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Web surfers catch quick trips on these sound waves

June 22, 2003

The sounds are distinctive and evocative. A dawn call to prayer and the sound of people walking in a Marrakech alley. The energetic chant of Japanese vendors selling sweet potatoes during the cold season. These are among the recent entries in Aaron Ximm's "One Minute Vacation" collection, a set of sound files updated weekly at his Web site that in 60 seconds or less provide sonic immersion in, and reprieve from, the world.

"Quiet American is the manipulation of sounds I hear and record," Ximm writes in the introduction to his site, which offers hours of field recordings in addition to the one-minute segments. "The opportunity, the thrill, and the risk of travel is being present to the world.

"My goal with Quiet American is to sketch in sound the experience of being in an unfamiliar place. The work on this site is not a replacement for travel. But if you are willing to listen, you may be transported."

Though words are no adequate substitute for the sounds themselves, the descriptions of the "One Minute Vacation" sound files (www.quietamerican.org/vacation.html), contributed by Ximm and others, offer a taste of the minute-long experiences to be sampled:

April 28, 2003: "Early last March, my wife and I were walking towards James Bond Beach, in Oracabessa, Jamaica. Its name comes from the fact that it's right next to Golden Eye, where Ian Fleming wrote his novels and fished for barracudas. It was a warm and sunny day, as usual, with just a few local people around. Suddenly, out of the bush came a couple of kids -- baby goats, that is! ... One of them, the one in the center, came up really close and welcomed us. You can hear his sister or brother answering off to the left."

May 5, 2003: "This recording was made in October 2001 on the shore of the east German village Ahrenshoop, on the Baltic Sea. The stereo microphone was placed on wooden wave breakers "

April 14, 2003: "These are the sounds surrounding the Pyrolarium, my 1.5 ton wooden sculpture, as it was engulfed in flames at the 1999 Burning Man Festival .... "

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