Desert Obscura

On March 20th, 2010 Soundscrapers took part in the Atlas Obscura/BLDG BLOG expedition to the "Geoglyphs of Nowhere" a.k.a. a bunch of dirt roads northeast of California City in the Mojave Desert. I put up what I call Desert Prosthetics, a series of installations which mediate the experience of listening to ambient sound in the desert. {Please refer to my post at Archinect for the full statement.}

We camped out for three days at Red Rocks Canyon, where I did a test installation and made slight modifications to the pieces at the campground. The boyscouts sure thought I was strange. ("Do I smell spray paint?")

Obscura Day at dawn. Listen:

Desert Obscura
A small crowd gathers at the cul-de-sac of the unmade American Dream

1. SOMT: A telescoping box for changing the frequency of ambient sound.

Desert Obscura

I've done some binaural recordings around these things. In this one, your right ear will enter the box. Listen:

2. Fata Morgana: A curved box for trapping heat and producing an audio-mirage.

Desert Obscura

I pointed a shotgun microphone through this box to record people hanging out in the cul-de-sac. You'll hear the sound of Fata Morgana rotating as I swivel it to test the resonance of different peoples' voices. Listen:

3. Slowscope: A curved, telescoping box for collapsing the audio horizon.


I tested both ears for the Slowscope. Listen:

I have come to realize that even as installations in real space, at least two of these three prosthetics are actually models for something I'd like to produce on a much larger scale.

I have also left some markers on the site which denote the coordinates of a place-less cul-de-sac in a very precise way.

34 degrees north 11 minutes 19 point 763 seconds

Desert Obscura