the first were Greg’s devices, deployed at roughly the same location a couple of nights before. The recording captures a scene almost at random, like a fossil. The location was selected by rumor, the microphones positioned by intuition, and the duration dictated by weather conditions and the necessity to make a flight departing from Green Bay at 6PM the following day.