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GLENNWEYANT.COM

ON BEING GLENN WEYANT...


Many years ago, before there was an Internet, I thought I was the only person named Glenn Weyant.

Was I ever mistaken.

In this age of everything, I've come to learn there are probably about 100 of us Glenn Weyants out there.

And from what I can tell, the other Glenn Weyants are a relatively nice bunch of people comprised of various ages, religions, political view points and spread out across the landscape from sea to shining sea.

But I've also learned this is an age when anyone can pose as Glenn Weyant.

Especially when making comments on Web pages and the likes.

So if you read comments somewhere on the Internet by a monkey loving, cop hating, male pantyhose wearing, conspiracy obsessed, butt slapping, incendiary raver calling himself Glenn Weyant, kindly take a moment and consider:

Which Glenn Weyant is this?

Or is this even Glenn Weyant at all?

But better yet, head on over to sonicanta.com where you know you'll  always get the real deal...

Stay tuned,

Glenn Weyant





SONICANTA.COM IS THE PLACE YOU WANNA BE

HOWDY FOLKS,

THIS SITE HAS BECOME SONICALLY STATIC.

WHERE YOU WANT TO BE FROM HERE ON OUT IS


ALL OF THE BLOG POSTS HERE HAVE MIGRATED OVER TO SONICANTA.COM ALONG WITH FULL SOUND AND IMAGE LINKS.

TILL AGAIN: STAY TUNED AND IN TOUCH.

AND BEWARE THE MISSING LYNX...

GLENN

The Last Old Nogales Wall Sounding

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LISTEN WHILE YOU READ

Last week on 4/20 I was called in for jury duty but at the last minute was absolved of performing my civic duty.

Faced with an abundance of unexpected free time, I decided to take a trip to the border for one last sounding of the Nogales Wall (W6 Section) before they began tearing it down. 

Instead of playing the wall as I’d often done in the past, this final time I decided to make two simple recordings.

One of the surrounding Nogales Wall sound ecology itself:  The birds, the dogs, the cars, the people, and the wall creaking in the morning sun.

And another of the internal sonic environment of the wall and the sounds it both absorbed and emanated as a sprawling acoustic resonator along the arbitrary dividing line between Mexico and The United States.

Engaged in listening with headphones snugly on, I was aware of a vehicle pulling up behind me.

Turning, I saw a white truck from which a man dressed in a white hardhat and wearing a neon yellow vest emblazoned with a castle on the back emerged.

His name I learned was Merrill, although I am not sure of the exact spelling.

Merrill walked over, determined and cautious with a camera at the ready.

"Howdy," I said facing him.

“What we doin?” he asked.

"What's that?" I asked.

"What we doin?" he repeated.

“Um, recording the sound of the wall?” I replied.

"O.K." he said.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm with The Army Corps of Engineers and we're replacing this fence," he said.

And so the conversation began.

I eventually learned his name and that he was an enthusiastic wall builder who did not question why walls were built but rather why walls were not built.

Merill was a man of few words but one thing in particular struck me as very interesting. He said that the The Army Corp of Engineers wanted to build a wall that was “environmental.”

Considering the estimated cost of tearing down the old wall and building the new 2.8 mile wall is roughly $41 million (not including maintenance), I asked him if perhaps the design could have included a few innovative elements which would promote renewable resources and economic stability for people on both sides of the border such as solar panels or rain collection.

(EDITORS NOTE: On the audio I incorrectly say it will cost $4 million for the 2.8 mile wall. From what I've read, that estimate was from 2010 so apparently costs have escalated a bit.)

Merill said ideas such as solar and rain collection had been considered but were rejected.

When I asked him why they were rejected he said I’d need to write my congressional representative about it.

So this past week I sent letters to my congressman, Raul Grijalva, plus Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Senator John McCain and Senator Jon Kyl asking all of them those very same questions (a copy of the letter is attached below).

When and if I learn more I’ll be sure to pass it on.


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4/20/2011

Dear XXXX,

My name is Glenn Weyant and since 2006 I’ve been playing The Nogales Wall with a cello bow and implements of mass percussion.  My goal in this process has been to try and transform the wall from a symbol of fear and loathing into one capable of promoting unity and communication.

I’ve also been documenting the changing sound ecology in the border area with regular field recordings.

On April 20, I visited the Nogales Wall for a final recording session before it was dismantled and replaced with the new and improved Nogales Mega-Wall.


During that recording I was approached by a man who said he was from The US Army Corps of Engineers.


While he did not produce any identification nor provide me with a business card, he did say his first name was Merrill (I am assuming I am spelling his name correctly here).


Since I was already in the process of recording the wall and surrounding environment, the conversation we had was documented by the microphones and I’ve enclosed a copy for reference.


Merrill was cordial and enthusiastic about building the new wall and also said one of the goals of the Army Corps of Engineers was to build a wall that was “environmental.”


I thought this odd considering the impacts the walls have already had on riparian areas, pristine desert and migratory routes so far. 


With the cost of the new wall topping roughly $41 million by some estimates, I asked him if any innovative ideas had been considered beside the usual approach of metal and cement.


Two ideas floated during our conversation included solar panels to supply surrounding residents on both sides of the border with electricity for economic development and rain collection for water.


To my surprise Merrill said those ideas were “good” and had been considered but that if I wanted to know more about why they were rejected I’d have to contact my congressional representative.


So I guess that is what I am doing with this letter.


Obviously the wall is deemed necessary for security purposes, but my question is: If we must have a wall then why can’t the wall be used to promote and develop communities and relationships on both sides of the border along the path where it is being built? 


A couple years back I learned of the work of an architect named Ronald Rael and he graciously sent me a series of wall designs which do much more than simply act as speed bumps.

Instead these walls would, in my opinion, help foster stronger economics and good will on both sides of the border --- A PDF is enclosed on the disc.


Any thoughts on these issues would be much appreciated.


Stay tuned and thank you for your time,

 

  

Glenn Weyant


New And Improved Mega-Wall Music






The Nogales Mega-Wall

Back in 2005 when the The Anta Project began to take shape, The Nogales Wall cleaving the sister cities of Nogales, USA and Nogales, Mexico was a prototype for the American border wall building that was yet to come.

It was a slap-dash construction, cobbled together from Vietnam War-era helicopter landing mats running just under three miles. When the wall was completed in 1994, migrants crossing from Mexico into the United States simply walked around it.

And as a result they began dying by the hundreds in the surrounding
Sonoran Desert.

Around 2007 when border wall mania was gripping the nation, a series of new walls uniformly built from industrialized columns of towering metal  poles, cement, slurry and mesh were constructed.

The walls varied in construction depending on the terrain and the sounds they produced when played with a bow or mallet varied as well. Almost universally, the finest sounding wall was the Nogales Wall.

The metal interlocking tines of the landing mats could be bowed, the plates could be percussed and as the sun rose heating the metal, the wall creaked and popped and groaned at dawn, acting as a sprawling resonator for the sounds of life on both sides of the border.

When The Anta Project began, it was always my hope the wall could be transformed from a symbol of fear and loathing into something which would create beauty and communication. 

Over the years through countless hours of practice, I’d developed a variety of techniques specific to playing that wall, in particular the W6 Section.

I’d also brought easily 100 people there over the years to play it, observe it, recite poetry before it, or to simply contemplate the nature of walls.

This month the old Nogales Wall is being replaced with a new industrial wall that is higher, deeper and more formidable seeming than before.

Where the old Nogales Wall was a solid mass of metal, the new wall of towering posts has plenty of spaces between them allowing for Americans to see Mexicans and Mexicans to see Americans.  


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It is my hope that within these spaces lies the antidote to the fears that cause us to build walls to begin with. For the first time in more than a decade, Nogales residents on both sides of the wall will be able to see each other clearly and the commonalities that unite rather than divide.

Sonically, the new wall presents  some exciting challenges as is the case with any new instrument. The pipes are square allowing for corners to be bowed, with plenty of smooth sides for amplification.  The tops also promise to deliver some interesting acoustics during periods of wind or rain. 

And perhaps best of all, the spaces will offer more opportunities for communication via multi-national playing.

On April 1 I had a chance to meet with a small group of traveling artists and educators at The Nogales Wall for a sound walk and playing session.

As it turns out, that April Fool's Day group session will likely be the last one to take place at the old wall.  

Artist
Shawn Skabelund visually captured those last moments nicely and a musique-concrete composition from the day is now available for the listening.


BIKE-CENTRIC INSTRUMENT WORKSHOPS

In other news, I’m fairly excited about a series of bike-centric instrument workshops I’ll be leading at 
BICAS in Tucson (April 30-May 28).

For a couple of years now it has been a dream of mine to get a group of people together and turn them onto ideas for building instruments of original design then turn them loose.

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During 
the MOCA installation which featured repurposed bike part instruments,  I met BICAS arts and outreach coordinator Casey Wollschlaeger who said she was interested in revisiting the idea.

After a few months of planning, chaos and epic
Spinal Tap-esque drama the workshops have finally become reality.

There was a great article in a local pub called Zocalo and The Arizona Daily Star. Since the articles appeared in print, the person who was to teach the electronics portion of the class (amplifiers and such) had to unfortunately drop out due to unforeseen consequences.

The workshops are now a sonicanta venture and focused clearly on building instruments and using them in both performance and composition. The class has also been tailored to be much more “kid friendly” than before and we knocked the fee down by a third to $20. That’s less than $5 per class!

For those interested in participating there is still time to register, but they are filling up fast.  Visit the BICAS site or contact them for more details.

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE FACEBOOKED

First the CIA gave us LSD. 

Then the military gave us the Internet.

Now 
social media is being tinkered with to monitor and control the hearts and minds of those who follow such things.

I'm not ready to don my tinfoil hat or begin inspecting my fillings for radio tracking devices, but I have become wary and weary of Facebook and other social media as of late.

Between the bots, the scammers, the marketeers, the government and the posers I've decided to let it go.


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When I announced this decision I was inundated with emails from people who cheered the decision or talked about their struggles to use Facebook for professional purposes only. 

The emails were unexpected and it was wonderful to be in so much good company.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Screw Facebook, Glenn, it's 90% for idiot communication!”

“I think it's for the best, Glenn. In the relationship with Facebook. We are the salable product. It definitely makes for a strange union."

I am actually getting ready to drop Facebook myself. I only log onto it once a month at best anymore.”

“I hear you man..I might need to do that too!”

"wow! i admire that, glenn. bravo."

You can still be my friend on Facebook and you can like my stuff, but from here on out it will be a static site, more a portrait of Dorian Gray than that of Glenn Weyant.

If you were a Facebook friend or are a fan of the service, please do not take this personally and please stay in touch via the usual channels.

I am interested in hearing about you, your projects and all the other stuff.

Interestingly, since dropping Facebook I’ve found the traffic at
www.sonicanta.com has picked up by twenty-five percent of so. Including the usual U.S. Government listeners and watchers. Hmmmm... how about that?

LOTS OF NEW SOUND


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In sound news a couple of projects are finally available. Here they are in no particular order:

1. WILDLIFE - A series of improvised and traditionally composed sound conversations recorded in early April, between Kestrel Weyant and myself which explore ideas about listening and options for sonic response.

WILDLIFE is a download-only release featuring old-time folk songs presented in new-time settings, two game pieces and a 30 minute sound exploration for birds, wind, rain, planes and bowed strings.

2.
jimpani kustakwa ka jankwariteecherï - A new release by the Estamos Ensemble
on Edgetone Records and due April 27. 

About six months ago, musician and sound pioneer
Thollem McDonas was in contact about a double-disc set the Estamos Ensemble was putting together and asked if he could include a version of John Cage's 4'33" for the Nogales Border Wall.

Naturally I agreed and the resulting two disc release -  jimpani kustakwa ka jankwariteecherï - does not disappoint.

As Thollem notes in a recent email blast: "The Estamos Ensemble album will be released this month on Edgetone Records.  It's a double disc album with world premieres of pieces written specifically for us by
Pauline Oliveros, Ana Lara, Jorge Torres Saenz, William Parker, Joan Jeanrenaud, Vinny Golia, Nels Cline, Juan Felipe Waller and myself. Plus 5 duo improvisations from our YBCA concert in August and 4'33 seconds at the Nogales Wall by Glenn Weyant."

3. For Japan - Following the devastating tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan a fundraiser was put together by musicians at the website ImprovFriday with100 percent of the proceeds (minus PayPal and Bandcamp charges) going to benefit the Red Cross.  Good listening for a good cause and I was proud to be a part of it.

4. Unreal City Sounding - Last but not least, the basis of a soundtrack for the performance of Unreal City which utilized an abandoned Arizona mining town as an instrument, is available as a download. Some of the tracks are raw. Others are worked and reworked into various compositions.

Verbal reviews of the April 1 Unreal City performance ranged from "violent" to "beautiful." Bottom line : No one who saw or heard it could ignore it. They had to pay attention. They had to think.

And to me, that is what it is all about.


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Fear Not



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I was hiking in the desert when I heard the news that a gunman had shot 20 or so people ---- killing some and gravely wounding others.

Over the coming hours and days new details about what happened emerged both in the media and in conversations with friends and family.

It seemed everyone knew the victims or at least someone who did.

Of course murder by gunshot is nothing new in Tucson.

People shoot each other here all the time, just as they do in the rest of America .

On New Year’s eve, the sound of small arms fire in Tucson is as common as fireworks.

Guns are also routinely trafficked across the border to Mexico in exchange for drugs and money.

In the remote desert, gunshots can often be heard, echoing off the rocks. So common in fact that I know of places where I can play music to their accompaniment on almost any day of the week.


But this one was personal and hit home with people across the country.
 
Partially because some of the victims were public figures. Partly because it all seemed so random. But I think mostly because deep down we all suspected something like this was bound to happen eventually.

Some say it was the fault of easy access to powerful guns.

Others say it was the violent political rhetoric and fear mongering that gripped the last election cycle.

As for myself, I think many factors played a roll in focusing the madness that was already brewing in the gunman and an exact cause will never be known.
 
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When someone decides to destroy, they will find a way to do so.

If not with a gun then perhaps with a knife.

Or maybe a bomb.

Or perhaps something commonplace like a plane full of passengers on an impossibly beautiful fall day.

To my mind the tools of destruction matter less than the emotion that leads us to destroy.

And that emotion is hate.

Which is birthed by fear.

Fear of ideas.

Fear of otherness.

Fear of change.

When fear grips the soul, giving in to hatred and destruction can seem empowering.

But it never is.

Just as destruction will never eradicate the fear that one feels.

Creation, however, is difficult.

To create one becomes vulnerable.

To create one is open to new ideas and possibilities.

To create one is not afraid to love.


None of these things are ever easy.

Those who were shot or killed in Tucson were creators.

They were the same people you will find anywhere on the plant, simply going about their days on a warm Saturday, trying to create a better society and a better world.

Some did this though politics.

Others by living a good life.

The true motives of what happened in Tucson will never be known.

And what happened can never be undone.

But perhaps from this moment something new will take hold.

Perhaps we'll all learn to create a little more and to hate a little less.

And perhaps someday we will be brave enough not to need all these guns anymore.

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...nothing to say...

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! happy new ears !

STEEV AND GLENN'S BIG ADVENTURE


 
As most of you know, Sunday was 10-10-10.

I'm not much for numerical signs but I do appreciate the aesthetic symbolism of such things.

There were global celebrations and shenanigans galore associated with this western cosmic odometer alignment and one of the better events was One Day On Earth.

Film maker, beer brewer, musician and friend Steev Hise decided to get some footage for the project down around Sasabe on the US/Mexico border and I went along for the ride.

Actually, I went along for the birds. 

If you bird then you know this is a great time of year for all things avian.

Along the way we passed Red-tail Hawks,  and Harris' Hawks, Rough-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks. There were a couple of Kestrels,  a few vultures, some ravens and more seed eaters, fly catchers and warblers than I could identify.

To the west of the Sasabe port of entry we improvised a bit on the wall then decided to check out Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) , approximately 118,000 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals.

And that's when things began to get strange, which also happens to be the new normal in Arizona these days.

When we first moved to Arizona about 16 or so years ago, one of the first places my wife and long-time cohort Jenniffer and I traveled to was BANWR.

Before we moved here all the birders we knew told us it was a "must visit" site.

And they were right.

BANWR is more than a national treasure, it's a global treasure and one of the few locations left in America where the possibility of the once wild Sonoran Desert still lives on.

Unfortunately these days BANWR is better known for dead migrants, drug smuggling and lots and lots of guns.

For the most part you can thank the border wall, failed immigration policies and the puritanical war on drugs for that change in perception.

But this post isn't about a soapbox rant.

It's just a story about a meandering drive on a lazy Sunday morning in search of natural beauty on public lands.

We decided to take a dirt road into the lower end of BANWR with the intention of eventually connecting to the main loop leading to the visitor center.

There are few if any signs here, but the road is clearly marked on BANWR maps and I'd driven it before a couple of times.

Pulling in we passed a white SUV with windows rolled down. Inside were men in camouflage who watched us closely from behind dark sunglasses as we passed.

Steev turned to me and said "Huh. Did you see that? Must be hunting season. Or maybe that's the guard."

(Editor's note: For dialogue I'll be paraphrasing throughout this story. I wasn't taking notes and all of this is from memory).

We'd both heard The National Guard was going to be setting up shop on the border and we talked about it before heading out that day.

But we figured their presence would have been a big show of force for media with all sorts of military stamped gear.


We continued down the dirt road deeper into BANWR, watching for birds, shooting footage of plants and insects and the ocean of grassy horizon. We waved to passing cars and a Border Patrol truck or two.

Eventually we passed a tent on a hill beside pale blue porta potties and what looked like a camper.

There was a sign at the entrance to the road that warned against trespassing and we made sure not to.

As I've said, Steev and I were just out for a drive and appreciating the Sonoran Desert.

Trouble was not something we were interested in.

Further up we passed another outpost with the same set up.

And then, after about a half hour or so, just past a virtual wall tower, we came to an intersection near a BANWR equipment shed.

There was another sign warning against trespassing at the building, but the road to the left and right was clear.

Yogi Berra once famously said-- When you come to a fork in the road:Take it.

So we did.

Steev turned left, heading north towards the main visitor center, past an ominous white t-shirt tied to a tree, and smack into the camp of three Guardsmen, dressed in uniform who were busy grabbing their M-16's and charging towards us, ordering us to halt.

Which, it goes without saying, Steev did despite the fact they never showed us identification nor asked us for any.

Again, we weren't looking for trouble.

We were civilians, looking for birds and stuff like that on public land.

A place specifically set aside for that exact purpose.

Once we pulled over, the conversation went something like this.





Guard #1 with M-16 at his hip:
"You can't go through here."
Me: "We're just passing through."
Steev: "Isn't this public land? I thought we were on public land?"
Guard #1: "You can't go through."
Me: "No problem. You've got the guns, all we've only got are binoculars."
Guard #2: Smiles.
Guard #3: Watches from a few feet back.
Steev: "Are you sure this isn't public land?"
Guard #1: "No, this is private property."
Steev: "What? I don't think this is private.property. It's a national wildlife refuge."
Me: "And we're low on gas, I don't think we can make it back. We need to go forward."
Guard #1: "You have to go back."
Me: "You've got the guns."
Guard #2: Smiles
Steev: "We'll go. But I don't think this is private property."

And after a bit more conversation we drive away.

I fumbled with the camera as we left and shot some horrible video, which is darkly humorous for the conversation Steev and I are having.



After that we wandered around BANWR some more trying to figure out where we were and how to get back.

From a distance we watched the Guard watching us as we crested a ridge and I snapped a shot of their camp.

Along the way we got back into the flow of the rolling horizon, filming, listening, pondering.

Eventually we arrived at the visitor's center where a volunteer listened to our story.

He showed us a few maps and we noted where the incident occurred. He jotted down a few facts, reminded us to sign the guest book and handed us copies of the BANWR newsletter before saying adios.

Later that night I visited the BANWR website and at the bottom of the page saw a link stating: "Portion of the Refuge Closed ."

Note: The BANWR map on the left shows "The Red Zone." The map on the right shows the approximate location where the incident occurred as detailed by the red box.


Following that link I discovered there is a "Red Zone" along the lower half of BANWR on about 3,500 acres near the border and we must have entered the refuge on a road which had been shut to the public.

However, not once did we see signs notifying us of this closure.

And all of the maps we saw at the visitor center made no mention of the closure although the road is clearly marked.

In addition, the location where we were stopped, as best we can tell, was beyond the "Red Zone."

And this story is not to place blame.

The National Guard we encountered were just doing their job and were likely newly deployed.

What I am more concerned with is how wrong the situation could have gone.

For example, instead of being a couple of lost looking middle age white guys with binoculars, what if our appearance had fit the generic drug runner or migrant profile?

Or what if we had legal weapons in tow for hunting or shooting?

What if instead of complying we decided to bolt from the area, concerned the men with M-16s who did not identify themselves were not who they said they were?

The "what if's" are endless.

But the point is, if BANWR is going to deem a portion of their public land a "Red Zone" and have the area patrolled by National Guard with M-16's, I'd think it would be imperative for the public to be made aware of where they can and can not go.

From what we saw, the potential for something going awry is great, now that the "Red Zone" is being treated as a defacto war zone.

A war zone lying within a tourist destination that encourages camping, hunting, birding and so on.

All that said, 10-10-10 didn't disappoint, and despite the birding-at-the-point-of-a-barrell wackiness, I still look forward to returning to BANWR. 

Red Zone or not, it is still one of the best places to bird on earth.


One Day On Earth raw footage selects (2 of 2 parts) from the u.s./mexico borderlands from steev hise on Vimeo.

RESONANCE, BIKES AND BILLION DOLLAR DOGGY DOORS



Have you noticed the seasonal gears are meshing again?

Summer fades and the s
hadows move quicker.

And upon the dried flowers ravenous seed eaters are fattening up for the travels and slumbers that lie ahead.

It is a time of change and new forms.

Speaking of new forms...

I finally
 heard back from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about my request for video from December 11, 2009 taken at the "W6" section of the Nogales border wall roughly one mile west of the main port of entry.

As detailed in a previous post it had been a convoluted process.

At first CBP told me it would be virtually cost prohibitive to process my request because they had roughly nine hours of video and some of it was shot from multiple cameras.

So we narrowed it down to a December 11 session where I had traveled to Nogales with film maker Steve Elkins.

It was a very well attended session (see photo below) and I know video had been recorded by Border Patrol because they told me so.























Then a month or so later CBP contacted me again stating the video contained no images of the playing session but they would send me the video anyway at no cost, which
 was sincerely appreciated.

With the file officially "closed" a quick review of the video showed it was the right date but from the wrong location. In fact the letter makes no reference to the location requested, just the date.

So I'm back to weighing my options again. 

However, in a side note, I did discover wild mutts are apparently sneaking into Mexico from America and running wild.

Just imagine the business potential for developing canine border control solutions.

It's dizzying, the possibilities...

But for now, anyone who wants to see the wall playing performance the government claims they never recorded --- and that remains to be seen --- check out Steve Elkins film Reach of Resonance. 

From what I've seen Steve has created a lasting and beautiful work.

The Anta Project also makes a brief appearance and has contributed some sound.

There is also some footage from when I took Rose to visit the Sasabe Wall  (later dubbed King David's Wall) a few years back.

While official release will not happen until 2011 or so, below is an unofficial teaser.



And who knows, maybe after this movie comes out I can convince Kronos to come on down to the border and play the real thing as well....
 
I WANT TO RIDE MY BIKE-A-STRA
 
In other equally important developments, as many of you already know, The Spokes Men ~aka~ Bike-A-Stra debuted in Tucson last month.

Playing a bike is nothing new.

Children have been modifying their bikes to make sound for as long as there have been children with bicycles.

Frank Zappa brought bike playing to national attention in 1963.

When playing "untraditional" instruments, artists often focus on the novelty of the instrument or who was the first to play it.

But that is absurd.

It's not about what you play but what you create.

And to my ear The Spokes Men ~aka~ Bike-A-Stra are taking bicycle playing into a new orbit.

Free Downloads:
* 09/04/10 Session
* 09/10/10 Session
* PARK(ing) Day
* The Red Room

Working with Scott Kerr and Jamie Laboz has been a pleasure and I'm looking forward to seeing where Steev Hise takes the project visually as VJ.

And be sure to check the www.sonicanta.com site for details about our October 1 telematic performance live from BICAS  and broadcast over USTREAM.
 
So there is the limited wrap of the month or so that was.

Stay tuned because there's much more to come...



TUCSON ORCHESTRATED AND PERHAPS ....................... THE GREAT BORDER WALL CONSPIRACY!


But first a word from our sponsor....

Tired of those same old vibrations?

Looking to spice-up your listening pleasure a bit?

Then try: Tucson Orchestrated.

That's right: Tucson Orchestrated.

Built from from over five hours of high quality urban Sonoran Desert-based monsoon-inspired soundscapes, this cavalcade of sonic explorations features field recordings and performances composed exclusively for viola, machines, bugs and an upright piano with one sticky key.

The physical cd package also comes with a book of semi-autobiographical galloping dialogues and images spanning roughly 20 years.

Tucson Orchestrated is also available in super happy downloadable format.

Now in your grocer's freezer and wherever fine audio products are sold.
Sonicanta ~ What you hear is what you get.

Glenn Weyant: Tucson Orchestrated

Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

!SOUND SCULPTOR FOILED BY FOIA!
Cover-Up or Bloated Bureaucracy Boondoggle?


As many of you know, on the surface The Anta Project is mostly about transforming the US/Mexico border walls, fences and ephemera from symbols of fear, loathing and environmental hubris into instruments capable of promoting unity through sound, performance and listening.

But equally important is the project's narrative, and this is where The Anta Project is also an exercise in experimental sound journalism.

From the moment former President George W. Bush pushed forward with his plans to wall in America, I've been documenting my small corner of Sonoran Desert with soundings, images, performance and words.

In that time I've published two articles about the work, maintained a Web site and blog, presented it at a handful of universities and taken interested people on educational sound tours of the area.

Every day roughly 200 unique visitors visit sonicanta.com from virtually every corner of the globe. Doing the math and not accounting for periods of high traffic which can top 1,000 daily visitors, roughly 400,000 people have visited the site since it went live in 2006.

And while I'm the first to admit experimental sound journalism is not exactly traditional journalism, it is none-the-less journalism. In this age when the old forms of journalism have been compromised by advertising concerns and drained of their vitality, this new form is self-sustaining and robust without having to accept the influence of advertising dollars.

As part of The Anta Project's documentation process, in June I decided to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request with U.S. Customs and Border Protection seeking any and all video or audio concerning the soundings and performances I'd done with the border wall. I also provided them with specific dates and times to narrow it down.

Learning how the US Border Patrol/ Department of Homeland Security documented, catalogued and viewed this exercise in wall playing will add a new dimension to The Anta Project narrative.

In addition to video and audio, I also requested any paperwork or files they might have on me/The Anta Project, since on multiple occassions I'd been detained and my identification verified (Including the infamous Russian Spy incident ).

Finally, I requested any and all fees be waived since everything obtained would be used for educational and journalistic purposes with minimal if any financial gain.

Nearly a month after I filed my FOIA request I received a phone call from FOIA Analyst for Customs and Border Protection Patrick Howard.

Howard said he was calling to determine if I wanted to go through with my request.

In addition to indicating my request would likely be costly to process, he also informed me there was no sound.

Not a problem, I said, I have all the sound I need and can easily dub in the video. As for the fees, I'd applied for a waiver as a journalist and educator and expected to be exempt.

On July 3 I received a letter (Page 1,   Page 2 ) dated June 17, but postmarked July 1,  from FOIA Division Director Dorothy Pullo stating they were processing my request. The letter noted there were six hours of video and I'd be responsible for paying any fees at $25 per hour for a maximum $250.

I was curious about the nearly two week gap between the date on the letter and the postmark.

Since I'd mailed my FOIA on May 17, I technically should have received a response around June 17 depending on the mail.

My gut told me it was backdated so they could stay in compliance with the 20-day response period.

Around July 14 I received a second letter ( Page 1 , Page 2 ) from Pullo stating I needed to pay $280 up-front to analyze nine hours of video they found at a rate of $28 an hour.

The letter stated my request for a fee waiver was also denied. The reasons for denying the fee waiver were lengthy standard boilerplate and I immediately considered appealing them.


After all, who is the government to decide the significance of news value or who the audience for that material will be?

Clearly, based on the global spread of The Anta Project via media coverage such as  NPR, Signal-to-NoisePhoenix New Times, Boing-Boing , and so on, the audience is globally significant and the public is interested in hearing more.

This fee, the letter stated, was only the beginning of my costs. Paying the $280 did not guarantee I would receive the material.  Rather, once the initial $280 was paid they would then review the material and decide how much of it needed to be sent out for "redacting"  which would incur additional and undeterminable fees.

Now, for someone like myself, a freelance sound sculptor/ journalist/ baker and so on,  paying $280 is at the limit of what I can afford.

There is a recession going on.

Times are tight, right?

And hearing a federal employee with full benefits is making $28 an hour to review video of ordinary Americans doing ordinary stuff like playing a border wall with a cello bow makes me think I ought to find a way to get on the federal teat.

Perhaps I'd qualify for the position of Border Wall Acoustical Research Director?

But I digress.

Not sure what to do next, on July 15 I decided to give Pullo a call.

Although there is no phone number listed on the second letter, if there is one thing my 20 plus years as a reporter have taught me, it is how to work the phones.

So I followed one lead after another and the next thing I know I am being connected with Pullo's direct line.

And while I'm glad to reach Pullo, she is clearly unhappy to hear from me.

Turns out people like myself, private citizens filing FOIA requests, do not get to speak with Pullo directly. She has a staff for people like me. And I understand that.

Pullo is gracious and gives me over ten minutes of her time, answering my questions.

The conversation is invaluable and I am sincerely appreciative that she is willing to speak with me.

During our conversation, she notes that she remembers my request specifically which is flattering considering the volume of FOIA requests they receive.

It also makes me think The Anta Project must be "significant" to stand out like that.

By the end of the conversation we agree it is best to limit my request to a single performance and go from there so it will remain cost effective.

Pullo takes my home and cell numbers then says she will have one of her staff get back with me the next day.

Now call me naive, but I really thought I'd get a call back.

It's my government right?  I'm a citizen. We're on the same side. They make their money off my taxes.

So I waited.

And waited.

But of course, like so many with whom I shared this story predicted, no one ever called back.

After roughly a week,I tried to reach Howard the analyst,  leaving him a message about my conversation with Pullo. But he too failed to return my phone call.

Soon after, the 30 day deadline for action on my part passed and the file was automatically "closed."

So now I'll have to refile again, but this time limit the scope and argue the merits of a fee waiver.

But in the mean time I'm left to wonder:

Is there something on those nine hours of video too sensitive for the world to see/hear? 

Is this just the tip of Border Wallgate?

And if so, who heard what and when did they hear it?

Is America ready for a borderland without fear and loathing?

Or can't we handle the truth?

Those questions and many others still loom large.

But what I really want to know, more than anything else is:  How the hell do I get myself one of those federal video watching jobs? 

Pay me $28 an hour with full benefits and I'll even return your calls.

Stay tuned for more as The FOIA Turns....

But till then, for your listening/viewing pleasure, a recent fun borderland playing session with musician - journalist - archeologist - musicologist - hiking guide - educator - environmentalist and on-air personality Matt Nelson.