SOUND: composition, installations, performance, releases

Qarun Hydrophone Death


Playback at Hilltown New Music Festival, Ireland, 20-22 July 2012.

Mer-Wer remix project, December 2010.


This track was originally created for the Mer-Wer (remix project)[], using original and manipulated sounds by John Kannenberg, Ola Saad, Simon Whetham, He Can Jog, Yara Mekawei, Michael Ruesenberg and Mike Hallenbeck. I thank them all for their contributions.

It was then programmed as part of the Hilltown New Music Festival 2012.


John Kannenberg writes:

The Birket Qarun (ancient name "Mer-Wer" or "The Great Lake") is a lake in the Fayoum oasis in western Egypt. In several ancient Egyptian creation myths, Mer-Wer was the body of water from which all life originated.

While visiting the Fayoum in May 2010, I intended to make a hydrophone recording of the sound of the Qarun, although I was a novice hydrophonographer with a simple, homemade underwater microphone. Earlier that day, I injured myself while making field recordings at Karanis, a Roman-era city near the Qarun lake. As a result of my accident, when I reached the Qarun I was unwilling to climb down the steep slope of boulders necessary to place my microphone in the water. Omar, the driver I'd hired for the day, volunteered to do it for me but with my Arabic skills almost non-existent, I was unable to communicate how fragile the microphone was to a man who had only just begun studying English. As I watched in horror, my makeshift microphone was fully submerged, banging relentlessly against the rocks on the shore. With a ruined microphone and what I assumed was a terrible recording, I made my way back to Cairo.

When I finally worked up the nerve to listen to Omar's recording, I was amazed: the impacts on the rocks, the gurgling water, and the plaintive squawks of failing electronics all had an unexpectedly cacophonous beauty. I immediately envisioned this remix project. My dead microphone, drowned in an ancient lake of creation, can have new life if you participate.