by Andrew Littlejohn
27-minute 5.1 audio composition

Shizugawa is a sound composition constructed from unprocessed 5.1 surround sound recordings made in and around Shizugawa, the central area of Minamisanriku Town (Miyagi Prefecture, Japan), between 2013 and 2015. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake sent a wall of water across Minamisanriku. The tsunami destroyed much of the town, including central Shizugawa.

For residents, there are two Shizugawas today. We can no longer hear the first one, which was lost in the tsunami. The second – the subject of this piece – is not yet a town, but a town-in-the-making, reconstructed day-by-day as part of the rebuilding of the coastline post-disaster. There is little human speech in these spaces, but we hear many other voices. Shizugawa, like any place, is a sonic gestalt formed by the overlapping of many fields and trajectories. This gestalt is punctuated regularly by daily tests of the town’s emergency broadcast system (or chimes), which rings at 6am, noon, 5pm and 9pm. More than 90% of municipalities in Japan have similar systems. Like village bells, the chimes structure daily life in the town, but their official purpose is to warn people of impending disaster. During 3.11, a municipal employee called Endō Miki used the system to warn residents of the incoming tsunami. She died sounding the alarm when the waves reached the town’s Disaster Prevention Center.

All recordings were made using a DPA 5100 Mobile Surround Microphone and a Sound Devices audio recorder.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m.
Tozzer 203