Heaven & Hell in Paradise
In the beautiful Bahamas, the people are friendly and the weather is gorgeous. It is the perfect paradise getaway which is why so many tourists flock there, escaping the chill of winter and the everyday grind of the work-a-day week.
It’s interesting to find a whole new groove in place in paradise and it isn’t all heaven. A walk through the city straw market sees two opposing factions at work: the highly religious beliefs of the local people versus their competition in the commercial world. All the while, nature is struggling to exist in conjunction with the tourist industry.
Heaven & Hell in Paradise celebrates, in five movements, the coexistence of nature, religion and consumerism. We begin at the ocean where the crickets and night birds are out singing along with one local man and his acoustic guitar. This music becomes the song of the casino, probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nassau. Slowly, the ringing of the slot machines gives way to the chirps of the crickets and we are back outside, attempting to enjoy the quiet. However, the ladies of the straw market are calling us.
We take a walk through the market where dozens of Bahamian ladies have set up booth after booth, trying to sell t-shirts, wrap skirts, shot glasses, beach towels, rain sticks or whatever else they think the tourists will want to take home with them. While walking through the market, we meet an evangelist who is preaching the word of God. “Read that Bible and study it for yourself! Have a relationship with Jesus!” All the radios in the market are tuned to religious programs while the ladies attempt to sell tourists everything under sun by knocking a few dollars off the price. “C’mere sweetie darling! Let me put that in a bag for you!”
One merchant tries to sell us a rain stick and we are reminded of the cool waters once again. We are back at the ocean, listening to the crickets and the birds. While the beautiful music of one local man plays on, we cannot forget that we are tourists here and we are a part of the complex interplay that comprises heaven and hell in this paradise land.
The recordings were edited down from about 3 hours of material to the five minutes in this piece. As much as possible, the processing has allowed them to stay true to the original recordings. They have been cut up and pasted together but not altered besides equalizing, of which there quite a lot in the piece to allow for the sounds to blend together as much as possible. In most of the recordings, the low frequencies (below 100 Hz) have been cut out since there was a lot of rumble in places like the casino and the straw market, which is in the heart of downtown. In some places, such as the recordings of the birds and crickets, the high frequencies (above 8 kHz) have been accentuated so as to make them stand out and shine.
The transition between the straw market and the final section by the ocean is the most treated part of the piece. The sound of the rain stick is repeated, equalized and time stretched as it blends itself into the waves of the ocean, which are doubled for a few seconds then blend into one sound.
All the recordings were made from March 8th to the 15th 2003 in Nassau, the Bahamas using a pair of binaural microphones (into minidisc) very graciously lent to me by Mark Corwin of Concordia University’s Music Department.
Raw Recordings - March 2003
oops go my mics
circkets & waves
waves on rocks night
straw market evangelist & others
straw market bargains
straw focused on jesus