Recordings from the Rub' Al Khali desert 2010
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Film shot by Stephan Crasneanscki, edited by Jim Helton.
Live performance of Empty Quarter, a film by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
The bedouins call this vast barren land the Rub’ Al Khali, literally the "Empty Quarter".
This Desert of deserts stretches from the border of Yemen to the mountains of Oman; from the southern coast of the Arabic Peninsula to the Persian Gulf and the border of Nedjd.
The Soundwalk collective went on a 45-day travel across this desert, in search of the singing sands, scanning and recording the infinity of Hertzian frequencies that stretch across the dunes of Rub’ Al Khali. In the least populated area of the world, these sound waves travel from the coasts of Eritrea through Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and the Persian coasts. In this empty vastness, one can distinguish millions of voices, from Bedouins on their voyage though the desert, to oil miners, to the sound of communication between cargo ships and trawlers sailing up the Red Sea, to shortwave radio transmissions along the Persian coast, all the way to North East Africa. The Empty Quarter is the crossroads of the Arabic civilization.
Much like an anthropologist doing fieldwork in a marginal land, Soundwalk recorded hundreds of hours of sonic fragments, guided by the movement of sand and following the whims of the winds. The result is a reflection on silence. To go in the desert usually implies looking for silence and escaping the din of civilization. The essence of such a project lies in the idea of hypnotic meditation on a forsaken world, transience and the footprints left by man on earth. Sounds collected know no boundaries, just as the nomadic traditions remind us.