Turning Earth Sounds Into Ethereal Music: Inside the Making of Field Works’ “Stations”

Recording the Earth

The last time we spoke with Stuart Hyatt about his Field Works project, he had recently released an album of immersive music with the sounds of bats at its center. The new Field Works album, Stations, goes to a very different place than that in a very literal sense. For this album, Hyatt drew upon the work of EarthScope, recording the sounds of the planet itself and then bringing in a host of collaborators, including Laaraji and Qasim Naqvi, to transform those sounds into a haunting, gorgeous soundscape. Reached via email, Hyatt discussed how everything came together.

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Notes on a Night at Quinn’s, Late February: Featuring Joe McPhee, Michael Bisio, Chris Corsano, Steve Swell

Steve Swell, Joe McPhee, Chris Corsano, Michael Bisio

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Joe McPhee, Michael Bisio, Chris Corsano & Steve Swell Mania!

The entrance to Quinn’s is crowded. I start looking for familiar faces, but then I find myself doing math, calculating fractions, rounding, converting to percentages. Who else is masking? How do the numbers compare to my classroom? To the grocery store?  

For the first time in two years, I’m at Quinn’s to see live music, and it’s weird. Beyond the obvious emerging-from-a-pandemic reasons, Quinn’s is for sale, which kicks things in a different direction, makes me wonder how much longer this scene is going to last. Then again, I’ve had similar thoughts since I first came to Quinn’s. That’s part of what motivated me to write a book about the place—I didn’t think it could keep going. 

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“I Recognize That Boston’s a Hard Sell”: An Interview With Chris Brokaw

Chris Brokaw

Chris Brokaw is one of the most searching, prolific, expressive musicians I know. Switching between guitar and drums, he’s left an indelible impression in bands like Codeine, Come, Charnel Ground, and The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries. He’s also been a sought after sideman with the likes of the Lemonheads and often tours the world playing solo, in between scoring independent films like I Was Born, But… 

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Notes on Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “She-Wolf”

Hemphill album cover

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time For Jessie Mae Hemphill Mania!
She-Wolf (Vogue, 1981; reissued by HighTone, 1998)

I love reading lists of recommended records. In high school I devoured Rolling Stone lists of the best records of all-time. They were helpful entry points for a curious kid stuck in another “home of classic rock’n’roll!” radio town and no sense that record stores existed beyond the mall. I took the lists at face value, trusting the experts knew more than I did, before gradually developing my own navigating systems. By this point in my life, though, I’ve probably overcompensated for my early naivety, moving from too trusting to too critical, too quick to dismiss.

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Notes on Sunny War’s “Simple Syrup”

Sunny War

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Sunny War Mania!
Simple Syrup (Henhouse/Org, 2021)

“Ain’t got no Joni Mitchell 8-tracks in the car”
-Weird Al Yankovic, “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”

From roughly age 15 to age 50 those lyrics encapsulated my sense of what Joni Mitchell had to offer. She embodied the overly laid-back Southern California soft rock of the early ‘70s. Joni, the Eagles, Dan Fogelberg. Coked up and gazing down at their navels. Oy, and the sounds, the all too super soft sounds. The lyrics occasionally brushed up against introspection but the rule of the day seemed to be don’t harsh anyone’s mellow. 

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Notes on Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble’s “NOW”

NOW

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble Mania!
NOW (International Anthem)

A few years ago, I saw Stevie Wonder perform Songs in the Key of Life in Hartford. Blissful disbelief had me floating all night. I still can’t believe I had the privilege of seeing a genius of that magnitude performing an album that good. No one blends harmony, melody and rhythm like Stevie, especially on Songs in the Key of Life. His 1976 masterpiece shows him at full stride and serves as an invitation to join something larger, kinder, deeper—in all ways better. That holds true when I revisit those songs and it certainly held true that night in Hartford. The stage was dense with musicians and singers—guitar, bass, percussion, drums, strings, horns, a chorus. But it was never cluttered because it was all under the direction of an auteur.

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Notes on Los Lobos’ “Native Sons”

Los Lobos

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Los Lobos Mania!
Notes on Los Lobos’ “Native Sons”

I once published a theory about bands with five guys. It went like this: bands with five guys suck. I published the theory in a zine and we received dozens of letters, most contesting the theory and saying what a fool I was. When my band played shows, strangers accosted me to tell me I was wrong. I can be timid and don’t always think well on my feet outside the classroom. Yet I fended off all challengers. The theory was silly but surprisingly solid. 

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Jeff Tobias on “Recurring Dream,” Saxophones, and Technological Control

Jeff Tobias

Jeff Tobias has been a part of two of the most consistently great outfits making music these days, Sunwatchers and Modern Nature. But Tobias’s own skills as a songwriter are also considerable, and his new solo album Recurring Dream makes that very clear. It abounds with eminently catchy pop that grapples with sophisticated and complex themes, and it further reinforces Tobias as one of the most interesting musicians working today. I talked with Tobias about the album’s genesis, technology, and what’s next for him.

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