Martina Testen and Simon Šerc‘s Biodukt is one of the finest field recording works we’ve ever covered, making our overall Top 20 in 2020. Earlier this year, we included the album in our feature, The 25 Best Spring Albums of All Time. We even coined a phrase that ended up being part of the subsequent exhibition: forest bathing for the ears. Suffice it to say that we fell in love with the album, and now that it’s been expanded to an audio-visual experience, we’ve fallen in love all over again.
As we’ve just linked back to everything we’ve written about the initial project, let’s examine the similarities and differences. The sound sources remain the same: “the natural sounds of the Slovenian Goriška region and the Italian Friuli Venezia Giulia.” But what was once a one-hour listening experience is now two. While the first rendition was a single seamless experience, the new edition offers four half-hour experiences whose endings loop back to their beginnings; so if one chooses to focus on a particular series of sounds, one may stay there for as long as one wishes. While writing I am dwelling in the active sounds of the “Afternoon,” since an overnight storm has muted the normal dawn chorus, and I love the sounds of streams and frogs. By looping this piece, I am creating my own aural environment.
The Blu-Ray offers an even more immersive experience. As one can tell from the video below, the larger the screen, the more one seems to be able to walk into the forest itself. (Note to purchasers: the ambient music of the video was only in one exhibition, and is not on the Blu-Ray, which is all field recordings.) As Šerc playfully writes, “If you have 4 Blu-Ray players and 4 TVs or projectors, you can recreate the exhibition room!” As tempting as that sounds (and these days, surprisingly affordable), most people will be happy with one of each.
The sobering irony is that this exact type of AV presentation – a full-wall projection recreating the pristine sounds of an unblemished environment – has become a popular vision in sci-fi shows, streaming on a spaceship long after Earth has been abandoned, or in a board room of a polluted city. The project suggests escape, a realignment of the soul, especially for those who cannot get to the forest. But it also prompts preservation, underlining the fact that these actual environments are endangered. One day there may be few places to hear such naturally rich cacophonies.
The artists encourage their listeners and viewers to “hear with their eyes and see with their ears.” Testen and Šerc hope that people might come to Ekodukt for healing, and seek out similar places to experience the power of nature in person. Once that healing has begun, one might become more than a passive recipient, but an active participant: a healing force, connected by a system of roots. (Richard Allen)