Sonorazona Oscillations


This particular desert sounding, the one from 2/21/2012, is born in Tucson's immersive 5 a.m. subharmonics of east bound trains.

The car’s gas tank is full and the trunk is loaded: water, viola, two shortwave radios, cooler full of custom built contact microphones, amplifier, camera, recording gear, batteries, rosin, bows and of implements of mass percussion.

Already the night’s westward retreat has begun, pulling a swirl of stars into its wake. I follow, through Border Patrol checkpoints and blazing halogen lights, beneath hawk sentinels atop their telephone pole perches, and deep into the endless horizon that is always waiting.

In the CD player is Pauline Oliveros’ Four Electronic Pieces, 1959-1966, turned low and ambient and infinite on repeat all, in perfect synchronicity with the desert racing past or mountains standing still in the distance, weaving its way organically into the DNA of this unfolding day.

Behind Keystone Peak twilight emerges and paints the sky with first light white blue. I leave the asphalt behind and set off in pursuit, following a rutted dirt road that dissolves into shadows, searching for an opening in the grass and scrub to setup for a morning sounding.

A few miles in an island of sand and rock appears. I pull off, setting up the shortwave radios at points north and south, one for each side of the brain, tuning in wobbly oscillations from distant worlds that shimmer and sizzle as the earth spins forward into what will be.

glenn weyant viola

In this moment, in the last shadows of predawn dark stillness, the temperature falls below freezing. With stiff fingers I remove my viola from her case, warming the wood with breath and touch, running the bow softly against the strings, creating friction and heating the rosin, gradually building sound and stepping into the river without beginning or end. In this way I am jacked into the new day born, weaving the oscillations of my viola with those of the radios, interlocked, hardwired and bathed in the flood of umber light now pouring over the horizon’s dam and flowing out across the land.

It is this way, at this moment, all across the globe in this latitude. The meridians are equal. Borders are pointless. All is one beneath the sun.

Born in night and baptized in light, WHAT NOW IS steadily unfurls as I wander along the outback’s dirt roads, stopping to explore on foot animal paths through shimmering grass, listening for the illusion of perfect silence.

I bring a cushion and sit beneath the impossibly blue dome of sky before Waw Kiwulik whose presence here is felt everywhere, watching the day go by, engaged in deep desert listening, bathed in the oscillations of radio signals.

Almost seven years ago, near this very spot, I had stopped to watch a Red Tailed Hawk on a winter day. Moments later I was being circled by a black Homeland Security helicopter. The bird flew off and from this encounter the seeds of The Anta Project were sewn. Over the years I’ve watched this place, a good stones through from the border with Mexico, become transformed by fear and loathing from a place of nature and primal beauty into a militarized zone.

I’ve seen walls rise where simple fences once stood. I’ve been circled by helicopters, charged by members of The National Guard wielding M-16’s, inspected for radiation contamination and detained under suspicion of being a possible Russian spy based upon my looks, all while in the pursuit of sound and beauty on public lands.

But on this day, none of this happens. The wall still stands, a rusting hulk watched and guarded as always, but in the grasslands I encounter not a single human.

And I find I like it this way.

pronghorn arizona

Passing through open space without conflict, inspection, detection or suspicion, transports me back to the days before 9/11, when the borderlands were still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Along a ridge in the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) I settle down and watch a pair of pronghorn antelope roam the landscape. There was a time when the pronghorn were plentiful here. However, with settlement came barbed wire fences and the land was bound and quartered, impacting the pronghorn’s traditional migratory routes between the United States and Mexico.

When BANWR was established most of these old fences were removed and the pronghorn began to rebound. Then in 2007, much of the work was undone when the desert was bladed and a sprawling border wall was constructed on the edge of this refuge, once again cutting the pronghorn's migratory route in two.

Unlike the simple wire fences, this wall of steel tubes filled with slurry will prove more difficult to remove.

So in honor of the pronghorn, I sound one of the last standing barbed wire posts, pulling out sounds that remind me of the shallow seas and the creatures that may have once inhabited them millions of years ago.

I find satisfaction in knowing, if shallow seas can disappear, so too, can border walls.

Six hours later with the sun settling into a downward arc, I follow the road home through Arivaca, refueling my soul at  Gadsden’s with coffee, sea salt chocolate chip cookies and the first words of the day I shall speak without sound.