Ian Wellman – Bioaccumulation

Los Angeles based field recordist and composer Ian Wellman creates an evocative assembly of ambient sound fields on Bioaccumulation. Drawn from his experiences on location in the Sierra Nevadas, Wellman’s works exists at the very nexus of tape based music and field recordings. Merging the experienced and the imagined worlds, he realises dense folding sonic textures that evolve to create an otherworldly but utterly consuming acoustic portrait.

The scientific term Bioaccumulation is used to describe the accumulation of toxic substances occurring in the environment. Bioaccumulation takes place when an organism absorbs a substance at a faster rate than it can lose in catabolism or excretion. This process only magnifies as it moves down the food chain.

Similarly, the concept for my album Bioaccumulation started with idea of sounds cycling and mingling together, eventually attacking one another or disintegrating completely. Our relationship with nature is mirrored in this endless cycle of extracting and using the land’s resources until they run dry. We seem hell bent on absorbing and in turn obliterating anything in our path.

This year I had a chance to mull on this while I attended a week-long bioacoustics workshop through Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the Sierra Nevadas. The idea of bioacoustics has become increasingly important to me. Through listening and observation, we absorb most of our information. The capacity to study animals, through the ‘lens’ of the sonic environment, to analyze how they have changed over time amplifies the importance of sound. We can learn so much about ourselves just by being present and listening to our surroundings.

The field recordings in Bioaccumulation are meant to serve as real-world examples of how we affect the envi- ronment and our surroundings, even simply by being present. The human-generated sounds left in the record- ings are intended to reflect the inescapable amount of noise pollution we have contributed to the world. On example can be heard in the recording of the woodpeckers from Carlton Flats in the Angeles National Forest. While walking around, I heard a cooing from a nearby tree. After realizing this sound was a baby bird inside a nest, I was greeted by a group of angry woodpeckers knocking their beaks has hard as they could against the tree, flicking their wings back, and vocalizing shrill calls. Nature is literally screaming at us to leave.

Each musical piece is assembled with 4 track tape machine played as an instrument with loops sourced from digital synths and manipulated or dissolved completely by effect pedals. In this way, digital becomes both ana- log and physical. The pieces dwell on feelings from our environmental collapse (the real and the most sensa- tionalized versions), guilt of humanity’s destructive shadow, and hope for the realization of a balance with na- ture, as mythical as it may seem.


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