Today an interview with Mikel R. Nieto and his recent trip to the Amazonas Rainforest:
1. Hello Mikel, maybe you could start by introducing yourself, and also what is your relation to sound and/or how did you get into sound?
My name is Mikel R. Nieto and my work revolves around sound since many years ago. Before I started my sound works I was already an infatuated listener, a melomaniac, obsessed with the less common sounds of the records I listened to.My first recorder was the first model of M-Audio MicroTrack, back then its price was around 600 €, I bought it second hand and I had to fix it. I think the equipment is not really important, the important question is what work you do with it. Now I have an equipment that I have built partly by myself, for example the microphones. The difference lies in how you use your stuff and not so much in what equipment you have. So, when I bought my first digital sound recorder I started to record all sounds interesting to me and, after attending several sound art seminars, besides my artistic studies, I began to make compositions with those sounds I recorded. Each workshop dedicated to the creation of sound that I have attended has changed my life, obviously some more than others. Remarkable ones are those with Francisco Lopez, Jean Luc Guionnet or Xabier Erkizia. All of them are part of my training. Today my relation to sound is really close and I go deeper and deeper into the theoretical practice, which envelops sound creation and all the potentiality (possibilities) that a sound keeps.
2. Could you tell us about your practice or the activities you have been involved with, in relation to sound ?
At the beginning I experimented sound improvisation in a duet with a friend in Madrid. Concomitantly, I made field recordings and I started to collaborate with the sound map of The Basque Country, soinumapa.net, a co-operative (collaborative) project where field recordings are shared and geolocated at an online map. This year I attended a seminar imparted by Francisco López in the Amazon rainforest, where we compiled a wealth and breadth of recordings. After that, I went through Amazon river till Perú.
3. What was exactly this Amazon rainforest seminar about?
The workshop leaded by Francisco López in the Amazon rainforest is organized by Mamori ArtLab and takes place in the lake Mamori, close to Manaos city in Brazil. During the fifteen-days-workshop we collected field recordings in several moments by day and night with a focus on capture special situations like slow sound transitions during sunset or sunrise. Over the last days we joined a four-days-boat tour in order to capture more sound recordings at different locations of the Amazon river, when we could make a lot of subaquatic recordings (hydrophonic). Concomitantly, besides recording sessions, Francisco showed us a part of the contents he is compiling to publish a book one day,a great wingspan work where he wants to presents a historical review that affects his practice. Those sessions are also useful as suited spaces for the common dialog about different aspects that affects this artistic practice. Questions were mainly focused on the processes that have led us to be where we are today, as why the recorded sound came to man and not before; or how the artist re-creates a virtual sound space and takes it as an aural reality. The participants were also stimulated to make a sound work with selected recordings for the last day’s public exhibition and then party with people who live there.
4. Were there any specific sound recording procedures introduced by Lopez during the workshop?
Recording sessions at the workshop followed always the same procedure. It hangs on the number of participants, we were 12, excluding Francisco López and Slavek Kwi, and we always made the same procedure in order to optimize the recording: first, go to the selected location, leave there recorders and microphones properly, at night we marked them with little lights to find them after, leave the place during the recording and pick up the equipment. Each participant has his own equipment and places it freely as he likes, but it is true that in some special situations, for example in the dark and when insects pelt you. is really important being practical at the time of placing the equipment. Therefore, oftentimes it is recommended having all the recording equipment previously ready and arrive to the area and just place it, not having to connect cables, microphones and recorder, but just play Rec.
This edition of the workshop, that Francisco leads for years, was a great experience for all participants: artists from Canada, USA, Australia and Europe. As assistant of Francisco is Slavek Kwi, who comes with all participants during the workshop. The timeline of the workshop is open to changes by anyone who has a proposal, but the usual course of the workshop is basically going out to record all together in propitious moments and diverse places to find a bigger breadth of recordings. To record we cull a specific area, we leave there recorders and microphones operating and we leave the place for some while and then come back to pick up the equipment. During those waiting whiles, far from recorders, we wait in silence listening to the surrounding landscape. After two intensive weeks of recordings, experiences, lunches and breakfasts we came back to Manaos to say goodbye and go back home. Except me: I continued my journey with the intention of crossing Amazon river by boat.
5. What can you tell us about sound in the Amazon rainforest or other places you’ve been at during your travel?
The sound at the rainforest can be basically defined as an acousmatic experience because you can not locate the sound source. All the time there are sounds constantly and swamp the space, that makes being there something spectacular and immersive. Hanging on the hour of the day or night, as well as on the location, you can find different sound landscapes made up by many animals at the same time: frogs, birds, crickets, insects, etc. Also under water there is a great breadth of sounds incoming from all sorts of animals, like dolphin, fish or insects. The sensation I had inside the rainforest is that you lose easily spatial references, becoming disoriented and all life there invades you absolutely.
In my travel across the Amazon I had basically the same sensation of becoming disoriented because in little villages inside the rainforest there is not car traffic, therefore there is a sound mix between sounds of the forest and home sounds of everyday life. When I arrived to bigger cities like Iquitos, Lima or Cusco I realized that the noise level produced by traffic, considering vehicles there, was breathtaking.
6. Thank you very much