strange strangers

strange strangers

2019, 37 min, for headphone listening
commissioned for R{A}DIO{CUSTICA}, Czech Radio Vltava (Český rozhlas ČRo 3)
first aired on 30.10.2019, 22:00, PremEdition Radioateliér. curated by Ladislav Zelený.
winner of the Prix Paysage Sonore / Field Recording at the Phonurgia Nova Awards 2020.

listen on R{A}DIO{CUSTICA}
listen on Phonurgia Nova

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“Pablo Sanz’s piece possesses a great richness in timbre, frequencies and dynamics, and projects a very fine work onto the sonic plane. The first sequence guides us inwards and beautifully implements the radical ecological approach developed by the philosopher Vinciane Despret: that of placing ourselves in relation to other animal species as individuals in relation to other individuals, of perceiving them not simply as representatives of their vast family, but in their singularity as subjects. Strictly speaking, we are challenged and questioned by these “strange strangers”.
Juliette Volcler – Phonurgia Nova

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STRANGE STRANGERS is a composition based on environmental sound recordings created over several weeks of fieldwork across different locations within Amanã and Mamirauá, two large territories in the central Amazon region, during the dry season of 2015. The original recordings highlight unusual listening perspectives and encounters during “canoe-walks” along river tributaries, canals, lakes, riverbanks, and flooded forests. The sound materials feature the entangled manifestations of a myriad of species (birds, insects, mammals, amphibians, fishes, plants), abiotic matter, water, and geophysical processes and formations, sensed through specialised and unconventional devices. The listening strategies explored in the field include open-air recordings with a parabolic microphone, underwater listening, and the investigation of the ultrasonic range beyond human hearing.

“The ecological thought imagines interconnectedness, which I call the mesh. Who or what is interconnected with what or with whom? The mesh of interconnected things is vast, perhaps immeasurably so. Each entity in the mesh looks strange. Nothing exists all by itself, and so nothing is fully “itself.” […] Our encounter with other beings becomes profound. They are strange, even intrinsically strange. Getting to know them makes them stranger. When we talk about life forms, we’re talking about strange strangers. The ecological thought imagines a multitude of entangled strange strangers. […] Our encounter with other beings – and with our being as other – is strange strangeness.” [1] [2]

“Strange strangers” is a notion by Timothy Morton that refers to non-human creatures, conceived as ambiguous entities, as beings unable to be completely comprehended and labelled. This idea prompts us to examine the paradoxes and fissures of identity within “human” and “non-human”, and within “self” and “other”. Furthermore, recognising agencies and vitality beyond the human makes it also possible to think sounds and works of art as phenomenological beings that in some powerful sense display “something like agency and something like affect.” [3]

STRANGE STRANGERS invites us to listen to (within) a singular world of vitality and non-human otherness which incites (un)familiar feelings and curiosity. Clear borders between life, non-life, things, and perceptions are confused. This work cultivates sensorial, ambiguous, and intimate modes of listening and durational attention. These forms of eco-aesthetic listening challenge us to consider sounds as entities (“creatures of time” [4]) holding the same ontological status as the beings, materials, and processes which originate them. The experience encourages us also to acknowledge the creative nature of perception, expanding the role of the listener.

Ecological thinking beyond the conventional understanding of so-called “nature” and “the environment” as detached and “exterior” to the human, asks us to move away from a purely anthropocentric understanding of the world. Likewise, this refreshed thinking suggests alternatives to canonical assumptions and representations of creative practice engaged with environmental sound and forms of so-called “environmentally-concerned” and “ecological” art. The kind of listening practice put forward questions representational, narrative, utilitarian, and visual-centric paradigms, moving beyond dominant tendencies in contemporary societies.

[1] Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. 2010
[2] Timothy Morton. Thinking Ecology: The Mesh, the Strange Stranger, and the Beautiful Soul. 2010
[3] Timothy Morton. Earworms. 2017
[4] Casey O’Callaghan. Sounds: A Philosophical Theory. 2007


– Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, Tefé, Amazonas, Brazil
– Santander Foundation
– Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC), Queen´s University Belfast (QUB)
– Laboratory of Acoustics and Sound Arts (LASom), Music Department of the Arts Institute at State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), São Paulo, Brazil
– Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC), Gotland, Sweden
– Elektronmusikstudion EMS, Stockholm, Sweden
– Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and the Spanish Embassy in Sweden
– T37 Studios, Madrid, Spain

Special thanks to the field specialists, researchers, staff, and everyone who helped in Tefé and the riverine communities of Baré, Boa Esperança, Jarauá, and Horizonte within Amanã and Mamirauá, and to Maria Cecília Gomes, Silvia Jánošková, Timothy Morton, Eduardo N’gongo, and Ladislav Zelený.


– Musée Réattu, Arles, FR – LISTENING ROOM, December 2022 | solo exhibition
– Göteborg Art Sounds (GAS) Festival, Skeppet GBG, Gothenburg, 19.10.2022 | quadraphonic concert
– Sonic Narratives, Comenduirea Garnizoanei, Timișoara, 22.07.2022 | quadraphonic concert


LUCIA Festival 2020, Radio Papesse, Manifattura Tabacchi, Florence // Radio Papesse´s archive →
– RADIOPHRENIA 2020, Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) Glasgow
– Onda Sonora, Ágora Sol Radio and Radio Círculo, Madrid
– UNDAE!, Radio Círculo, Madrid
– Wanderlust, Cashmere Radio, Berlin, curated by Katharina Schmidt
– radioart106 #138 (april 2021 broadcast), curated by Meira Asher
– Radio RaBe, Switzerland
– USMARADIO, San Marino
– Chimeres. Greece
– Reboot FM, Germany



Une proposition étonnante, assez radicale, située dans des espaces intermé- diaires, des sortes d’écotones dans lesquels nos oreilles perdent leurs repères habituels, où tout nous semble à la fois étrangement familier et totalement sin- gulier, et par moment même improbable.
Marc Namblard

Pablo Sanz compose une pièce d’une grande richesse en timbres, en fréquences, en dynamiques, avec un travail très fin sur les plans sonores. La première sé- quence, qui va guider toute l’écoute, met joliment en oeuvre la démarche d’éco- logie radicale développée par la philosophe Vinciane Despret : celle de nous situer face aux autres espèces animales comme des individus face à d’autres individus, de les percevoir non simplement comme des représentants de leur vaste famille, mais dans leur singularité de sujets. Nous voilà à proprement parler interpellés et questionnés par ces «étranges étrangers».
Juliette Volcler

Pour sa capacité à renouveler dès les premières secondes notre attention, acti- ver et réorienter en permanence l’écoute. Avec cette pièce qui bouscule un peu les frontières entre dessus et dessous, dedans et dehors, aérien ou aquatique, et qui créé un espace sonore hybride, ouvert à l’altérité, Pablo Sanz multiplie les mondes et les récits possibles, débride une autre narration où les centres ne sont pas tout à fait là où on les attend. Nous propulse précisément dans ce que Darwin appelle “un inextricable réseau d’affinités”. Un agrandissement du monde non pas qui nous entoure, mais qui nous constitue, nous traverse.
Floriane Pochon


Pablo Sanz explores the Amazon aurally with “Strange Strangers”. Love for the surroundings is undeniable and the fidelity of the sound is crystal-clear. Every creature gets so much compassion for the very smallest gesture is captured with ease. References abound within this clever field recording, from the direct Francisco Lopez with his “La Selva” to the more aggressive nature of Russell Haswell’s “Wild Tracks”. No matter where the origin rests, the results speak for themselves, quite literally. A whole world, one most will never be able to experience in person, is laid bare at the listener’s ears. The pace of the experience stuns too, for it changes in small yet significant ways.

An awe begins the piece. From there the listener travels along a rather large expanse of territory. The animals, insects, birds, and more all enter into the fray. Multi-faceted and multi-layered, there is no distinct core. Rather the way the sound progresses feels akin to a Richard Linklater film, as the characters simply filter on as the microphone pans on through. Everything here works and the sound has a pristine diamond like quality to it. By making sure that the pace feels right the whole of the work unfurls. Over the course of the experience, it has a grandeur to it, one that feels so fantastic. Such a stately quality further adds to the vivid detail that proves to be essential to the experience.

“Strange Strangers” shows off Pablo Sanz’s delicate, deliberate touch in crafting the smallest sounds into things of such significance.


le regard circulaire / coup d’oeil instantané / notre intuition animale / Bien sur, nous y sommes, la confrontation / cognition comparée pour certains, “strange strangers” pour Pablo Sanz, qui nous embarque en Amazonie centrale, et très précisément sur les territoires d’Amanг et Mamirauб / la confrontation. La première peut sembler saisissante (d’effroi) s’il n’est qu’elle nous donne а percevoir (enfin) l’évidente justesse d’une reconnaissance mutuelle / cri primal, statutaire / qui est donc l’étrange étranger ? / le respect est de mise / l’évidence du langage. Nulle prérogative dominante, depuis la captation sonore / capture / jusqu’au ballet digital de ces mots / convenus / le devoir d’équilibre.
Nous voici donc embarqués sur ce canoé, suspendus aux très concrètes déambulations des micros paraboliques de Pablo Sanz, pour ce qui peut кtre qualifier de “voyage singulier” / éprouvez la plus que merveilleuse consistence physique de la surface /
Si l’étrangeté des rencontres (sonores) que l’on y fait, a cette saveur atonale, elle est celle d’un langage en cours d’acquisition / extravagance naturelle / une relation interpersonnelle démultipliée dont Pablo Sanz nous livre généreusement les clés d’une curiosité assurément abyssale, mais aucune réponse / le parcours est а faire seul.e / armé.e de cette mкme curiosité (abyssale ?).
Pièce maоtresse, puisque logiquement récompensée en son sérail initial, ces 37 minutes sont propices а l’initialisation graduelle, pour preuve cette rupture а la 20ème (approximative) minute, alternance fabuleuse entre jour et obscurité / nouvelle ouverture / Aucun doute n’est désormais permis, Pablo Sanz écrit, en extême délicatesse, une oeuvre maоtresse dégagée, autonome, en parfaite et absolue symbiose / une … évolution.

L’after music a désormais découvert son merveilleux printemps – un chef d’oeuvre !


Pablo Sanz es un artista sonoro, compositor e investigador donde su trabajo se relaciona con la interacción con el medio ambiente, sitios específicos e instalaciones sonoras. Desde 2004 publica sus obras en forma independiente o comisionado por organizaciones artísticas.

La edición que nos ocupa es “Strange Strangers”, una pieza realizada como encargo para R{A}DIO{CUSTICA} en la Radio checa. Esta es una grabación ambiental a lo largo de los territorios de Amanã y Mamirauá, en la Amazonía central, la que que se enfoca en perspectivas de escucha inusuales (arriba, bajo el agua y ultrasonido). Este lanzamiento es una interacción en el contexto de nuestra escucha – no cualquier escucha – sino aquella que es profunda, donde los sonidos ambientales de la vida subacuática son a veces casi imperceptibles y al mismo tiempo desconocidos. Se aprecian también zumbidos que se cruzan con ruidos de insectos y animales que pululan bajo y fuera de la superficie. Un mundo lleno de vida y de misterio que pasa muchas veces desapercibido. Sin embargo, sin éste, el ecosistema sucumbe. Sanz muestra qué no estamos escuchando, con qué no interactuamos (y no cuidamos).