strange strangers

strange strangers

2019, 37 min, for headphone listening

originally commissioned for R{A}DIO{CUSTICA}, Czech Radio Vltava (Český rozhlas ČRo 3)
first aired on 30.10.2019, PremEdition Radioateliér. curated by Ladislav Zelený.

winner of the Prix Paysage Sonore / Field Recording at the Phonurgia Nova Awards 2020.

cassette tape + digital release on Vertical Music, 2023
available on bandcamp

Based on recordings along river tributaries and flooded forests across Amanã and Mamirauá in central Amazônia, “strange strangers” invites us to listen to -within- a singular world of vitality, cultivating encounters with other beings (life-forms, terrestrial matters, sounds) and with our being as an other.

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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.

“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.”

The piece 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”) 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.

“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.”

– Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought, 2010
– Timothy Morton, “Thinking Ecology: The Mesh, the Strange Stranger, and the Beautiful Soul”, 2010


– 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
– Back to the Trees, Besançon | listening event
– French National Museum of Natural History, Paris | group exhibition
– Audiosfera, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid | group exhibition


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 (on Radio RaBe, Switzerland; USMARADIO, San Marino; Radio 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).


pablo sanz‘ entry was recorded in the forests and rivers of Amanã and Mamirauá. The title implies an “otherness” to the sounds, whether they be created by creatures or nature. This is apparent right away, as the first character to come to the foreground sounds like a bleating lamb but is more likely a flirting bird, an inebriated warthog, a laughing frog or some other species unknown. Soon there seem to be more than one of whatever “this” is, before the creature dashes away to amuse other listeners. Whatever it is, it’s delightfully weird.

The same holds true for the other creatures who contribute to this rich biophany. Without a map, a photo or a glossary, they are indeed strange strangers. We don’t dream about these beings in our philosophy; we speculate about them in science fiction. And yet they are real, although it’s likely many are endangered. Could that first creature have been a pink river dolphin? Are capybaras making those high-pitched squeaks? Are the potoos hiding? Would we even hear the glass frog? What’s making the chuffing noise in the seventh minute? Who’s imitating a squeaky toy in the eighth? The Amazon is so rich in rare sounds, so aurally dense, that it cannot help but amaze.

The midsection offers a chance to get one’s bearings; we recognize the sound of a flowing river, a nearby woodpecker, some manner of cricket or cicada. While the opening explores otherness, this section celebrates commonality. Now when more of those strange strangers enter, they join a host of more familiar sounds, which may prompt listeners to think about the blessings of biodiversity. Compared to this, many of our local soundscapes are downright bland.

Night falls in the 22nd minute, bringing a tradeoff of species and sounds. The animals we’ve met are sleeping; their neighbors are emerging to feed, frolic and mate. From home, one is free to wonder at the deep-hued call of some strange beast without having to worry about being eaten; and fortunately we know that sanz is okay, as he returned safely to release this cassette. Flipping the script, one wonders what the creatures felt about him, and whether some of these sounds, if translated, might mean Is it threat or food? How does its blood taste? Anyone want to get near this two-legged thing? To the residents of Amanã and Mamirauá, we are the strange stranger.


Whilst field recordings are a huge area in their own right, here at OBLADADA, they aren’t something we’ve spent a lot of time specifically zoning in on.

However, spending time with Pablo Sanz’s strange strangers reminded us of an experience from a few years ago when listening to a recording made by a local artist. The piece combined piano with various electronic aspects in and around field recordings. In one particularly dynamic section, huge thunder claps punctuated a torrential downpour. The sleeve notes detailed the specifics. I felt sure I recognised the storm – living in broadly the same area and remember being caught whilst out mountain biking in a similarly distinctive storm during that same timeframe. The fact that this event wasn’t just any storm but somehow possibly ‘my’ storm changed my relationship with the sound.

Clearly, it’s impossible not to have some sort of overlap to these sorts of environmental sounds. After all, even when our ears aren’t looking for ‘music’ we are always bathed in some form of sonic landscaping.

However, over the last few days, we have spent hours looping artist, composer and researcher Sanz’s newest release – strange strangers. Built entirely from the sound of river tributaries and flooded forests across Amanã and Mamirauá in central Amazônia, it’s been fascinating hearing it intermingle with the current incessant rains of Midlothian, in Central Scotland. Whilst this 38-minute recording shifts through a huge range of textures and settings, it quickly dissolves into nothing more than a magnetic and abstract sonic adventure.

Clearly what we are listening to has a backstory, geopolitically, environmentally, and culturally. Where are we in the sound, on a boat, is it night time? What type of birds can we hear, and why is the location flooded? Is this some form of preservation? Is this a story? Or a form of installation?

There is, on one hand, questions about what we are hearing, an ongoing what is that? On the other hand, there is just a slow pan through sounds edited together and layered into a something that’s simply coming out the speaker right now as I type these words.

Whilst much of these points broadly apply to field recordings as a whole for us, whatever the backstory, it’s ultimately about the experience of listening.

Sanz has spent years researching and working in this area and whilst it’s our first encounter with his work, strange strangers has an oddly repeatable appeal. Treated simply as music, we are transported from the opening few minutes of bird song ambience into long watery smears, shadowy human presences, nebulous drones and odd almost rhythmic reflections and the mirage of distant jet engines.

Eventually we are lost, and have forgotten, simply seduced by sound.

Whilst it seems almost certain much of what is heard could be easily explained by Sanz, strange strangers, is a loaded statement that has immense power in its mysterious subtlety.