The Chapada dos Veadeiros, on the fourteenth parallel, like the city of Machu Picchu, is teeming with mystery stories. Some believe this place is particularly conducive to meditation. The National Park, which covers an area of over 23,000 hectares, was created in 1961.
The flora, fauna and key habitats are what set apart the entire Cerrado biome. As I write as best I can on my mobile phone in the SUV, the landscape of the Cerrado passes before my eyes. The savannah predominates here. There are two types of forest: those with low trees and a lot of dry scrub and those with tall trees, also with a lot of scrub. The tallest trees are not native to the Cerrado, which only retains vegetation in twenty per cent of the surface area. The road runs parallel to the communications lines and power lines. Most of the pylons are made of cement. Metal ones, which are fewer, are taller and can probably handle a greater load. As in many places in Latin America, it’s difficult to access the wild lands because everything is enclosed. From time to time, we see farms surrounded by immense fields. Everything is immense here. The farms only show us the boundary with the road. We don’t see if they end. From time to time, too, a few reservoirs. There is no shortage of water, as evidenced by all the vegetation. In places with more vegetation, buritis, very slender and elegant palm trees, are growing. There’s also no shortage of signs reminding travellers that Jesus is everywhere. There is a lot of religious fervour around here.
For millennia, this region has been a refuge and biological corridor for a large number of species during periods of climate change. In future periods of climate fluctuation, it will be equally vital in maintaining the biodiversity of neighbouring regions. This region, included in 2001 among UNESCO world heritage sites, is home to 60% of the plant species and 80% of the fauna of the centre-west of Brazil. Fire is the biggest threat they face. In a recent visit, experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature established that the great drought it is suffering from, though normal between the months of April and October, has begun to cause significant degradation. In times of drought, air humidity can decrease as much as 8%. This facilitates the spread of fires, too often caused by farmers clearing the land for planting, hunters, careless tourists or arsonists. The main tourist attractions are the cold and crystal clear waterfalls, such as the Cachoeira do Rio dos Couros, very close to Alto Paraíso de Goiás and the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, where the intense green vegetation contrasts painfully with that of the rest of the land, dry and very thorny forest, almost always of ochre tones. If we are to believe the rumours that hydroelectric power plants are going to be built, however, very soon these places could change dramatically.
Alto Paraíso de Goiás is a small town that at the end of the last century became known for its special focus on New Age eco-tourism. In 1990, there was a strange migration of mystical and esoteric groups, as well as ecologists involved in taking care of the region, which has an immense reserve of quartz crystals. Because it is rich in this mineral, very close to the surface, Chapada dos Veadeiros, seen from space, is one of the brightest points on the planet. Urban legends speak of extraterrestrial visits. Inside the small town, a square has even been built that some believe to be a landing site for ships from outer space. São Jorge and Alto Paraíso de Goiás are the most active eco-tourism spots in the area, with hostels, camping facilities, restaurants and ‘eco-friendly’ houses. In Alto Paraíso de Goiás there are three churches. One each for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Presbyterians and Catholics. Rivelino, who shows us the way to the best places for sound recordings, is a Roman Catholic, although from time to time, he tells us, he visits Presbyterians. A passionate fan of the World Cup, he doesn’t think Jesus would have liked football. He also makes fun of the stories of mystics coming from all over to welcome the aliens and, with a half-perplexed, half-repulsed expression, mentions that there have been suicides related to this strange extraterrestrial fervour.
As it is not yet time for creatures of the night to come out, when I heard the crash of the water against the blade of the waterwheel, I thought it was a soundscape worth recording. A curious sound, that of this waterwheel. It’s like someone washing buckets. There are two prevailing ones. One is the result of water falling from the pipe. It has lower frequencies and more uniformly random splashing. It creates a network of dense and highly vivid sound. The other sound is the one produced by the hydropower generator, a metal wheel with blades of the same material. When water crashes against them, it produces a chaotic and clearly metallic sound, unpredictable for humans, but not necessarily random. This is a good place to start distinguishing between chaotic and random. In a random distribution, if it is uniform, all the events have the same probability, such that the spectral composition, what some would call timbre and others, colour, is similar in all the frequency zones. As such, identifying repetitions within it is almost impossible, as is making predictions. The spectral distribution of chaotic sounds, which is much more skewed and irregular at first, tends to have forms within the spectrum that seem to repeat themselves, although they never do so in the same way. Our cognitive capacities believe that they have identified recurrences, although they are unable to tell whether or not they are exact. In fact, they are not. Most of the pitches of the sounds produced by the metal wheel are within a sixth, but given one of them, the probability that another will occur later is not the same for all. It is different for each of the possible pitches. This happens, in general, in Markov chains, which were useful in the first simulations of natural languages. In a flat random distribution, however, such as that of water falling from the pipe, given a pitch of sound, the probability of any other occurring is the same for all possible continuations.
The park’s maintenance employees are passing by here. They walk around for a while making noise, needlessly it seems, and then leave. They are immortalised in this recording. It’s a pity we do not know their names; we would have included them in the credits.
Sud 14 09.947- Oest 047 35.995 · 16.30 . 27.06.20
Sons en Causa
Sons en Causa és un projecte de l’Orquestra del Caos basat en el registre del patrimoni sonor propi d’una sèrie de contextos culturals on a l’entorn mediambiental, a causa del creixement econòmic, són previsibles canvis irreversibles a curt i mitjà termini. Les diversitats cultural i biològica, encara enormes, són massa fràgils. Mereixen ser tingudes en compte i la seva gran importància, divulgada. El patrimoni intangible, i amb ell, el sonor, està seriosament amenaçat en molts llocs del món. Un cop produïts els canvis que ara ens semblen inevitables, els sons, i amb ells les seves causes, hauran desaparegut per sempre.
Enregistraments: Carlos Gómez