Harmonic remains. By John Grzinich

In the last 8 months I’ve made a number of recordings of old, and as far as I can tell, abandoned telegraph lines. My friend Toomas has a step-grandfather who was a telephone repairman during the Soviet times and kindly let me borrow his old pole climbing “shoes” (which are metal claws made from old gun barrels that you strap to your boots). On a good day, with the right wind velocities and direction, the wires “sing”, creating aeolian harp and other effects that clearly resonates down through the dried wooden body of the pole. The sound quality is obviously different depending on if you attach contact mics to the pole or directly to the wires. With a good dry pole that picks up the resonant drones it’s even possible to record the sound acoustically.

What can be seen and heard here is a clear reminder of the amazing work of Alan Lamb. Alan Lamb has been working with recording telegraph wires since the mid-1970s when he set up an experimental lab on a piece of land he bought in the outback of Western Australia (thanks to Camilla and Eamon for relaying stories). His research continues to today at the WIRED Lab which has some thorough documentation and recordings of aeolian wires (and more). I first heard Alan’s work on Primal Image released in 1995 on the Dorobo label, a landmark CD which continues to inspire to this day.

Fortunately there is an abundance of locations to choose from around South Estonia and I try to make regular visits to the sites depending on the weather conditions. From experience I can say that all poles and wires have their unique qualities making the recording process a constant field for exploration. The recordings are below are direct except for some minor equalization and level adjustment.


John Grzinich. Harmonic remains at Luhamaa [contact mics on pole, 4:47]