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Earthquake Soundscapes

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Earthquake Soundscapes

Earthquake Soundscapes

Artists Abigail Washburn and Dave Liang with relocated Wenchuan Shuimo Middle School students Photo by Amanda Kowalski hide caption

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Photo by Amanda Kowalski

I've been hearing about a lot of post-earthquake projects going on in Sichuan. Yesterday I got an email about something called Afterquake — a CD that's just been produced in Sichuan and will be released on the anniversary of the quake, May 12, as a fundraiser.

The music is a collaboration between two people who sound like they'd either be kindred souls or drive each other nuts: Abigail Washburn, who's been singing old-time Appalachian mountain music in Chinese, and Dave Liang of Shanghai Restoration Project, who's been mixing traditional Chinese instruments with hip-hop and electronica.

The two have just spent a couple weeks in rural Sichuan collecting recordings of what they call "earthquake soundscapes" — construction sounds, playground noise, performances by children from the quake zone, and the voices of their parents. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I clicked on one of the sample tracks they'd sent. At first it was a bit jarring to hear the voice of a mother telling her son to study hard, set to the beat of gravel being shoveled. But I listened on and there's something kind of magical and haunting about the music they've created.

Earthquake Soundscapes

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Here's another track, this one called Sala.

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Here's what Abigail Washburn says about the song:

This is a dance song from the Qiang minority (the minority most impacted by the earthquakes); this song is traditionally sung while dancing around a fire; the words are meaningless and simply meant to be happy. Performed by 8th grader Luo Shuang.

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