Congo Tales Soundscape: An Interview with David Kamp


Morning sounds in the Congo Basin

Over the last several years, the Congo Tales project has traveled deep into the rainforest over and over. We were committed to experiencing this amazing place in an authentic way, but it was also our goal to bring the experience back to people who would never be able to make the trip; the warmth, the light, the sights, the sounds. With stories, we tried to bring the warmth of the people. With the Congo Tales book and exhibition, we tried to bring the lights and sights. But for the sounds, we needed something unique- someone who could capture what its like to be inside the 2ndlargest rainforest in the world. For this, we needed David Kamp.

When we asked German based award winning sound designer David Kamp to join the project, we were delighted to find that it was a dream of his to go to the rainforest. He travelled to the Congo for over a week with our team to create a one of a kind soundscape experience to accompany the stunning visuals of our exhibition. This multi-channel hyper-real nature experience transported people on an auditory journey, deep into the heart of the forest.  We recently asked him about his work and about his experience with Tales of Us and the Congo Tales.

congo tales rainforest conservation soundscape

Why did you join the Congo Tales project?

After Eva asked me to join the project and we discussed the numerous ways I could be involved, the project seemed so unique and exciting to me that I had to do it.


Do you feel that your studies in electronic music help your work?

I was curios to explore many different and unusual approaches to creating sound and music. The ICEM (Institute for Computer Music and Electronic Media) at Folkwang University of the Arts, is rooted in the tradition of avant-garde, experimental music (Stockhausen, Ligeti, Lachenmann and many others…). Studying all these different composers and learning about their concepts and approaches to composition opened my mind to what can be considered music. Learning the technical skills and tools required to run a studio, synthesize sounds and compose music is still helpful for me today.


Among your list of work is 3D audio, can you explain what that means to you and how you do it?

3D audio is a bit of a buzzword, but at its core, the word means to playback sounds in a way that can be localized everywhere around the listener – beyond the possibilities of conventional stereo playback. While stereo listening is by definition limited to two speakers and sound elements are placed somewhere between the left and the right speaker, 3D audio adds more dimensions, so sounds can also be played back behind, below or above the listener. There are many ways to realize this approach, from various multichannel formats for speaker playback in physical spaces, to real-time software simulations of 3D audio on headphones which are often used for VR and AR applications. Constructing and composing soundscapes like this for multichannel speaker systems can create very immersive sound environments.


With so much experience in sound, what interests you most right now?

I am developing more interest in designing sound for spaces and exhibitions in general, even more since this exciting museum project with the Barberini. While I enjoy the work I do in film, apps and other linear and non-linear media, creating sound for a specific space that people can experience it only by physically being present fascinates me right now. There are new projects in this area on the horizon that I am very excited about.


Have you ever done a project like Congo Tales before?

I did a few projects for Museums before, one was an exhibition soundscape for the Smithsonian Museum for example. But this one was unique in that I got to travel to the Congo for ten days to record all the mesmerizing sounds in many different locations of the rainforest.

 Tales of us activist art soundtrack

What was your favorite part of the project?

Being able to visit the Congo with the team was very special since I’ve never been there before. Eva and Taina did a fantastic job of making my stay there enjoyable and productive, their excellent preparation and organization allowed me to get a lot of recording done in sometimes pretty adventurous circumstances.

The sounds of the Odzala rainforest – one of the most biodiverse places on earth – are so dense and varied that lying in my bed at night was like going to a concert of bird, mammal and insect sounds.  Reviewing my roughly hundred hours of recordings back in Berlin, brought back memories of the various places and having so much footage allowed to pick the best parts to create my soundscape piece for the exhibition space. Hearing everything in the Barberini, with Pieter Henket’s great photos on the wall was an exceptional moment for me.

Frogs in the rainforest

And your work with us was an exceptional experience. Thank you David!

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