Doug Haire “Melancholy Aura” CDR (2011)

CDR coverWhat does melancholy sound like?  It is an area for debate.  Top class studio and field engineer Doug Haire proposes these 19 two minute field recordings as exhibiting the “the sublime, dark and beautiful presence of melancholy.”  I can’t say they evoke the same in me, as some of them sound like peopled places full of activity, instead of desolate soundscapes.  But Doug is also the first to point out that, “Although it seems at once a very familiar term, it is extraordinarily elusive and enigmatic.”  So these recordings become part of a dialogue where one person conveys their idea of melancholy through sound.  Having this conceptual context has made me think differently about what I am hearing on this disc.  This emotional framework takes the place of the usual recording information provided with field recordings which fix the place and time.  Here there are no details about where the recordings were made.  Given only minimal titles, such as “Workshoes” or “Desert Twilight”, the focus of interpretation is instead on the emotional impact of the recordings.  Knowing Doug’s history, these recordings could have come from all over the world, and probably do represent a diversity of locations and times (Reagan is heard among crickets on “Campaign Trail”; foreign languages appear in many others).  Were these lonely destinations which found our guide with no companionship but his recording device?  The framework makes us think of what effect these aural landscapes had on Mr. Haire.  It makes me interpret the recordings in a different way.  Aside from these philosophical musings, I should of course point out that the recordings themselves are impeccable as sonic photographs, up there with the esteemed Chris Watson in their quality of capturing a unique moment rather than just being a random event when the recorder was turned on.  Much of the field recording work being released these days does seem very aimless – the focus being more on capturing the mundane than something of unique character.  But here the recordings are collected with a purpose, or at least presented with a context in mind.  This CDR comes in a resealable back with a double-sided postcard as the artwork.  On the back are a few musings.  They end with these lines: “What does melancholy sound like? This is the question I have asked.”