muted tones

november 03

spacious place

Alberta's Paula Spurr is a lovely charming singer and songwriter, with one release, Little Thorns, a Learning to Love You More contributor, a punk and a cowgirl; she is sorting out memory here.

curator log:

Spacious Place

october 31st, 2003

Photo Courtesy of Phillips Petroleum Company.

Just in case you didn’t know what a pump jack was.

I’m Done.

september 19th, 2003

Spent yesterday mixing my sounds together. My inclination is to apologize for the quality of my mixing, but I will squelch that urge and rather say that it turned out better than I could have hoped considering I have never done this before, and I’m not friends with anyone who could have done better! I’ll send it off and it will be up come November.

I took the picture of the house on a drive to Red Deer. Somebody used to live there, and now it is a place for cows to graze. Crazy.

Credit Where Credit is Due

september 02nd, 2003

I get excited when the ideas start flying. My husband, Lance Spurr, just reminded me that the concept of using the sound from a pump-jack was HIS brainchild. So were some of the other ideas. Thanks, Lance! I couldn’t have done it without you. Or at least, I couldn’t have done it the same way.

Also, unfortunately, no fiddle playing. But some great old-timey harmonizing on old country-gospel greats may make it in….if only I could yodel. =)

Spacious Place

august 25th, 2003

OK, wow! Today I finished taping the raw material for the piece; it went better than I could have hoped or imagined!

I drove down to Rosebud to meet Roger Hamm and Marie Russell. We drove out of town looking for one of the pump-jacks, the big oil-pumps I was talking about in an earlier entry. On our way we saw a pick-up at one of the oil stations, so we pulled in to ask the oil guy if he knew where a pump jack was. Luckily Roger kept the recorder going!! The guy totally mistrusted us. He thought we were spies from a competing oil company, or maybe very poorly prepared terrorists…“why should I tell you where the pump-jacks are? Who are you with?” He was so suspicious!

Once I’d finally convinced him that we were artists just trying to record the sound of a pump jack, he grudgingly told us where the closest one was…“but if anyone asks, I will deny ever talking to you. You never saw me. I never saw you.” It was so cloak-and-dagger! We assured him that we were indeed invisible, and drove off to the gas-powered pump-jack.

Gas-powered pump-jacks are quite rare. Mostly now they are electric, and we never would have found it if the guy hadn’t told us where it was. They make a WAY better sound for my purposes than the electric ones. I was so glad. Hooray for suspicious red-neck oil guys!!

Side note: the walk out to the pump-jack was covered with thousands of grasshoppers, tens of thousands. The sound of their wings whirring by the microphone as we walked is oppressive and amazing. Plagues of locusts!!

…and more connections…

august 18th, 2003

I was just talking to my friend, Roger Hamm, of Sloughfoot Stubble Jumpers, and he has managed to borrow a mini-disc recorder!! Great, I say. Also, he was searching out sounds to add to the mix, and found a gas burn-off thing (technical name? no idea…) that sounds like hell being loosed from the mouth of a giant dragon…oh yeah! And hopefully he can convince Bill Hamm to play some crazy, atmospheric fiddle in the background…

It’s all starting to come together!


august 14th, 2003

I was in Rosebud two nights ago to see Mike Alviano play at the Encore. He put on a great, quiet, thoughtful show, but he won’t be here when I need him, so I didn’t connect with him. I connected with my friend, Marie, instead. She is a great actress, and a wonderfully strange person. When I explained some of my ideas to her, she understood what I was trying to do right away, and also had lots of ideas of her own to add. Yay!!!

We are thinking about using the massive, repetitive, oppressive sound of an oil pump as the background for the piece. I don’t mean a little oil pump like you have in your garage, or like the Tin Man carried around in the Wizard of Oz! I mean the giant, metallic grasshoppers that litter the prairies, sucking oil from deep within the ground, pumping up and down continually. There are pumps around here that I remember from when I was a little girl thirty years ago, still pumping. They never stop. It boggles the mind to imagine the size of the hole they are creating underneath the top layers of earth…I keep wondering if all of Alberta is just going to sink out of sight one day.

The cat in the picture is mine. His name is Silent Bob, but I prefer to call him Violent Slob, which better suits his character.

What am I Doing?

august 04th, 2003

So. I have been thinking about this assignment since I received it. Fill ten minutes with sound. Any sound I want? Yes, any sound you want. So then I start listening. And there are so many sounds. Right now I can hear my fingers typing on the keyboard. I can hear crickets chirping monotonously outside our mobile home. I can hear Sixteen Horsepower playing on the stereo in the next room. I can hear the fan blowing. I can hear my computer humming, I can hear a truck driving by, I can hear thunder rumbling low in the distance, I can hear my neighbour yelling drunkenly at her teenage daughter. How do I choose? How do I filter out the distractions to arrive at the essence of what it means to me to be living in this rural community in the middle of the prairie, distant from everything familiar to me?

I have a few ideas.

The sound should be droning, repetitious like the fence posts. The sound should be large like the dry, blue sky. The sound should be peppered with space. The sound should be lonely and disconnected, like living as an outsider in a small town. And yet somehow the sound must be beautiful, filled with memories.

I have a few ideas.

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