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VIRTUAL INSECURITY: A BORDERLAND DECONSTRUCTION


LISTEN WHILE YOU READ



Last week on a wonderfully freakish wet May day, driving down a road to nowhere, I discovered a sign warning of virtual immigrants and drug smugglers in the area.

As far as I could see I was the only person in sight, so why this particular warning I wondered.

Was there more to the message than the words did tell?

How real was the danger compared to say drunk driving or drive-by shootings in the city?

After a bit of thinking and wandering I concluded it was yet another vestige of post-9/11 fears becoming woven into the fabric of our daily lives.

Careful, the government warns, virtual dangers abound.

And it’s not panthers or wolves or pissed off natives we must worry about.

No, the government sanitized the Wild West of those threats long ago.

Instead the dangers of today lurk in the virtual world just beyond our walls and borders.

It has been four year since The Anta Project was first imagined.

At the time I was parked on a similar desert road, doing some bird watching and drinking strong coffee.

Watching a red tail hawk perched in a tree, I soon found myself being circled by a much larger bird of prey: A Blackhawk helicopter with Homeland Security markings.

Black painted helicopters patrolling the desert?

Homeland Security deportation buses?

Walls being built to seal our borders?

Armed civilian militias on patrol with lawn chairs and binoculars and buckets of beer?

What was happening to the land of the free, home of the brave?

Had those ideals become virtual as well?

In 2005 America’s love affair with the Bush Administration was waning but far from abated.

Virtual insecurity was still being carefully cultivated and disseminated in the usual über-Orwellian fashion.

Somewhere along the line undocumented immigrants, one of the world’s most vulnerable populations, became a target for fear and loathing.

So in May 2006, as migrants were dying in record numbers because of government policies that built barriers and forced them to cross increasingly dangerous terrain in search of a better life, I loaded up my cello bow and implements of mass percussion and set off to transform the border walls, fences and ephemera from symbols of virtual fear into the world's most expensive instrument.

I had no idea at the time if playing the border was legal or if it would lead to my arrest.

But it was a chance I was willing to take.

The Anta Project recordings spread quickly around the world following an article in
Signal-to-Noise and a story on NPR's All Things Considered.

In three years roughly two thousand discs have been given away as downloads or cd-r's at no charge to listeners in over 100 countries.

Over time The Anta Project has found it's way to the eclectic ears of Barack Obama, Felipe Calderon, Airto Moreira, George W. Bush, Pauline Oliveros, Vicente Fox, Lou Reed, Jan Brewer, and Janet Napolitano to name a few.

In a recent interview with
Timeout Sydney, David Harrington of Kronos Quartet seemed to give a nod to the influence of The Anta Project stating: "The time I first came in contact with the idea of a barbed wire fence becoming a musical instrument was about the time the Bush administration was contemplating creating a fence between Mexico and the United States. The idea of musicians turning these objects of violence and confinement and suffering into musical instruments is something I had to do; I don't feel I have much choice."

This month Kronos is performing a composition by
Jon Rose , "Music From 4 Fences," at the Sydney Opera House in Australia on a musical instrument made to resemble a wire fence.

Jon is pretty much the Les Paul of fence playing. I was honored to
play the border wall in Sasabe with him last summer as he visited the borderlands with his partner Hollis Taylor.

Jon and Hollis are both musicians whose work playing The Great Australian Fences I respect immensely.

They are adventurous sonic compadres and I have no doubt that Four Fences will be a beautiful and important work in the Kronos canon, addressing and presenting ideas of boundaries and borders to an audience more familiar with the Kronos brand.

However, like a
Duchamp urinal there is something safe, pristine and DaDa-esque about this idea of building fine-tuned instruments to resemble oppressive fences and teaching classical musicians how to play them for written compositions.

Playing real fences and real walls outside a concert hall environment requires deep listening and intuitive now responses to all of the factors in play including weather, wildlife and occasionally law enforcement.

But equally as important as the sound created is the playing itself.

These border structures are the great equalizers.

Anyone can play them and there is neither a right way nor a wrong way to do so.

No one knows how they will sound until bow and mallet are placed to metal.

In the field everyone is a musician and all sounds are equal if one is willing to open their ears and mind to the sonic possibilities.

The symbolic act of taking a stand against oppression with sound, neither for glory nor treasure, but as an expression of individual freedom resonates deeply.

If Kronos Quartet is serious about "turning these objects of violence and confinement and suffering into musical instruments" I would like to extend to them an offer to visit the borderlands and try their hand at playing the real walls and fences that divide the Sonoran Desert.

To breath the dust of Border Patrol helicopters and trucks on patrol, to see the ephemera left behind by migrants, to feel the searing heat, to witness the ominous idling buses filled with detained migrants who want only to find work, to be inspected for radiation contamination or profiled because of skin color or religion, might prove to be a rewarding experience.

If nothing else it will certainly place into context what is real and what is virtual.

But at the same time, perhaps Kronos is on to something since playing virtual fences is an idea remarkably well aligned with the times in which we live.

Virtual fences are the future after all.

Sensors and motion detectors have begun to replace physical barriers.

The walls, fences and barriers of our future borders will be unseen, hidden, invisible and virtual.

And to my mind this is all the more insidious as invisible monitoring becomes woven into our accepted culture.

To honor the dawn of this new age of global insecurity and to celebrate the third anniversary of The Anta Project's release, I give you:

~ Virtual Insecurity: A Borderland Deconstruction~ 

This immersive sound work is built from field recordings and assorted manipulations of Virtual Walls, Virtual Fences, Virtual Migrants, Virtual Border Patrol, Virtual Militias, Virtual Insects, Virtual Drug Smugglers, Virtual Cowboys, Virtual Indians, Virtual Homeland Security, Virtual Birds, Virtual Planes and Virtual Terrorists.

This recording was a year in the making and is culled from over 20 hours of sound files.

Of course playing some of the $ 6.7 billion virtual fence towers and their assorted support cables with a cello bow and mallets is illegal.

The areas surrounding them are clearly marked with signs warning against trespassing and playing them could certainly lead to all sorts of legal hassles if such were the case.

So caveat emptor :: This virtual work is what it is, nothing more or less.

And that’s the virtual truth.

Thank’s again for your support these past three years.

Stay tuned and listen well,

Glenn
 
The World Is Your Instrument
Play It Now
While You Still Can...

A hi-fi version of Virtual Insecurity: A Borderland Deconstruction  is also available as part of the
SonicAnta D-Construction Sound Series.