Sounds from dangerous places book with audio CDs: Caspian oil and UK sites

By Peter Cusack

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  1. Oil work tune

    Oil work tune

  2. Oil field atmosphere

    Oil field atmosphere

  3. Oil field soundwalk

    Oil field soundwalk

  4. Bradwell nuclear power station

    Bradwell nuclear power station

  5. Methane flow, Rainham Landfill

    Methane flow, Rainham Landfill

  6. Plane deer, Thetford forest

    Plane deer, Thetford forest

  7. Radiometer, sheep

    Radiometer, sheep

  8. Sizewell, wind whistling

    Sizewell, wind whistling

The first recordings on this CD were made in 2004 at the Bibi Heybat oilfield, on the Caspian shore just outside Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. It is one of the oldest oilfields in the world and its commercialisation by Europeans in the late 19th century signalled the start of the modern petroleum age. Extensively exploited during the 20th century by the Soviet Union, Bib Heybat is now controlled by the Azeri state with massive investments from global oil companies.

It is also one of the most polluted spots on earth. Both sea and land are saturated with oil. The smell is powerful. Villages and a city are nearby. Refugees, denied lands elsewhere, graze animals on the few blades of grass that grow amongst the black pools. Fish caught from the contaminated water are eaten. But despite the environmental devastation and social injustice, Bibi Heybat is one of the most photogenic and sonogenic places I have ever visited. It looks and sounds fantastic.

Most of us whose daily lives are so oil dependent have little knowledge of the places and technologies of oil extraction, or of the industry’s effect on local environments and people. I was shocked at the extreme dichotomy I experienced between my pleasure at the stunning sights and sounds of Bibi Heybat and the knowledge of its environmental, social and political impacts. Sounds from Dangerous Places was born from these contradictions.

Having chanced upon an environment so completely transformed by a century of ruthless exploitation that an entirely new one, with its own unique visual and sonic character, now exists in its place, I began to wonder if similar processes were occurring elsewhere. I was especially interested in how environmental changes are revealed in the soundscape. This led me to research the Chernobyl exclusion zone and dam building in the rivers of Eastern Turkey. I also visited, smaller but still significant sites in the UK—nuclear power stations, military bases, landfill sites, places of greenhouse gas emissions and Snowdonia where Chernobyl fallout still effects sheep farming today.

Full tracklisting (39 trks 76:24)

Caspian Oil, Bibi Heybat, Azerbaijan:

  1. 01. Oilfield atmosphere (1:59)
  2. 02. Oil work tune 1 (0:39)
  3. 03. Oil work tune 2 (0:37)
  4. 04. Oilfield soundwalk 1 (7:09)
  5. 05. Oil work tune 3 (0:53)
  6. 06. Caspian Sea wash (1:38)
  7. 07. Drilling (2:07)
  8. 08. Nodding donkey extreme close-up (1:15)
  9. 09. Oilfield soundwalk 2 (8:00)

Icheri Sheher, Baku, Azerbaijan:

  1. 10. Accordion, kids and a dog (1:47)
  2. 11. Nard from the window (0:58)
  3. 12. Narrow street atmosphere (1:02)
  4. 13. Reluctant piano (1:32)
  5. 14. Call to prayer/building work (5:44)

Thetford Forest near RAF/USAF airbase, Lakenheath, UK:

  1. 15. Plane deer (5:52)

Chernobyl fallout, Snowdonia, North Wales, UK:

  1. 16. Snowdonia Sheep (0:54)
  2. 17. River flow, Aled Isaf Reservoir (1:04)
  3. 18. Dragonfly wings (1:08)
  4. 19. Kids on holiday (2:22)
  5. 20. Radiometer sheep 1 (2:39)
  6. 21. ‘Certainly by September 1986’ (1:56)
  7. 22. Radiometer, sheep 2 (3:01)
  8. 23. Official secrets (1:05)
  9. 24. Snowdonia woodland—Aled Isaf Reservoir (1:21)

Domestic greenhouse gases, Uttlesford, UK:

  1. 25. Bell practice, Easyjet, SUV (2:41)
  2. 26. Picturesque Thaxted (1:38)

Landfill waste gases, Rainham, UK

  1. 27. Walking on landfill (0:44)
  2. 28. Methane flow 7 (0:25)
  3. 29. Methane flow 1 (0:15)
  4. 30. Methane flow 31 (0:15)
  5. 31. Methane flow 10 (0:24)
  6. 32. Landfill atmosphere, distant (1:35)

Nuclear processing and power: Bradwell, UK decommissioned nuclear power station:

  1. 33. Glistening mud surface (1:22)
  2. 34. Sea slosh in mud channels (1:20)
  3. 35. Swallow trapped in ancient church (1:51)
  4. 36. Bradwell beach (1:13)
  5. 37. Bradwell nuclear power station (1:28)

Dungeness, UK:

  1. 38. Dungeness nuclear power station (1:30)

Sellafield, UK:

  1. 39. Sellafield winter atmosphere (1:59)