Monday, July 27, 2015

A special guest writer on a field recording trip to Governors Island with Liz— Paula Rabinowitz (July 14,2015)

A humid early morning—Bastille Day, New York.
Liz and I cross the 59th Street Bridge along with the rush-hour traffic and head to South Ferry to board the Governor’s Island ferry.  We’ve got a lunch packed, recording equipment and raingear. The ride across the East River is quick; we’re waved ashore and park near the New York Harbor School’s maritime program office to don life preservers, required while on the dock.  Our mission:  record low frequencies from the dock pilings. [photo 1] Liz busied herself rigging her bamboo pole and fishing rod with shells housing microphones for underwater recording [photo 2-4]; I listened to the roar of the air and water—helicopters every few minutes; a few motorboats and barges, ferries—and watched the thunderhead clouds move down the East River.   
Liz put me in charge of turning on the recorder as she stood on the edge of the dock with the microphone inside the piling—a mistake, as I didn’t push the on button correctly. By this time, a group of students and their teacher had arrived to attend to the many crate of oyster shells sunk in the river’s muck, part of “the billion oyster project” overseen  by the Harbor School.  The project aims to place one billion spat-on-shell oysters in the harbor by 2030 and the students were there to haul up the seed oysters, clean them off, check to see if the shells had spats, sort them and replace the good ones into crates.  They worked diligently creating wonderful sounds as the crates crashed against the metal grates of the deck and the oysters clattered inside.  [photos 5-8].
By now the rain was beginning to sprinkle and we needed to cover the equipment but were able to get some of the sounds recorded before the gray sky turned darker and even the students had gone for shelter.  We hauled the microphones, recorder, headphones and gear back to the car and sat out the storm eating sandwiches.
The dock, with its ropes and cages and paddles—the detritus cluttering any dock along the coast—beckoned. [photo 9-10] The sky cleared and we set to explore Fort Jay, once an army fortification, then a coast guard station now a national park, housing a video installation.  A strange beat grew louder and the rain burst in a torrent. So we waited it out under an awning, listening to the streams of water above our umbrellas. It was time to leave.    

    paula rabinowitz


Liz at Work


Shell Microphone

Spat on Oyster

Kids hauling

Sludge Oysters

Clean Oysters



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