Dianne Ballon | Media Arts Fellow 2021
- December 01, 2020
Dianne Ballon | Maine Arts Fellowship - Portland, Maine
I am a sound artist. I have been living in Maine and working in sound for over thirty-five years. I love the elusiveness of sound. For example, one day I stood only a few feet away from a singing Wood Thrush, only to return the next day all geared up and not a peep.
Sometimes if I am lucky, other sounds I could never have anticipated, enter the recording. As I was recording the night sounds coming in loud and clear through my headphones for my Shenandoah National Park artist-in-residency, the wind swept the tops of the trees like an ocean wave. Or, when I finally arrived to record the rich sounds of getting the horses ready at the stables for the visitors to ride, the two cowboys whom I had seen a day earlier were replaced by two women. The women’s love and tenderness for the horses came through beautifully in the recording.
I have been working on a coastal sound series. This includes my finished work Bell Buoy at Bass Harbor Light and Boats Creaking at a Dock in Iceland. So far, I have recordings from Boothbay Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and South Freeport Harbor, the docks at East End Beach, and Iceland. Each harbor has its own distinct sound. Rocked by the motion of water, the pull of the tide, and a variable touch of wind, the boats create a mesmerizing series of sounds. The sounds are introspective: both sharp and smooth, quiet and busy, rhythmic yet random and, achingly beautiful.
For my Musical Instrument Dreams sound installation, I composed with sound, recreating the sounds that I hear in my dreams. Listening to the boat recordings, I am struck by how some of the boats sound musical, and this invites the idea of expanding on the sounds musically.
As for the diﬃculties of field recording, and they are oh, so many, I need the wind to rock the boats, yet not blow into my microphone. One challenging field recording was accomplished farther north in Iceland close to the Arctic Circle. Not one tree, bush, or stone shielded the blustery wind crossing the tundra. On a 10-mile hike in the midnight sun, wearing every layer I brought, I recorded the sound of one lone bird singing. And for a short moment in time, the wind took a rest.
To hear my sound works, please visit my website:
With the Maine Artist Fellowship, I could return to explore, through sound, the Arctic I have always been drawn to. Instead, the limitations from the pandemic, with no end in sight, allow me the opportunity to focus on my own backyard. From York to Lubec, I will explore the small harbors up and down the long peninsulas and the islands along the Maine coast. The fellowship will provide the time and funding to work on my coastal harbor series without interruption. Instead of day trips, I can now set out for a week and have time to explore these beautiful locations before having to move on to the next.
In my mind’s eye, I already see Schoodic Point, Petit Manan, and Lubec, places I have not seen for over twenty years. And back home, I will finally have the time to ask the Casco Bay Bridge operators for permission to record the opening of the bridge as a ship comes through. What I really want is the blast of the horn, announcing its arrival; however, the sound of the bridge opening may be the frosting on the cake. And if I’m lucky, I may finally capture the song of the Wood Thrush and even the elusive Winter Wren without life getting in the way.
Dianne Ballon sound installation, Give Me Your Tired, Your Tattered Bird Books. I asked bird
watchers to loan me their bird books and field guides. After collecting the books, I recorded the
bird watchers describing their books and related memories. The bird books were displayed
along with an old pair of binoculars. Participants could view the books, while listening through
headphones to the recollections.
Dianne Ballon recording streams and waterfalls at Dark Hollow Falls, during her artist-in-residency at Shenandoah National Park.
Dianne Ballon recording at Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
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