Sound Artist explores Peruvian Mountain Range and the Amazon Rainforest with his Sound Devices 702 recorder.

SAN ROQUE DE CUMBAZA, PERU — Visual and sound artist Leslie Rollins recently spent several months exploring northern and central Peru. San Roque is a mountain-top town with a small but vibrant agrarian population. It is home to Sachaqa Centro De Arte, an art center that hosts artists, such as painters and writers, who gain artistic inspiration from the fields and beautiful mountain range around them.

Artist Maura Amadea with a 702
Rollins records fellow artist Maura Amadea using the 702

Berrien Springs, MI-based Rollins began his career with a background in music and composition, which contributed to his interest in capturing human and natural sounds. “As a synthesist intrigued by emulating natural sounds electronically, I became increasingly interested by the possibilities of incorporating field recording into my work,” recalls Rollins. “I started to look into recording the sounds around me and my research quickly pointed to Sound Devices.”

As his go-to compact recorder, Rollins relies on the durable Sound Devices 702 Portable Digital Audio Recorder to capture the sounds of the jungle. While traveling in the high altitude of the Cordillera Escalera mountain range in Peru, or under the extreme environmental factors of the Amazon rainforest, the 702 kept up as he acquired the beautiful sounds around him. The recorder remains a vital tool in his rig, as he can quickly record high-resolution audio whenever sound inspiration may hit.

“I was very keen to capture the environment I was in and the sounds of the art center; artists working a ceramic wheel or brushes on canvas, to being in the middle of the highland Amazon jungle with multiple rivers and mountains converging in that spot,” adds Rollins. “I recorded the Cumbaza River regularly. I captured the sounds of the water by either close miking the river or with hydrophones placed in the water. At a recent gallery showing of our work, I presented a visual of the river flowing but slowed it down so it was barely perceptively moving. As part of this multi-media display, the sounds of the river were layered over the slowed video. It’s fun to take things that people might take for granted and repurpose them in a way they have never experienced.”

In order to grab the sights and sounds around him, Rollins had to withstand the extreme environmental challenges of Peru. “During my time in Peru, I encountered some of the most extreme environmental situations I’ve ever physically been in, but I never had an issue with the recorder while working in the field,” adds Rollins. “The temperature averaged near 95 degrees Fahrenheit with high levels of humidity. I had a backpack and rain gear to take precaution from the wet weather, but I definitely wasn’t overly gentle with my gear, and yet the 702 performed perfectly.”

Leslie Rollins capturing sound in Peru

In addition to withstanding the extreme environmental conditions, the size and weight of the 702 made it a favorite for Rollins during the project. “The form factor of the unit directly contributes to the types of recordings that I am able to obtain. I pair my Sound Devices 702 recorder with an array of mics, depending on the specific project and situation, switching between Jez Riley French, DPA, Sennheiser and/or Telinga microphones. My favorite thing to do is strap the recorder into my bag with a matched stereo pair of DPA d:screet™ 4060 Omnidirectional Microphones. I actually use binder clips to fasten the DPA’s to the sides of my glasses. Then, I could just walk through whichever situations I would find myself in. From military parades, parties, or a ride in a taxi, you can capture a real sense of place when you’re able to work stealthily like that. If I rolled in with a large recorder and visible mics it would change the whole vibe and set up.”

Rollins also points out the usability of Sound Devices’ gear, especially when recording in sensitive locations, such as religious ceremonies. “During a ceremony of this nature, a blinking LED array would’ve been very distracting and inappropriate,” he says. “The fact that I am able to blackout the front panel of the 702 for these applications is very useful.”