Painting Winter

While listening to music from the room next door, Painter Enrique Harrison talks about moving to Cedro, New Mexico in 1981. A life long artist, Enrique shares a story about gathering wood and water in wintery Tijeras canyon, mud plastering the oldest house in Cedro, and painting retablos by kerosene lamp and candle light during cold winters.

Recorded at Albuquerque 25 November 2015 in the artist’s studio.

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Alabama Grove

Narrator Margaret Pool speaks about Pleasant Grove, Alabama school fairs and musicals during the Fall and Summer, family football and listening-in via transistor radio, and travel throughout the United States, including Knoxville, Tennessee seeking wild blueberry in the Great Smoky Mountains.

A visual artist, collector of postcards, and an avid reader, Margaret shares memories of the stresses of academia, reading literature late-night, and watching home movie theater outdoors with grandparents.

 

Recorded at Albuquerque 13 October 2015 ABC Special Collections Library.

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NMSU Public History

January 2017 begins anew with a Public History master’s program at New Mexico State University located in Las Cruces. My accepted for admission Statement of Purpose outlines an initiative to record, catalog, and present an narrative research on Poverty, Homelessness, and Child Hunger in New Mexico borderlands.

Founded in 1983, the Public History department at New Mexico State houses many potential avenues of research, including a revisit since my time at CF&I Archives to the Rocky Mountain Online Archive.

The Public History Library Guide links browsers to resources such as Las Vegas, Nevada based: Southwest Oral History Association.

At NMSU, a 1997 project called Preserving Community/Cuentos del Varrio (an Oral History Manual) taught oral history methods to alternative teaching and learning teens at Gadsden High’s Panther Achievement Center (PAC). The result is a collection of rural New Mexico heritage narrative recordings which helped students to learn history of the United States using methodologies to foster open dialog and collective memory of southern New Mexico and West Texas communities.

Information about my own new direction will update here at the NMSU Record Narrative blogroll, created to feature highlight clips of narrators who research, make connections, and work to alleviate New Mexico’s cycle of poverty, homelessness, and child hunger.

Potential collaborators who are available in Las Cruces and on the New Mexico State University campus are welcome to contact me.

At this time, I hope to begin seeking potential narrators March 2017.

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New Mexico Identities

Narrator David Hernandez Rivero speaks about the native and international communities of New Mexico.

Originally from Havana, Cuba, David has worked as a librarian, archivist, and museum curator, including study at University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum and 2015s collaborative work Afro Brasil: Art and Identities at Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center.

 

Recorded at Albuquerque 14 August 2015 ABC Special Collections Library.

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Autumn Dreams

This summer, after too much time spent working rather than recording, a chance presented itself to schedule sound recordings along

Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Transferring sound equipment —i.e. checklist packing to allow for easy hauling, set-up, and tear down— challenged my physical energy level, not to mention the potential time spent processing WAV format digital materials.

My station as a novice sound collector marked, I traveled to the inner-city to record. Before stepping outdoors with a fancy digital recorder, it’s important to ask:

What sounds are most likely to be captured?

With perhaps late-to-the-game player anxiety, I read news articles and inter-web insights about 2016 sound hunters featuring specialized, other times random, sound events. The NYT article linked above highlights the work of The London Sound Survey, an early influence on my decision to sound record out-in the natural environment.

Quickly and quirkily, the disadvantages of sound hunting clearly addressed my lack of whatever – obviously technological capability. 

When this happens, I seek Advice and DIY (Do It Yourself) pages such as the helpful Quiet American website, a valuable resource which documents many good to know  in-and-outs of recording. 

Had my hard spent money outwitted me again? The latest wave of recording devices crafted and created by the microphone and music industry prove adept when called to supply more disposable and cheaper (though, don’t forget) higher quality devices.

It should be clear to all recordists of sound and noise that the right microphone will always be indispensable to post-production; however:

loud-enough sound “connected” i.e. INPUT 

at the right recording levels — wins the day! 

Post-Production will always be there to help keep your long winter warm. For more time at the cafe, instead of the DAW, develop good universal sound setting practices on location, and be ready to easily adjust for surprise sounds.

Once my prescheduled destinations were located via the generous work of the Radio Aporee mapping application:

My first lesson was awkward set-up.

The routine I’d worked on for the last five years included over twenty orchestrated steps, such as:

  • phantom-power to the digital recorder
  • comfortable yet sound absorbent microphone placement
  • narrator hospitality provided  to forget quirky technical equipment

Lesson learned: Design to create closed sound settings at the library and archives.

Recording in the natural environment calls for preplanned, opened sound settings, traveling flexibility, and easily adjustable sound levels on the trail. In the field, disconnections between the archives and open-air sound events are swift. Sound equipment cannot be left unattended for the sake of removing the observer.

Always remember that you are not alone in space, especially on Monday through Friday in the United States (a terribly antiquated workweek calendar of the current age).

In the city, workers of urban space sizes compete for the same sound event areas with the highest goal set in stone: Safety. Not everyone has the afternoon off to record traffic!



 

Unlike Colorado rivers and streams, sound in Albuquerque flows slowly, gurgles quietly rather than rushes, and meanders buttressed between high automobile traffic bridges, easily seen and heard by the contrasting sounds of Alameda and Central Avenues.

Interstate 40 at Rio Grande was not my most challenging set-up to reach; however, the capacity of sound to overhaul an environment taxed my desert subterranean anxiety. It’s a good city insight to know what your city’s traffic noise truly sounds like. Yes, an Albuquerque freeway bridge recording!

A second lesson and humble reminder: practical challenges abound! I continue to learn sound recording lessons and so should you! Sound Design methodologies and how they are conducted, lost, created, shared &ct. will always be important to public historian collections.

My poor technical expertise, as always, makes me laugh, and even led me to remove “Sound Records New Mexico” from my social media profile. After all, sound hunters with much better microphones, digital recorders, and DAWS will be quick to note the high gain setting on these first two field recordings at the river.

Audio recording listeners use headphones for good reason.

I plan to continue to listen for the sounds that make light of industrial sound ecologies under terribly loud neighborhood overpasses. Too over-abundant city noise, a danger to public health, and terribly cacophonous sound spaces point to the industrial age’s need to re-construct these sound vortexes!

Mindful consideration, a solid research purpose, and clear motivation to isolate a sound event without becoming the recorded event itself present intricate challenges that sound recordists and public history interviewers must address.

Social justice events and recorded speech created for the narrator’s benefit, or not at all, will always mark the public record according to the sound presentation recorded. A good host’s extraordinary demeanor combined with a studied and knowledgable sound recording skill-set can help your project’s ability to be shared.

The same best practices apply for sound hunters in the field. Like the theory of the great outdoors, this begins before sound hunters arrive and for many hours after the working process.

To be sure and confident about your working techniques and capabilities: Listen and recognize born-digital audio recordings for what they are: the sounds of your work. A good idea of field recording sound helps even the most advanced public historian. 

Likewise, always listen to professional sound collectors and interviewers! 

All that said: Take good care and stay aware of your surroundings out-doors when sound recording urban and natural sound. Set and Setting research practices apply to the outside of open space libraries, too. 

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Summer Language

Oscar López talks about University of New Mexico’s Center for English Language and American Culture (CELAC). From San Salvador, El Salvador, Oscar attended the program at UNM in the Spring of 2015, in addition to further dedicated study at the ESL Conversation tables of Central New Mexico Community College. With a love for Linux and Electrical Engineering, deeply fascinated by electromagnetism, Oscar returned to El Salvador to continue research in the field of Telecommunications and the recovery and restoration of transformers.

Photo: San Salvador by Jamie Han

Recorded at Albuquerque 7 August 2015 ABC Special Collections Library.

 
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Rain Cars

Near Los Griegos Library, the normally welcome sound of rain is questioned by the street traffic noise of Griegos Road along North West Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Recording environments in open (outside) spaces can be intimidating without the right equipment. It’s true that a great microphone helps improve listening quality; likewise, proper set-up goes a long way during the editing process.

For this sound record: it was raining. So, I switched on the digital recorder’s on-board mic and adjusted for a dry location rather than a lengthy set-up time. This became an effort to help improve my editing for sound techniques in post-production.

To continue forward with research of sound and aural environment study, it’s clear to me that future generations will depend on quieter, more responsible consideration of sound ecology. An open space isn’t always natural in the wake of a multitude of industrial and automotive sound present throughout our international cityscapes.

In editing this highlight clip, I found the automotive noise fascinating when listened to from the perspective of ocean waves.

 

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David Lee

David Lee

Public History at New Mexico State University: Poverty, Homelessness, and Hunger in the New Mexico Borderlands. Email record@nmsu.edu Phone (505) 715-8779

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