World Arts / Art & Science
Sons en causa

Misionera Jungle · Mesa Redonda

Llegeix-lo en català

 

Gonzalo Biffarella, who organised our Argentine campaign, proposed a route in Misiones province going from El Soberbio, a town founded in the early twentieth century and now with just under four thousand inhabitants, to Saltos del Moconá, about 70 kilometres to the north, going up the Uruguay River. There is only one internet café in the whole area and some closed Wi-FI networks where, at a first glance, it’s impossible to tell whether these are public services or private set-ups.

Along this route, where Argentine telephone coverage becomes increasingly spotty, settlers, most of whom come to the region from Brazil, tend to establish themselves where it suits them, whether the site has an owner or not. They grow yerba mate, loofah, cane, tobacco, corn, oats, citrus, such as lemongrass and pineapples. Tobacco companies often convince them to grow tobacco. They build a dryer, put the seeds in it and buy everything it produces. After a few years, the diseased land no longer yields. Then the settlers are forced to sell it to new settlers and occupy another piece of land. Perhaps the most significant economic activity in this region is logging. It is carried out by large companies, such as Harriet or Larragui, owners of a huge reserve that extends over more than 250,000 hectares. Juan Alberto Harriet, a well-known cattle baron, donated a thousand hectares in the last century to create Moconá Provincial Park. These companies exploit the remaining 249,000 hectares according to the Ministry of the Environment, which, they say, regulates the logging of certain species.

Misionera Jungle from the Yabotí River

In this region, where ox-drawn carts are a common sight along paths and paved roads, the new emerging industry is eco-tourism, which we assume is behind the construction of a new road that leads to the facilities of Moconá Provincial Park. In this part of the world, travel from one area to another is difficult. Reaching the heart of Misionera Jungle is, in some cases, impossible.

There are no houses in Mesa Redonda. It is only a crossroads with a name, but on the map it appears as a village. When we reach it, Guillermo, our guide, insists that this path is only used by carpenters and the Guaraní people. The main fork in the road, which comes from El Soberbio, runs deep into Misionera Jungle in the direction of the Yabotí River. The turn-off leads to Saltos del Moconá, but everyone says the road has been impassable for a long time. We were passing by yesterday and decided to return to re-record the soundscape. It’s been half an hour since the sun went down and what we’re hearing the most are grasshoppers. It is the rhythmic-timbral structure that our cognition, so trained to establish dichotomies between substance and form, perceives as a song made up of well-formed and defined whistles. What is perception if not highlighting certain signs over the rest? The whistling bird is not the only signal that my nervous system interprets as form without the contradictory interference of consciousness: a very interesting caw has also just been heard near the microphone. In addition, there are creaking sounds like those made by wood. Because they are quite infrequent, I am almost certain that they are made by an animal moving branches. All this is form, of course, but if I forget about it and turn my attention to what I initially inadvertently and automatically thought of as substance, the singing of the grasshoppers, I realise that it too is form. And inside, even more forms. I have the almost paranoid impression that I could scrutinise the sounds until infinity and I would continue listening to form. Obviously not: human experience has limits, as does the world, as large as it may be, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with madness.

Misionera Jungle from the Yabotí River

As if to distract me from these vague ideas of utility, a breeze blows in almost perfect synchrony with the fall of a few branches in the forest. I then note that the distant grasshoppers are singing a major third, drowning out those closer by. One hundred and eighty beats a minute and, if they slow down, half that. The creaking of wood again. In one case, very close to me. Another instance, ahead of me, further away.

The carpenters are cutting logs in the dark. We had been hearing a chainsaw. Now, another. When the sound reverberating through the interior of the jungle from the trunk of one tree to another stops echoing, the bird that had been giving us the gift of its song tries its luck again. But the only answer is the sound of the far-off machinery. He persists. The grasshoppers don’t care one bit. They’re bent on what they’re doing, like the carpenters. I no longer see my surroundings. The trees have become shadows. I don’t hear or see Gonzalo. He has gone down the road heading towards El Soberbio. I can only glimpse the silhouette of Carlos Gómez, who is recording ten metres away, when I realise that in front of us, and far away, there must be a cricket singing a minor third, drowning out the closer cricket. What’s more, it’s much more regular. It comes close to the lowest pitch humans can hear, around twenty hertz. It rises and falls, but this could be the effect of the breeze, which must be sending me the sound in waves, just as it is moving the leaves behind me. For just a moment, I sense a presence nearby. Aside from some of these monstrous trucks, it doesn’t look like much can change in an hour.

The stars have come out and, who knows, it may not rain tomorrow either.

Fire near Mesa Redonda.

Returning to El Soberbio at night, we make out a fire not far from the paved road. Guillermo tells us that the settlers are burning the jungle with the intention of gaining space for their tobacco plantations. Aggressive and very fast, the fire is huge compared to other ‘controlled’ fires I’ve seen up close. The wind carries it towards the place on the road where we had parked the SUV. I hope it doesn’t jump over to this side. It has more than one hot spot. When we arrived it looked like there was only one, but then a few more were declared. Now, upon listening, we can clearly make out three distinct places where the crackling of the flames is most intense. The gusts of wind intensify it. Behind the fire, in the house, you can hear music and dogs. But there are settlers much closer. They have come with their axes to keep us company. As if they were watching us. When a motorbike carrying three people passes by, the wind picks up and, with it, the fire. A beast. When burning, the dry branches send flames flying high and the rise in temperature can be felt from my observation point, about forty metres away. Guillermo thinks it is no longer safe to stay here. We leave.

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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

Josep Manuel Berenguer
Josep Manuel Berenguer és coordinador i professor de Psicoacústica i Música experimental del Màster en Art Sonor de la UB i director l'Orquestra del Caos. President d'Honor de la International Conference of Electroacoustic Music del CIM / UNESCO, President de Quantum Art Lab, membre del Patronat de la Fundació Phonos i del grup MISAME. El seu treball inicialment electroacústic s'ha orientat a la instal·lació, al temps real i a la interactivitat. Les temàtiques desenvolupades inclouen qüestions relacionades amb la filosofia i la història de la ciència, els límits de llenguatge, l'ètica, la vida i la intel·ligència artificial, la robòtica, el metabolisme de la informació, així com els límits mateixos de la comprensió i la percepció humanes del món. Luci, que explora els comportaments complexos emergents de superposicions d'elements simples, va rebre el Premi ARCO-Beep d'Art Electrònic.

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