This story comes in from Maksims Shentelevs, a sound artist and architect whom I’ve known for many years and made numerous collaborative projects with. One of our common interests is exploring spaces and places in the Baltics that have fallen into the folds of history and making site-specific interventions. Max was kind enough to send me several stories of some recent discoveries with many photos and recording documents.
Airplane hangar. Tukums airport. Latvia. 10.3.2012.
March 10, the end of the winter. We went by car to the nearby town of Tukums, me and my friends Eva and John. Eva is visiting her mother, while John and I decided to explore some local airplane hangars. On the way I realized that the previous weekend when we went to ski in Cesis, it was the last skiing time that winter. It was a local cross country skiing marathon. Now the snow was melting. Spring arrives. The weather is great, lots of sun. We find the hangars without any difficulties. John and I get out of the car, Eva heads towards the town. We cross the field and approach first hangar. They are ex-military hangars where Soviet nuclear weapons were stored. Not to be seen from the air, the buildings are covered with earth and vegetation, though they are very noticable from the ground. So strange – to have nuclear weapon hangars just next to a town, some 20 minutes walk from the center. The buildings are beautiful, large concrete tunels. Very nice sound inside. Steel arches that support the concrete are nicely ribbed and form a good even reverberation. At the main entrance end there are huge metal framework sliding gates filled with concrete. Very heavy. No chance to move those, but gap under gates is enough to sneak in.
I check another hangar, where is John recording water dripping. I go to the next one. There is someone inside with a huge hammer. I see him (or probably her) from the back. He or she rises the heavy hammer and smashes the steel door. Thats a different form of improvisation. I leave and return to the first hangar. There is a beautiful light inside. Water drips from the melting snow that leaks through the structure, the same as in the second hangar. I guess same for all 5 of them. I notice a nice loose metal profile on the ouside of the large door. I check it – sounds perfect. I put the mics inside the space – optimally in the middle and push record. I go out and start banging with my rubber mallets on the loose metal part, first slowly and gently, then more intensively. I feel that the building starts to sing, but I’m outside so I can’t hear it so well. After a wile I notice John approaching the rear of the hangar. He enters through the back door, stays inside and listens. I get tired and slowly fade out, but its not so easy to stop. After reaching the point of resonation it takes very little to keep the resonance of the sound, so I go on further before it finally dissolves.
Now there is only a memory of the drone and waterdrops inside. Its very calm. Eva arrives soon. There is no sound from the person in third hangar. It has disappeared. We go back to Riga, to reach the theater on time where my job is to play some fairytail ragas for kids.
Max is one of the key members of Bernu Rits, an experimental sound and musical group based in Riga Latvia.