CRAFTING THE FIELD - Vered Engelhard

A sonic landscape woven by many hands and the Matsigenka people of Shipetiari.
Melanie Dizon
June 9, 2023





all that goes into this / nokemake / por eso el cuento coincide

We must consider that life is a listening experience. One can agree that in nature and amongst all Indigenous cultures, the act of listening is fundamental to their very livelihood- an instinctual, spiritual and participatory act. ‘Nokemake’ is the Matsigenka word to express that “I am hearing” or “I have heard,” and so we as listeners, to be able to experience this deep relationship (through sound) provides a necessary part of our fundamental understanding of what connects a people to a place - a veritable confluence of worlds. 
Vered learns to play the mouth harp with Roberto and family | Photo: Melanie Dizon (Xapiri Ground)

For this CTF series #08, we invited sound artist Vered Engelhard to listen, share, and record the sonically charged landscape of the Matsigenka people in their community of Shipetiari located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon. As artist Vered Engelhard comments: “...the necessity of understanding the different perspectives between humans and animals in simultaneity and coexistence…” is part and parcel of their creative methodology in working with sound.

The "Otorongos" Roger and Rolando | Photo: Melanie Dizon (Xapiri Ground)

Through this composition, they intend to create a fluidity between the many participants who through their hands, eyes, voices, and ears guide us through their own listening and recording journey using the artist’s digital devices. We hope that this work will ignite you, within the silence of your own mind, to bear witness as we do to the natural and elemental richness that is endemic to the Matsigenka web of life today.

Josmer in the fish pond | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

Crafting the Field by Xapiri Ground is a creative series of musical compositions that express upon the natural and social environments surrounding Indigenous culture and their contemporaries. 
Through collaborations with Indigenous artists, sound designers, and music producers we hope to encourage a diffusion between cultures through creative research and mutual respect.

Purchase this track on our bandcamp page.

*All field recordings were captured during the last week of March 2023 by Vered Engelhard and various individuals in the native community of Shipetiari in the Manu district of the Madre de Dios region. We thank all the Matsigenka people for sharing their time with us and to Vered for this important work in connecting with the Matsigenka culture and the work of Xapiri Ground.


How would you describe your experience through these sonic coincidences from your time spent with the Matsigenka in their community Shipetiari and the team at Xapiri Ground?

VE: ‘all that goes into this / nokemake / por eso el cuento coincide’ is a sonic landscape made with many hands. It tells of an immersion in Shipetiari, Matsigenka territory, together with Melanie, Jack and Davis from Xapiri Ground. I shared my field recorders with whom I found as a way of decentering the domain of recording technologies. Some would sit to listen like Venancio, who has lost some capacity of hearing, similarly to Ana, who spent hours weaving a bag in amplified hearing. Some share headphones and take advantage of this condition in order to have more private conversations within the shared table talk, like Alicia and Mary Luz, who remember songs between whispers. 

Venancio with field recorder | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

Alicia and Mary Luz | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

VE: Guided by the Yanayaku river where Lola and Luciano received us with Javier, Martha and Lucia, I improvised a sort of sound dance with the water for Javier, who listened from the shore what was happening underwater with a hydrophone. Days later Javier did a two-hour sound walk in the early morning where he recorded the howling monkeys. That same morning, I recorded them from the cabin I was sleeping in, resonating with the sound of a bird that called my attention and that, later, during the editing process, I could perceive it was the Tsintsikiti, which David had been telling us about during the trip and that Javier spent time looking for in the bird sound catalogue on his phone.

Vered with Javier | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

VE: In Mateo's house, I shared songs in Matsigenka and Spanish with his children Naobi and Jairo, and together we talked with the Otsegua river. We came up with a seed game together with Roger and Rolando, who later recorded their father, Roberto, teaching me how to play the pegombirintsi (mouth harp) that he had built, together with Nati, Martha and the little Antonio and Idalia. Melody and Josmer deconstructed my field recorder, making friction with its sonic possibilities and the limits of amplified hearing while they shared with me camu camu, cacao, banana, and papaya; some of the fruits from the chacra of their parents and grandparents. We also hear their grandfather David tell the story of the snake, the spider, the scorpion, the seripigari, the tapir, and the jayapa, and all of us avidly asking questions about the perspectives of the people in the story, trying to make it coincide. 

Melody and Josmer play with the Zoom recorder | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

Can you touch upon the role of Perspectivism in this work and how you weave that together into the act of listening and creating in and for the moment? 

VE: One of the titles of this work, ‘por eso el cuento coincide’, refers to a phrase enunciated by Javier after insatiable questions about the nature of the story. Perspectivism is a name that anthropology has given to Amazonian philosophy, in accordance with narratives like the ones we witnessed that afternoon. It refers to the necessity of understanding the different perspectives between humans and animals in simultaneity and coexistence – and, in this case, the role of master plants in these dynamics of – how we see ourselves, how they see us, how we see that they see us, how we see that they see themselves… For this sonic landscape, perspectivism becomes an ethico-aesthetic strategy, weaving the multiplicity of subjectivities that make themselves present in the processes of recording and hearing as methodology of editing both in situ and digitally. 
‘nokemake’ is a word that describes “I am hearing” or “I have heard” in Matsigenka. Here, who listens and who sounds fluctuate constantly, in a sonic landscape of woven perspectives that aspires to communicate the depth and everydayness of many experiences that make themselves audible. The landscape is accompanied by a mesa with objects-symbols-beings, traces of the lived, walked, talked, heard. 

Melanie and Vered on the Otsegua River | Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

The artist's mesa

The artist's mesa

What is the meaning behind the title? 
VE: ‘all that goes into this’ references this cumulative dimension of experience. It is a fragment of a phrase by Steven Feld read by Melanie and registered by Venancio, where soundscape composition is contrasted with writing as a mode of communicating coexistence from a sincere perspective. Without pretending to comprehend them, I hope to be able to – through the recordings from the hands and ears of Javier, Venancio, Alicia, Mary Luz, Ana, Naobi, Jairo, Roger, Rolando, Melody and Josmer – weave also the presences that their own sincere subjectivities bring, which make this landscape multiphonic with my own, in Matsigenka, a language I don’t understand but that is the language of the territory, the voices of which are the true authors of this experience.
Photo: Davis Torres (Xapiri Ground)

'all that goes into this / nokemake / por eso el cuento coincide' is now playing in our soundroom at Xapiri Ground | plazoleta de San Blas, 630 Cusco, Peru through October 25, 2023.

BIOGRAPHY | Vered Engelhard

Vered Engelhard is a Peruvian artist and researcher, whose practice develops from the territory. They are active with the Asociación de Siembra y Cosecha de Agua (ASYCA), dedicated to the community design of water stewardship projects in the Peruvian Andes. They research how Andean-Amazonian ancestral technologies unfold territorial cultures tied to community organizing and struggles for water and land. They work the soundscape from performance, with expanded techniques of field recordings and participatory sound designs towards poetic and socio environmental justice. They have led workshops on the ethical and technical possibilities of field recordings as active interventions in the territory, along with undergraduate courses on decolonization and feminist ecologies at Columbia University (New York City), where they are a doctoral candidate in Latin American Cultural Studies. In their musical project ‘Canto Villano’ they structure performances with recordings guided by the water (yakumama) as master, weaving sonorities that honor the territory and its history with stone percussion, song, and pututo (conch shell trumpet).