SUAL Archives | 2009

Aaron & Bronwyn Ximm: Annapurna: Memories in sound — listening room

Duration:     37‘58“
Type:             Audio recording provided by the artists

Annapurna: Memories in Sound

Aaron Ximm: soundscape composition
Bronwyn Ximm: narration

One of the pleasures of working in documentary sound is that it opens new perspectives on subjects that have been photographed into opacity. Few of us have grown up unexposed to countless images of the Himalayas. Based on those images, and the stories that surround them — all but inevitably told from a Western perspective — the word Himalaya alone can conjure an imagined landscape, half real, half myth. Annapurna: Memories in Sound was, like the journey it recounts, an attempt to step both into and beyond those images. Though I cannot in good faith say that what I saw in Nepal was free from the frame I brought with me, with this work I hope to share what was new to me: the soundscape I found on the Annapurna Circuit. Most popular of the teahouse treks for good reason, the Circuit offers a cross section of Nepal in many dimensions, cultural as well as ecological, geographic and topological.

Though it is a trip through a reality reshaped by tourists such as myself, by our needs and expectations, much of what one can hear along it is has not, yet, been sanitized, censored, or edited. Sound, as always, has so far eluded taming. Listening to it now, what I hear in Annapurna is how much of a collaboration it is between my wife Bronwyn, its narrator, and I. In its marriage of her words to my recordings, Annapurna, represented a unique departure from my still-normal practice of working alone. In collaboration, Annapurna became both less and more than what I would have made in isolation: it is more linear, more welcoming, and perhaps less patient in unfolding the sounds that make it up — and for being less patient, I would say that it is less reflective of the sublime vastness of the landscape it traverses. But another way of saying less patient might be, less tedious. Regardless, it is what it is. And regardless of your reaction, I can take only a portion of the credit. But that is a familiar and appropriate situation for me: most of the credit, as always, properly goes to the people and places I had the luxury to document. All I do is carry a frame.

Aaron Ximm

Aaron Ximm is a San Francisco-based field recordist and sound artist. He is best known for his composition, installation, and performance work as Quiet American, much of which can be found at From 2001 to 2005, Aaron curated and hosted the Field Effects concert series, which, like his own work, sought to showcase the quiet, fragile, and lovely side of sound art, particularly that working with found sound and field recordings. Recently he has become increasingly interested in taking as his subject the problems and limitations of documentation itself.

[info as of 12/2009]