A sonic journey around the globe
This is a story about a solo trip embarked upon over the past four months. The life-changing journey spans 3 continents, in excess of 60,000 km, and features a portable microphone, a ‘disappearing day’ and a whole lotta music.
The quest was relatively straight forward: embark on a trip around the world, see what you discover along the way. Or, for accuracy’s sake, that should read “embark on a trip, hear what you discover along the way”…But more about that later.
The first twenty-nine years of my life were lived in two places: England, my birthplace, where I learned about the world, about different cultures living together, and, perhaps most importantly, about the value of variety. And my native Greece, where I learned, amongst other things, about tradition and about the stupefying magnificence of the natural world and the gift that is our planet Earth.
Eventually and perhaps naturally, I grew tired of only knowing two countries so I decided that it was time to explore. The ensuing seven years saw me live for varying amounts of time in places such as New York, Milan, Istanbul, Mykonos, Los Angeles, as well as well as my two starting points, London and Athens. The more I moved around, the more I discovered how much I loved traveling and everything that comes with it. I also discovered how nice it is to finally come home.
2016 was the year that I decided to take things to a new level. I found myself with some spare time on my hands and so it occurred to me throw some belongings in a bag and go exploring for a few months. Like most people going on a long trip, I wished and decided to document the entire experience. However, in a revolt against today’s Instagram filtered world, instead of focusing solely on the visual, I decided to focus primarily on the audial. I bought a Zoom H5 field recorder, a truly nifty portable piece of technology that enables one to record audio files over four channels, and I set off to capture the sound of the world, such as it may manifest itself to me.
Sound is my obsession. Not just any sound mind you. I am audibly aroused by specific things. It’s hard to explain. For example, it could be the way the rhythmic percussion-like chug of a London Underground train occasionally matches the beat of a song you’re listening to in your earphones. Or the rustle of leaves as they get caught by a gust of wind. Sometimes you hear something and you are teleported; you’re suddenly and momentarily all the way back in another time and place, perhaps those leaves triggered a memory — sending you back to when you were a kid, walking aimlessly in your mother’s shadow. I’m always on the lookout for the type of sensory stimuli that, as in the example I just cited, can lead to truly visceral, nostalgic experiences, such as this momentary form of time travel.
Yes, I’m all about sound. Sometimes this can turn into a negative, namely when my latent tinnitus and hyperacusis start to infiltrate my senses. But most of the time, thankfully, I am consistently and frequently amazed by the beauty of what I hear, be it the myriad ‘voices’ of nature, or the hustle and bustle of an urban center. Once in a while I find myself marveling at some serendipitous melodic harmony that comes out of nothing, seemingly by accident. And then there are of course all of the intentional sounds that when put together give us music.
So, armed with my H5, I journeyed into the unknown. My first stop was possibly the world’s coolest spot as far as underground dance scenes go: Berlin. It was there that I discovered a novel approach to live techno, through the use of what’s known as modular systems. I met and befriended some amazing people, not least of which are Joe Steyer and Matthias Millhoff, the duo behind the city’s up-and-coming (and certainly most exciting) techno outfit, #instantboner (hashtag pronounced). I also discovered that even at thirty-six, if the music is good enough, I can still keep going for almost 24 hours straight, thanks mainly to an insanely fun boat party on the legendary Hoppetosse and to a gifted, young Croatian DJ known in Berlin as Stipé.
After Germany came California. I spent a lot of time talking to people about music, learning about music, recording music, and, of course, recording ambient sounds as and when the opportunity would arise. I am partial to the sound of waves — so in Los Angeles I captured the Pacific’s surf. In San Francisco I discovered what an Eric Clapton signature Martin & Co acoustic guitar sounds like (divine). Moving on from Los Angeles and San Francisco I landed on the island of Kauai, the eldest in the Hawaiian archipelago. This is arguably the place where my gadget travel companion was used the most. There is such an awe-inspiring variety of flora and fauna, not to mention the constant waves, that puts one in a constant mood to capture and record everything.
Then came Japan. Though not before I crossed the International Date Line, and thus instantly “lost” a day. One minute it was Sunday evening, 21:45, on a plane from Honolulu to Tokyo, and the next it’s Monday evening, 21:46, still aboard the same plane. Equal parts weird and fascinating. Or maybe just to me, the unseasoned traveler.
Whilst in Japan I immersed myself so much into everything I saw and heard, that it is difficult to know where to begin. Perhaps ironically one of my favorite experiences in Tokyo was spending time in a specialized vinyl store — this could have been anywhere in the western world. The Japanese definitely have a very strong affinity toward music and especially underground, edgy sounds. And then there’s also their particular brand of weird. I think I spent one whole hour walking from one side of the famous Shibuya crossing to the other, recording sounds and images. Nobody even paid me any heed. One day I will return with a Go Pro camera and do it all over again.
My final destination was Bali. Here, I fought with a monkey in Ubud (and lost). I joined in on the Ogoh Ogoh festivities (Balinese new year). I made some new friends — Ketut the metalhead with whom I exchanged heavy metal knowledge, Wayan the arm-wrestler, and Ngurah the trapper of porcupines and general Balinese coolness personified. Ironically, my top experience in Bali came during Nyepi, which is known as the “Day of Silence”. Yep, that’s right. — an entire day dedicated to silence. All I can say about this is that it certainly makes you reflect. It also coincided with a spectacular solar eclipse, which I unfortunately missed as I was busy focusing on the non-observance of silence from of all the birds, insects, waves and other factors oblivious to the Balinese tradition.
I continued by travels west until I finally arrived in Athens once more. And then I kept going. To Berlin again, for more music. To London, for, guess what, yes — more music. And then back to California, for Coachella and… well you get the picture. Music and sound keeps me going.
Now, my latest project is to bring together the musicians and dj’s that I stumbled across during my travels and create fiercely experiential music based events designed to capture collective imaginations and arouse senses. In addition, I intend to use the sounds I captured using the H5 recorded along the way. Music has saved me, and so many others. So it’s only right that I return the favor in whatever small way I can. Sonic Salvation is nigh, stay tuned!