Yannick Dauby is a sound artist living in Taiwan. Obsessed by listening to the environment, his works such as “Wā Jiè Méng Xūn ” and “tsit lâu tsuí” describe the unique ecological environment of the island-Taiwan-in a sonic way .
Yannick Dauby: http://www.kalerne.net

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Kwong Wing-ka: You have recorded a series of animal sounds in Taiwan. What challenges did you encounter?

Yannick Dauby: For me it is not a painful task, they are in nature. So, I just have go to the nature and record it with pleasure. I am using field recording as a way to engage a relationship with the environment. It is also about being sensitive, I’m not going to nature for relaxing; I can never relax there. I keep listening, watching, observing different kinds of things. Usually when I go in nature, I am recording just what I am able to find. Sometimes I go with the purpose to record a specific animal ; it happened a few times for the CD “Songs of the Frogs of Taiwan”. I had to travel just for a getting a particular species, but in that case, I knew that I could be disappointed, and probably would be recording things that I don’t want.

Another thing is my way of recording nature. Originally, when I started this activity, I wanted to record some sounds that would be used as material for composing experimental music. I enjoyed observing birds but I didn’t wanted to record bird songs. Sounds of these animals are very difficult to use in music as it they are easy to recognize and often have a strong expressive content. So when I started to do field recording, I focused on sounds of water, sounds of the wind… I also recorded some animal sounds, but more for the pleasure of listening. But as soon as I recorded the sounds of animals, I wanted to know more. The name of the animal, the Latin name, is a key, and can help you learning so many things. You can learn about the place, the season, the environment…it provides you further informations. I started from a musical point of view, then shifted, wanting to know more and more about the ecology. I am a little bit obsessed in recording all the species of amphibians of Taiwan. I haven’t finished but I will continue. It is a bit like the documentation of my own personal relation to this place.

Another example: I recorded a cicada near the highway, and it’s very interesting, because of the very noisy environment. The cicadas communicate for the simple purpose of mating, their collective singing is complex. However, some human beings, so-called intelligent creatures, sitting in their car, make this huge noise, the permanent roaring of the highway. They ignore each other and just drive; they ignore the environment and even ignore their own sounds. At this moment it was important to me to record both the sounds of these animals and the noises of these vehicles. But, most of the time I prefer providing an experience to the listeners related to animals only, trying to make them focus on their sounds, like bird songs for example.

Kwong Wing-ka: You recorded a series of frogs’ sounds. Why did you choose frogs as your object of recording?

Yannick Dauby: I have always been interested in amphibians for sound reason. I come from Southern France, and there is only one species of frog you can hear, a tree frog singing during the Summer time. What I found interesting is, a group of frogs locate in a specific place, every day, every night. You can easily find them, it is the sound of the place. And they sing together, making a complex sound structure. A bit like they are building an architecture of sounds. From the musical point of view it is fascinating.

It also shows some information of the environment, about the water – is it clean or not ? Is their habitat preserved from human activity or not? The frogs of Taiwan made me enter the natural world of the island, learning about different natural environments.

Later, when I shared those sounds to Taiwanese audience, I realized that many young people did not recognize the frogs. When you ask them what the sound of a frog is, they would often say “gua-gua-gua”. There is no frog in Taiwan singing like “gua-gua-gua”. There are some “gua-gua-gua” in cartoons, but not in reality. But when you ask the old people, they would say “ep-ep-ep”, and that is interesting, because the sound is the one of a species which has been abundent in Taiwan in the past, and people even ate them. The older generation said “ep-ep-ep” because in their youth, they often heard this frog. Nowadays, this specie is more rare in Taipei, but they remember the sound. Sound has a cultural meaning and I am also trying to share about that.

Kwong Wing-ka: In the introduction of “Wā Jiè Méng Xūn”, you wrote about the project as “an exploration of the Umwelt of a listener”. Can we say it is a recreation of the biome in a sonic way?

Yannick Dauby: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone could. For example, I helped my friends to publish their nature recording work about a national park in Southern France, a place I really like. My friends did a wonderful work, still I would said there is a reconstruction of a biome. Even when I am doing the works which are connected to this kind of place and only about sounds of nature, I don’t think we are recreating the nature at all, but of course we are creating a medium to invite people to discover something.

I would say on one hand it is a musical work, some sounds can be listened in a truly musical way. For example, the melody of some bird songs, even the complex sounds of the rain. But another layer of listening is happening at the same time. One can hear the natural environement of these animals, the richness of an eco-system.

No soundwork would ever replace the experience of being in nature. But I hope these kinds of works can make people aware of some ecological questisons. Very often, when visiting the hills or mountains of Taiwan with friends, I would ask them to close their eyes and just listen to the sounds. It is an impressive experience going into the forest at night. You will be so aware, just like a simple organism trying to discover more.

Kwong Wing-ka: When you started “Chiayi Sound Project” , what came to your mind first?

Yannick Dauby: It was a commission project, and I was employed for doing this as a field recordist. I wasn’t invited as an artist. The original idea was very strange. The Cultural Affairs Department of the Chiayi County Government wanted us to record almost everything. They wanted us to spend one year for record all the sounds in the region – the nature, music, local stories, traditional regional activities, etc. When I read the content of the project, I thought it was impossible but we could try to do something by taking fragments of different elements, and see would happen with that. Of course I felt very excited. I used to live in Taipei and had some occasions to do some recording in different regions of Taiwan. But recording in only one area, through the many aspects of one region, is an opportunity to get a greater knowledge of the place.

I collaborated with Hsu Yen-ting, who had a background in journalism and an interest into sound. She can speak Taiwanese and, of course, I don’t. In Chiayi, you really need to know Taiwanese because some of the residents don’t know or don’t want to speak Mandarin. Actually, you know sometimes in Taiwan, we say Taipei is the “Kingdom of the Dragon in the Sky”, very different the rest of the country. So, being from France or from Taipei, in both case it is being a foreigner for Chiayi. And being a visitor can sometimes make things easier.

So yes, I think it hasn’t be difficult to feel involved in the project. Yen-Ting was doing the interviews which I was recording and I was focusing on the music, the human work and environmental sounds. After one year of just collecting the sounds, we gave the sounds to the local government but actually we didn’t feel they really appreciated the work done. Only the director of the Cultural Affairs Department and a few other people knew the value and importance of such field work. Probably other people working in these offices didn’t care because they thought nothing happened.

I would say this project somehow changes me. People may think I’m a foreigner and white, and I may spend all my life in Taiwan, speaking Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka very well.I have always been considered a foreigner for years. But being here with one year of experience in Chiayi, I acquired an experience of the place that Taiwanese people can have.

I would say this project somehow changed me. People may look at me as a white foreigner (which I am) and even if I spend all my life in Taiwan, learn how to speak a perfect Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka, I will still be considered as this foreigner. But being here with one year of experience in Chiayi, I acquired an experience of the place which is rare, that allowed me to change my idea about this status : a foreigner isn’t someone who doesn’t understand the place where he lives, but a foreigner is someone who can and should learn more about the local environment and history.

It’s a positive process rather than a negative status.

Kwong Wing-ka: How did you choose the objects of recording when you were working on the project?

Yannick Dauby: The preliminary research was done by Yen-Ting. I couldn’t do it because I can’t read Chinese. But I could ask advices to some friends, like the person who guided us to discover the birds in the mid-altitude mountains of Chiayi. This guy was introduced by my friend, a bird watcher in Taipei. I rely more on oral transmission, asking questions, discussing. Yen-Ting would do a research through articles and of course connect the local people first.

This part is quite important, because you need to know where you want to go. But the reality would never be what you expect. When you start a recording session, never ever think it is predictable; it is always unpredictable. For example, we planned to record a traditional event in Yizhu, groups of villagers releasing the pigeons. Each pigeon has an instrument at their back; it’s a whistle. When they fly into the sky, the whistles will make a flute-like sound. So, we were very excited to go but when we arrived, there was a huge event, they used powerful loudspeaker for playing some recorded music, and people were speaking extremely loudly. Even the children who were invited to attend the event couldn’t hear anything from the pigeons. So, the recording were just like a very noisy environment, such as a night market.

But there we met some old guys nearby. When we said we wanted to record the sound, and one of them invited us to visit his house. We arrived after ten minutes and it was an old traditional house. This guy kept pigeons in one of these houses made of metal, with cages, on the top of the building. We just climbed on the roof. He released the pigeons, using a kind of home-made flag to make them flying into the sky. And after a while the pigeons were flying back to the house. What I recorded was not the original event, but I recorded something even better – that guy was releasing his own pigeons, you could hear something about this relationship with animals and also the environment, very intimate, with the sounds of the birds, the wings, the sounds of the cage, that man calling them and flapping his flag, the road nearby and of course the whistles. When you plan to do field recording you never know until you arrive in the place. Preparation is important, you need to know what you want, you need to know the direction, but when you arrive, you need to forget everything and see what happens, to improvise. This is why I’m so interested in field recording. You are not a musician, you are not the technician, you are just like an animal which needs to adapt to the situation.

Kwong Wing-ka : You mentioned that there are some disappearing sounds such as old machine of tatami. Can you tell us more about the situation?

Yannick Dauby: We went to the village which had the industry of tatami making. I was expecting to listen and recording sounds of this activity, but the village was almost empty.
Because of the climate change, the temperature increased a little bit in Southern Taiwan, and in this region this little difference made the culture of the special grass used in tatami impossible to grow.

In this village, only one man could continue this industry for a while. His father had stored a lot of this dried grass. When his father passed away, the guy we met continued doing tatami a little bit every day, one or two hours. The machine was made in Japan, something like 80 years ago. Most of the tatami machines in the village were broken and only this one is working. He continues making the tatami until he doesn’t have any more grass, so I recorded the last tatami machine in the village, maybe in the region and maybe in Taiwan. I recorded it in a different ways from different perspective. This sounds I impressed by its quality (a bit like a drumming).

Things are evolving. Things are fading away. In this case, the industry stopped is just a sign of the evolution. But this sign is really negative; it is the sign of climate change. Some people told me, “You are doing recording. It is a very good way to keep things. You are preserving the sounds for the future generation.” I think it is total bullshit. If I would say “I want to keep the memory of things that fade away”, it would be simply wrong : I recorded the sound of frogs because I wanted to play them for myself and share them to our actual and living generations (including elders and children), to point out not only the sound but the ecosystem, not only the species but the place. I record things you can hear today, things that still exist. It matters that those things still exist, rather than wait for an ecosystem to disappear and later feel proud of keeping an archive of that. That is a very absurd way of considering field recording. Field recording allows to activate interest for the complexity of our cultural and natural environments.

Discussion recorded by Kwong Wing-ka in a noisy tea restaurant (cantonese: cha chaan teng)in Hong-Kong (15.10.2014), corrected by Yannick in the train between Taipei and Kaohsiung (03.04.2015).

澎葉生: http://www.kalerne.net

鄺永嘉: 你在採集一系列的台灣動物聲音的時候,當中有否遇到什麼困難?

澎葉生: 對我來說這不是痛苦的事,它們就在自然之中,所以我走進自然,帶著喜樂去記錄他,以田野錄音作為與自然建立關係的方式。這關乎變得敏銳,我走進自然不是為了放鬆,我從來都不感放鬆。我不斷聆聽、觀看、觀察不同事物。當我走進自然中,通常是為可發現的事物錄音。曾經有幾次,我特意為某種動物錄音,例如為專輯《蛙蛙哇》錄音時,我為了某個物種的聲音而展開旅途。即使,我知道我們可能會感到失望,或隨時錄到一些不是我想要的聲音。


另一個例子: 我採集於公路旁的蟬聲,這十分有趣,因為這是個嘈雜的環境,蟬僅僅為了求偶交配而作溝通,牠們集體的叫聲卻很複雜。然而,被稱為高智慧生物的人類,坐於車中製造大量的噪音,在公路上永恆的咆哮著。他們只顧駕駛而忽略彼此,忽略環境,甚至是他們自己的聲音。這一刻蟬聲和車的噪音,對我而言需要一同錄下,但很多時候我更希望提供只關於動物的聆聽經驗予聽眾,令他們集中聆聽動物的聲音,例如鳥鳴。

鄺永嘉: 你特別採集了一系列蛙類的聲音,為甚麼選擇蛙類作為錄音對象?

澎葉生: 我對兩棲動物感興趣是因為聲音。我是南法人,那裡只能聽到一種蛙類的聲音,一種在夏天鳴叫的樹蛙。我覺得有趣的是一群樹蛙在特定的地方鳴叫,每一天、每一夜,你可以找到他們,牠們是這地方的聲音。當牠們鳴叫時,形成了複雜的聲音結構,就像築構起聲音一樣。從音樂的角度來看這是很迷人的。



鄺永嘉: 你在《蛙界蒙薰》的引言中曾指整個計劃是「一次聆聽者的環境探險」,可以理解為以聲音再現生物群落嗎?

澎葉生: 不,我不認為是這樣,也認為沒有人可以做到。例如我幫朋友出版他們的自然錄音作品,作品是關於一個南法的國家公園,一個我很喜歡的地方。我朋友的錄音作品令人非常驚艷,但我會說只是重構生物群系。即使我的工作與這些地方有關聯,而且只關於自然的聲音,我不覺得我們是重新創造自然環境。我們是創造媒介去邀請其他人去發現事物。




澎葉生: 這是一個委托的計劃,我不是以藝術家的身份受邀,而是以田野錄音師的身份獲聘。計劃的原本構思非常奇怪,嘉義縣政府文化處想我們為所有東西錄音,並用一年的時間來採集整個地區的聲音-自然、音樂、民間故事及傳統宗教活動等。當我閱讀計劃內容時,我想這是不可能的,不過我們可以選擇當中不同片段來做些事,看看會有甚麼事發生。當然我對這計劃大感興奮,因為我住在台北,雖然有機會於台灣不同地方錄音,但今次只是在一個地方錄音,透過多個不同的角度看這地區,是一次深入了解當地知識的機會。





鄺永嘉: 你是怎樣決定錄音對象呢?

澎葉生: 初步的資料搜集由雁婷負責,我不能勝任因為我看不懂中文,但我能做的就是問朋友意見,就像帶我們到嘉義中海拔找鳥鳴的人,是我在台北的一名觀鳥的朋友介紹的。我以口頭形式得知,透過發問和討論來知道。雁婷會先透過文章作資料搜集,當然也先聯絡當地居民。


但我們在附近遇到一些老人家,當我們說想錄音時,其中一名老人邀請我們到他的家。十分鐘後我們到達一座古老傳統的屋子。屋子頂部有籠的鐵房子是他養鴿的地方,所以我們爬到天台,他放了鴿子,以像自製的旗子趕他們飛上天,一陣子後鴿子飛返屋子。我錄到的不是原本的活動,而是比原來計劃更好的東西。那男人釋放他的鴿子,你可以聽到當中他與動物關係, 以及與環境的關係,是非常親密的。鴿子、翅膀和烏籠的聲音,那個男子的叫喚聲及揮動旗子的聲音,旁邊的道路,當然還有鴿笭的聲音。當你打算作田野錄音時,你不知道你會採集到甚麼聲音,直至你到達那地方為止。準備是重要的,你需要知道你想要些甚麼,你的方向又是甚麼。但當你到達時,你必須忘記所有東西,看看有甚麼事情會發生,去作出應對。這是我對田野錄音感興趣之處,你不是音樂家,不是技術員,你就像一隻動物需要去適應環境。

鄺永嘉: 你曾提及有些正在消失的聲音,例如生產榻榻米機器的聲音,可以說一下這個情況嗎?

澎葉生: 我們到榻榻米的生產村落,我本期望可聽到及收集製作榻榻米的聲音,但村落差不多全部空置。因為氣候轉變,南台灣的溫度上升少許,令這一帶地區專門用來生產榻榻米的禾草難以生長。



訪問於香港一吵雜的茶餐廳進行,由鄺永嘉紀錄(15.10.2014), 由澎葉生於來往台北及高雄的火車上校訂(03.04.2015)