anta project 2006-2011

A Happy Belated Fifth Anniversary.... Everyone.

Five years ago this past May, at the precise moment I attached a contact microphone to The Nogales Wall while being scrutinized by armed U.S. Border Patrol agents, I’d no idea what would happen next.

Would I be arrested?

Would I be fined?

Would I be shot?

This was 2006 after all.

As wars raged in Afghanistan and Iraq, national immigration paranoia was being fed by a steady drumbeat of fear and loathing.

It was a time when improvised explosive devices or IEDs were regularly in the news and the idea of hooking a strange looking device to a border wall in a de-facto militarized zone for the sole purpose of playing it with a cello bow could easily be construed as something more dangerous than it was.

Built in the early 1990’s, the wall in Nogales was already decrepit by the time I played it, and just as I'd suspected, it was resplendent in sounds from both Mexico and the United States.

In the aural space of this wall, there was no border, only sound.

 new nogales wall panorama

Since that time I've watched miles of new wall spread across the Arizona / Sonora border as fever-born plans to seal in the country have been realized.

Unlike the wall I played in Nogales, these new walls were not knee-jerk creations. Rather they were methodically planned, monolithically designed, and uniformly constructed.

Over the past five years thousands of men, women and children are known to have died in the surrounding deserts as they've walked around or attempted  to scale these structures. How many additional "unknown" deaths have are yet to be discovered is anybodies guess.

In addition to the human toll, havoc has also been wrought upon the vast and mostly untouched Sonoran landscape as desert, grasslands and riparian areas were plowed under with little, if any, environmental consideration or review.

As the walls went up, free flowing waterways were trampled or clogged with sediment, migrating species lost the international routes they'd long depended upon for survival, and the beautiful  “silence” of the desert was overrun with a steady mix of thumping helicopters, rumbling off-road vehicles and droning generators.

While I wish it were otherwise, today this environmental havoc is actually accelerating .

Throughout these changes I’ve tried to record it all, using the borderlands as a sonic pallet for numerous works.

Since 2006 I’ve collected hundreds of hours of audio during my time playing and listening to The Sonoran Desert.

Some works, such as Droneland Security are simple field recordings. Others, such as The Anta Project, are highly processed , manipulated and decidedly electric.

This duality I believe is equally representative of the borderlands current diversity, where nature and technology blend.

Five years later, as I look back at the legacy of The Anta Project I find a world where playing walls is not as strange as it was in 2006.

Today, literally thousands, if not millions of people --- okay, I agree that is a bit grandiose --- from around the globe know about The Anta Project and www.sonicanta.com

It was never my intention to be the only person doing this, and over the years it has been my honor to bring musicians, poets, journalists, artists, students and people from all walks of life to the wall for playing sessions.


Over the summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, tore down the old Nogales Wall and built a new one nearly twice as high, topped with spikes, and built from slurry-filled, square-shaped bollard-type pipes.

Regardless of which side you are on, standing before this wall creates the sensation of being imprisoned.

The new wall is an ugly, dull sounding affair built to last for a couple of decades or at least until a good monsoon storm washes it away.

And in entropy lies hope.

Besides, the way things are going economically, there may come a day when spending billions of dollars to stop busboys, gardeners and house keepers from entering the country is less important then funding education for children and healthcare for all.

With construction recently completed, I’ve begun testing the new Nogales Wall’s sonic properties.

Acoustically it is inferior to the old wall, but I have been surprised to find sections that are interesting to play and present many new possibilities.

As with any new instrument, the new Nogales Wall will take some breaking in but I am pleased to report, after just a few scant months, the extreme desert weather is already tuning the wall nicely.

I’ve also built a set of custom mics which self-attach to the relatively smooth surface of the poles and amplify the vibrations well.

What the next five years will bring is a mystery, but no matter what may be, I'm sure it will be worth hearing.

 Stay tuned and thanks for listening.

wall or fence


And finally… in celebration of The Anta Project's Fifth Anniversary, for a limited time only, I am offering a signed and numbered run of three photographic prints --- full frame / 8 X1 0/ matt finish --- for the price of printing and mailing.

This is a discount of roughly 50 percent per print depending on your shipping location (Prints will be sold elsewhere for $40 -$50 each).

Contact me directly about this offer for details and be sure to indicate which prints (as seen on this page in sequential order) you are interested in:

1.  The Anta Project 2006-2011

2.  New Nogales Wall Panorama

3.  Wall or Fence?

 4.  Wall or Instrument? (Image on the splash page).