In Situ Recordings 2009

by Dax Tran-Caffee

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    Thanks for listening! Just to be clear, these recordings are not my best performances, but that wasn't the idea: I'm experimenting with making recordings of "situations" using songs as a medium (see the journal entry below). For studio recordings, please check out Corpus Callosum:

    * Accompanying photographs of each location are displayed on individual song pages (click on song titles below).

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So these field recordings...

I have been meaning for a long time to attempt to document the magical occurrence of /in situ/ performances: music performed informally, in the kitchen, around the campfire, or in the middle of a forest for the sole benefit of the trees. While I think it is impossible, possibly unethical, to record and reproduce those most magical instances of musical performance, I've wanted to do /something/ to represent them. The simplest and most direct project was to start making some "field" recordings of musicians.

Though we have come to think of songs based on certain seminal recordings, a song is certainly much more than a single performance. In addition to all the different unique interpretations presented by the variety of musicians who have performed a particular song, because music is a temporal medium, even by the same performer no song is presented the same way twice. I believe there is something missed in general in the standard practice of recording music, which is how a musician may perform a piece with sensitivity to their surroundings and situation. A song played on a busy street will have a different energy than when played in a chapel, or in a bedroom late at night. A song played to oneself is played quite differently from a performance on a stage, and quite far from how a song is played in secret for the ears of a lover. Inspired by witnessing all these instances over the years, I intended to start making secretive field recordings of musicians performing songs in the most natural settings - in hopes that I may capture (if only a ghost of) those magical occurrences.

Having a recorder ready and rolling when magic happens, of course, has not been simple. After years of attempts, I have only a handful of recordings, and none that I am particularly proud of. Perhaps, in a few more years, I will have enough to release an album of those recordings. Until then, I have begun a new project: I am also a musician and songwriter, and I am a predictable generator of musical performance. While I will not be able to capture anything magical if I am recording myself, I have set out to start making /in situ/ recordings of my own songs, in order to present, at the very least, the idea of an album /in situ/. While on my first national solo tour, I am carrying with me a small field recorder, and am taking some time during this traveling to make recordings of songs in unique locations that will be sure to affect the way the songs come out. Through these recordings, rather than presenting a collection of songs, I hope to present a series of audio portraits of times and locations - communicated through environmental noises, the way the acoustics of the location tempers the sound, and how the atmosphere unconsciously alters my performance.

One question may remain, which is one that I have not sufficiently come to an answer for: why am I recording music /in situ/, when others make straightforward documentary field recordings of places and situations - as field recordings are, by definition - ? I have never been satisfied with listening to the recorded sounds of the everyday. Not to say that the everyday is mundane, but it is something that one can be part of at any moment, simply by stopping to listen - dedicating a length of audio tape to its documentation is, in my opinion, futile. There is something supernatural, however, about the way that a discreet piece of music can suddenly enliven a space - but not so much transform it, as to call up the spirit of the location and let it speak for itself. In particular, songs (music with voice, the most elementary of instruments) have a peculiar strength. Someday I may understand the phenomenon better, but for now I am convinced that I need to make recordings of /songs/, performed in a space, in order to make any recording that will legitimately represent the specialty of a space.

[Though these are not binaural recordings, they are probably best listened to on headphones.]

Dax Tran-Caffee
Cottage Grove, OR
October 2009


released May 1, 2010

recorded by Dax Tran-Caffee, mastered by Steve Glaze

all songs by Dax Tran-Caffee except:
"Lullaby #2" by Avery Burke
"Tennessee Waltz" (traditional)
"Irene" (traditional)

guest vocals on "Lake Geneva - Irene" are Stephanie Bailey and Blair Thomas

all photographs by Dax Tran-Caffee except "Boulder - Good Morning" by Stephanie Bailey and "Chicago - Ridgepole Sags" by Rachel Singer




Dax Tran-Caffee San Francisco, California

Dax Tran-Caffee performs music & puppetry with the Corpus Callosum music & performance ensemble, San Francisco, CA.

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