Storm Topography

I often think of thunderstorms as sonic “illuminators” of the landscape. Like the clicking echolocation devices in Alvin Lucier’s “Vespers”, each crack of thunder reveals the local topography through its echoes: long cascading rumbles in the mountains, quick slap-back delays from nearby buildings, or the crisp articulation of open desert.

This track begins with the sound of rain on a sheet-metal roof, then transitions to the vibrations of a metal railing in the same storm, captured with contact microphones. Each raindrop is like a tiny percussive hammer striking the metal, but their combined energy is tuned by the natural resonance of the material into a consistent drone. As the thunder reveals the landscape outside, the raindrops reveal the internal topography of the railing.

This recording is part of my ongoing practice of “auscultation”: listening to the vibrations of objects and underwater environments, revealing hidden interiors like a doctor’s stethoscope probing the systems of the body. This helps me to consider my relationship to the more-than-human as I stretch my ears to practice other ways of listening, communicating, and inhabiting the world. See my other recordings and writings related to auscultation.