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THE VALUE OF THIS


Of what value is this?
 
Water jugs beside the road, scattered behind barbed wire fences.

I gather them thinking they could be used for instruments.

migrant water bottles

 

These are the water jugs of migrants, with bandanas tied on the handles decorated with dollar bills and American flags.

Artifacts and totems of a journey for transformation into sound and narrative.

I spy two tied together hanging from mesquite thorns.

I reach for them and tug.

The tree branch relents and the jugs tumble towards me, soaking my jeans and shoes with a rancid urine.

I take the dry water jugs and drive off to meet a friend to whom I relate this story.

"Piss water," she says sagely nodding. "They must have had a very hard journey."
 
Of what value is an empty water jug in the desert?
Of what value is urine when there is nothing else to drink?
 
A few days later I meet up with documentarian and professional gondolier Steve Elkins.

Before dawn we head for the Nogales Wall.

He wants to film me playing the wall for a movie he is working on.

He films as I set up my gear and play.

The sun rises into the Nogales, Sonora smoke filled haze.

"Reminds me of India," he says.

nogales wall dawn
Thousands of morning fires burning in hearths, pushing back the cold.
The wall's metal, in cold shadow on the American side/ in warm sunlight on the Mexican side, sweats in condensation.

It is hard to deny there is a certain horrible beauty to this wall.

Patches of rust blended with weather faded paint.

Welded scars criss-crossing the surface.

Numbers and names and icons of observation tell stories in raised tattoo.

It is too cold at this hour for even the usual chorus of roosters and peacocks and dogs.

But the cities on both sides of the dividing line are awakening.

Everyone opens their eyes the same.

Between shifts Border Patrol officers and Homeland Security agents come to check this playing out.

Multiple trucks arrive.

Even an Arizona Highway Patrol car shows up.

Plates are run and IDs are checked for what one must assume is already a burgeoning file.

But we also talk of the wall's sonic properties.

Border security cameras on poles record Steve recording me as I record the sound of a wall in transformation.

An
observer effect feedback cluster-fuck if ever there was one.

I am without an amp so this performance is for recording and headphones only, but I have forgotten my bow so this is a work for mallets, acoustically loud and thunderous with some electronics mixed in.

It is loud enough for all, but lacks the interstellar connection of amplification.

Those on the other side I can only imagine wonder: What the hell?
 
Of what value is a wall once it becomes an instrument?
Of what value is an instrument without listeners?
 
Later in the day atop a hill somewhere between Arivaca and Amado, Steve and I spend some time with a stuffed Santa discussing sound and The Anta Project for his movie.

The Anta Claus it is duly dubbed.

the anta clause 

People passing honk and wave, school kids in a bus proudly show off their middle finger salute.

Earlier in the day, Steve who also happens to be an accomplished percussionist stepped from behind the camera in Sasabe and together we played King David's Wall and the desert earth beneath our feet.

Behind us in America a line of Virtual Wall Towers scanned the horizon.

Before us in Mexico black vultures circled and roaming cattle lowed.

The sky and wind were our audience here, but I know there were many others, some within and some without, some listening and waiting, some ghosts in the grass, some spirits on the rocks.
 
Of what value are borders to sound?
Of what value is sound to silence?
Of what value is silence to ghosts?

Of what value are these things?

sasabe wall