Monday, October 1, 2007

Michael Prime - Borneo

"in february 2005 I visited the state of Sabah, north Borneo, with the object of recording bioelectrical signals from some of the unique flora and fauna there.
The rich lowland diptercarp forests are rapidly giving way to Oil Palm Plantations, but there are still some pristine forest areas where ancient primary forest trees can be seen, their massive trunks rising straight up for over a hundred feet.
Out of the steamy lowlands, the massive bulk of Mt.Kinabalu rises to a height of 14,000 ft, providing a refuge for many endemic species that prefer a cooler climate.
Here, northern hemisphere trees like evergreen Oaks and Chestnuts mingle with southern hemisphere conifers like Podocarpus Agathis and Dacrycarpus.

These montane forests provide shelter for a variety of tree ferns, rattan palms and climbing Lycopodiums, Higher still is a cloud-forest of twisted Leptospermum and Dacrydium trees, whose nearest relatives are found in Australia and New Zealand.
The highest slopes of the mountain are mostly bare rock, scoured clean by the glaciers found here until just 3000 years ago.

The Rafflesia are a strange genus of parasitic plants, famous for producing the largest flowers in the world. They are root parasites, completely invisible above ground until one of their enormous flower buds breaks the surface.
Their life cycle is poorly understood and ther seem to require a certain amount of disturbance. Since a nature reserve was declared to protect their most well known locaton at Poring, they have ceased to flower within its boundaries!
We were able to find one flowering on a farm nearby, and the owner was kind enough to let me attach electrodes to one of the flowers.
The flowers smell of rotting meat, and attract numerous files.

Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is an indigenous tree of Borneo, whose powdered bark enjoys a reputation as the local equivalent of Viagra!
It is also mixed with ginseng and coffee to make a very refreshing hot drink.
I was pleased to find a tree that had been included in the planting scheme of a gold course popular with local businessmen.

The genus Nepenthes is notorious for containing the world's largest carnivorous plants. Some of them have pitchers large enough to drown a squirrel, and they can climb high into trees in search of prey.
Finding a specimen to record involved climbing My. Kinabalu, and I soon found that my portable recording equipment began to seem much heavier than it did at sea level!

Finally, I was able to record specimen of Nepenthes x kinabaluensis growing in ultramafic scrub not far from the summit trail, as other exhausted climbers trudged past to use the facility at a small rest stop.

All Living organism produce a faint electrical field, which constantly fluctuates according to the state of the organism.
In Plants, these fluctuating voltage potentials can be seen to reflect a number of natural cycles, as well as transient events like water stress, attacks by predators etc.
The bioelectrical field varies not only with periods of light and dark, but also with cycles of the moon, magnetic storms and sunspots.
By connecting plants to a bioactivity translator, we can listen in to their life processes, and even hear them reacting to transient events.
Plants are able to react instantly to charges in their environment.
Do we consider this to be a form of consciousness?

The bioelectrical sounds I recorded in the field are used mostly in manipulated and intermodulated form in the compositions here, but always retaining their natural rhythms.
In the field, choices have to be made about the parameters the translator is set to, which will affect frequency range and other aspects of the sound.
Nevertheless, the rhythms which emerge are very much a reflection of the life processes of the plant.
A dead plant, or a fruit or vegetable which has been picked, produce only a static tone.

Two Ultrasonic transducers with heterodyne frequency conversion were used to record the ultrasonic sounds of bats and insects.
These recordings have not been manipulated, edited or latered, the listener can follow the movements of the bats in real time as thery locate insects and zoom in, speeding up their echolocation sounds to obtain better resolution in the ''sound picture'' they are receivin of their prey.

Unless mentioned otherwise, all acoustic recording were made on the move, using a pair of binaural microphone, as well as making bioelectrical recordings of plants, and ultrasonic recordings of bats and insects, I also set up small installations, ''stalking'' with the binaural microphones.

''Banana Rattan'' contains a live recording of an installation that featured the amplified bioelectrical signals of a Rattan Palm, and an as yet undescribed species of Banana, recorded beside a mountain stream.

The installation featured on ''Hungry Ghosts'' used voices from a local shortwave station, undergoing live processing on a laptop. I trecked into the coastal forest just before midnight to record this, and on the way there, suddenly found my feet sinking rapidly into a clammy ooze. The rising tide had turned what had been a dry creekbed into quicksand.
I Managed to sit back onto dry land, and then rashly dipped my foot into the quicksand to retrieve the sandal. Though only a couple of seconds had passed, there was no trace of it, as if it had been pulled down by unseen hands. I took off the other sandal, and proceeded on bare feet”.
(Micheal Prime, booklet, notes)

Label: Mycophile Records
Cat. #: SPOR 10, SPOR 11, basm 01
Format: 2xCD (+ 3” CDr in the ltd. edition)
Release date: 2007

1-01 - Year Of The Cock (9:55)
1-02 - Tongkat Ali (8:27)
1-03 - Rafflesia (14:04)
1-04 - Insect Strategies (12:19)
1-05 - Plasmodium (11:51)
2-01 - Fish Nibble (3:36)
2-02 - Nepenthes (17:32)
2-03 - Montane Forest (6:11)
2-04 - Banana Rattan (8:30)
2-05 - Rogon Walking (5:02)
2-06 - Hungry Ghosts (23:11)
3-01 - Insectivorous Bats*

* (3” CDr in the ltd. edition)

1-01 - Year of the Cock
  • Index pt.1: Sounds of construction echo through primary forest near Sepilok.
  • Index pt.2: Kota Kinabalu town, Chinese New Year celebration.
  • Index pt.3: Indoor market, Kota Kinabalu.
  • Index pt.4: Poring Hot Springs.
1-02 - Tongkat Ali
  • Composition using bioelectrical signals and background sounds from a specimen of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) growing on a golf course, Karambunai Peninsula.
1-03 - Rafflesia
  • Composition Using bioelectrical signals and backgroundsounds from a flower of Rafflesia pricei, Poring.
1-04 - Insect Strategies
  • Index pt.1: Unknown insect, montane forest, Mt. Kinabalu (ultrasonic recording).
  • Index pt.2: ''Car alarm'' insect, montane forest, Mt Kinabalu.
  • Index pt.3: Composition using nocturnal insect sounds and bioelectrical signals of Rafflesia pricei.
1-05 - Plasmodium
  • Composition using bat sounds and bioelectrical signals from Rafflesia pricei and Eurycoma longifolia.
2-01 - Fish Nibble
  • Fish nibbling algae (and hydrophone), Pond on Karambunai peninsula (Hydrophone recording).
2-02 - Nepenthes
  • Composition using bioelectrical signals and background sounds from a specimen of Nepenthes x kinbaluensis, ultramafic scrub near summit trail, Mt.Kinabalu.
2-03 - Montane Forest
  • An afternoon recording from montane forest, Mt. Kinabalu. Cicadas compete for mates white cooling breezes disturb the tree canopy.
2-04 - Banana Rattan
  • Index pt.1: Installation using bioelectrical signals from a Rattan palm and Musa species, montane forest Mt. Kinabalu.
  • Index pt.2: Water tank, Mt. Kinabalu.
  • Index pt.3: Composition using sounds from the above installation.
2-05 - Rogon Walking
  • Composition using sounds from a nocturnal walk on Mt.Kinabalu, and bioelectrical signals from Eurycina longifolia.
2-06 - Hungry Ghosts
  • Index pt.1: Installation using radio and laptop, coastal forest, Karambunai peninsula.
  • Index pt.2: Oil palms in the wind, Karambunai peninsula (contact microphone recording).
  • Index pt.3: Bats hunting over the beach, Karambunai peninsula (ultrasonic recording).
Michael Prime

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