Leah Barclay | GROUND INTERFERENCE (2014)
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Ground Interference is a multi-channel electroacoustic composition composed by Leah Barclay in 2014. The work draws on short recordings from the Southwest Deserts of America with a particular focus on Joshua Tree National Park, Jornada Biosphere Reserve, Mojave Desert, and Death Valley National Park. These fragile desert environments are inhabited by thousands of species all part of a delicate ecosystem that is in a state of flux induced by changing climates. The transfixing acoustic ecologies of the southwest deserts demand a stillness that encourages a deeper environmental awareness and engagement. The recordings were made during preliminary field research for the Listen(n) Project, a new initiative I have been developing with Garth Paine at Arizona State University. In many instances during our field trip we struggled to find locations without human interference. The distant hum of highway traffic and relentless airplanes under the flight path from LAX were expected, yet we also encountered unexpected sounds interfering with the acoustic ecologies of the land. These range from an obscure reverberating vending machine in Death Valley National Park to rattling power lines in the Jornada Biosphere Reserve that were so loud I could feel the vibrations through my feet. This made me consider the effects of anthropogenic sound on these fragile ecosystems, particularly the local species that are so reliant on sound to communicate and survive in their natural habitat.

From a bioacoustics perspectives, it is interesting to note how little we know about the auditory capabilities of some species and the detrimental effects of our often oblivious sonic interferences with these landscapes. This composition draws on recordings that subtly highlight local species such as birds and insects, but also attempts to capture the sonic characteristics of the landscapes and the way in which other species might experience anthropogenic sound. Ground Interference opens with the sound of my foot steps at dawn on a desolate salt lake in Mojave Desert and gradually traverses an abstract exploration of the ecosystems we encountered.

Ground Interference was commissioned by Arizona State University and premiered on October 17th, 2014 at the ASU Art Museum during the Listen(n) Symposium. 

Further information on the Listen(n) Symposium is available here