in Minneapolis 
Composition for Walkman & MP3 Mobile Phone
Installation using helium balloons in Estonia 
21 minute CD with 24 page colour booklet in gatefold sleeve
Alluvial Recordings in partnership with audiOh! Room
Play 3 minute extract [with Real Audio]
'Weather Report' was produced during my trips to Minnesota as a McKnight Composer in
Residence with the American Composers Forum. I lived in Minneapolis in December 02 and
June 03 where they love their diverse and often hostileweather, which was the catalyst
for the project.
My main ideas were
to create and collect new sounds that were related to the concept
of weather in the broadestsense; to document and research weather in the media; and to
float recording equipment up on weather balloons invarious ways. These processes were
integral as my focus was on sound 'associated' with the weather, in preference to
pristine recordings 'of' the weather first hand. An obvious exception, in my last
week, was the storm of 40 tornadowarnings that touched down near town.
The weather balloons were used in 3 main ways. Firstly one icy winters morning I
attached a mobile phone to receive and send low resolution sound, letting it float away
from the surface of a frozen lake. Secondly using a digitaldictaphone I made time lapse
recordings of the sky by floating it 500ft above my lush metropolitan neighbourhood.
Lastly a few all American friends and I set out to shootthe balloon down late one June
afternoon leaving the sound to parachute back to earth. I let the recordings speak for
themselves, no effects, no eq, just straight cut & splice collage where you can hear the
edges of time. Some other sounds collected include: underwater ice skaters; flapping; old
meteorological kit; leaf blowers; repairing weather damage; various 60's archive audio;
melting ice, ski across snow, Minnesota forecasts on radio, in the car and on TV; Tornado
chasing & test equipment; snow flakes landing on mic; squeaky tree; National Weather
Service balloon launch; walkie talkie tones from my Science Museum workshop etc.
Oh, and all temperatures in Farenheight...
The result is a highly compressed Found Sound story, heard as a drifting voicemail
message from the weather balloon. A hybrid documentary collected and edited outdoors,
where it is designed to be heard walking with headphones... so.. go find a Walkman!
Minnesotan voice message
recordings left as they return from their
walkman trips during the World Premier BBQ party [8min Real Audio]
Many thanks to all
at the American Composers Forum & McKnight Foundation who made
it all possible, The National Weather Service, all at The Science Museum of Minnesota,
The Historical Society of Minnesota, Tuthills Balloon Emporium, WCCO4 [Paul Douglas],
Jazz88 FM, Philip, Donna, Nate, Kevin, Jon/Some Assembley Required, Louise & co, Ben &
Topher, Cecil & Collene, Ryan & co, Eric, Tom & Ben, Chris, Kelly, Brooke and all the
other friends I made there who helped develop and realise the project and made me feel
at home. It's dedicated to you all. It was a fascinating and friendly experience.
A bit like composers heaven I expect.
Installation in Estonia
ISEA festival, Tallinn Art Hall : 17th - 31oct 2004
Weather Report composition is played back from an MP3 mobile phone floating
on a cluster
of Helium balloons. The poster invites you to collect a CD walkman and take it for a walk outside.
MPx200 MP3 Mobile Phone above was kindly sponsored my Motorola - 1Gb of memory!
ISEA 2004, Estonia: "Within hours of arrival in Tallinn, the festival crowds set out across the beautiful medieval city in search of numerous exhibitions, performances and discussions. Talin's Art Hall Gallery's impressive attractions included janek Schaefer's Weather Report - a 21 minute installation using collected sounds from a mobile phone attached to weather balloons - which visitors could listen to via the floating MP3 Mobile phone or via a CD Walkman while wlaking around the city". [Lina Dzuverovic-Russell]
American [Aaron Ximm,
....beautiful in all respects
This is one of my all-time favourites from Mr Schaefer. A short but very powerful 21 minute composition based around the recording from a mobile phone attached to a weather baloon and released into a tornado. Spliced with some quite funny samples from Canadian weather reports of the tornado. This release contains the magically disorienting mix of extreme ambience to extreme noise, beautifully mixed in a truly musical way, the nature of which marks all of Janek's work. Highly recommended.
Vital List [Holland/Staalplaat]
Our most beloved three arm turntablist Janek Schaefer is besides also a composer. He was invited by the American Composers Forum as a composer in residence. While staying in Minneapolis he decided upon doing a project with sound recordings made from the hostile weather conditions in that particular state. The sounds were recorded using weather balloons, adding also recording equipment to them, which included a mobile telephone. Furthermore he uses tornado detecting equipment, snow flakes landing on a microphone and radio and tv announcements of weather changes. All of this is cut and collaged together in this twenty one minute work, and Schaefer hastens to say that no post-processing of sounds was used here. The result is simply a fascinating journey of weather sounds. Sounds that we are all familiar with, as weather is always there, and no doubt many people are fascinated by it's sound: rain, thunder, wind - it's usually the conditions we don't like that produce the sound, strangely enough. Therefore a lot of the sounds you hear on this piece are very familiar sounds - but placed out of context, or rather in a new context, it becomes a fascinating piece of music. Plus the package holds an extensive full colour booklet, which documents the project. This project is by far the best Schaefer project I have encountered. Strong in it's concept and strong in its execution. (FdW)
Weather Report is the modern equivalent of a Dutch landscape painting of the 16th century.
Ultra E-Zine [Belgium]
You've got to give it to the man: while others are navel staring or knobtwiddling or waiting for some sound to happen upon them, Janek Schaefer is bursting with ideas. Where you'd thought that Fluxus and everything that came after it had turned almost every stone, this man keeps coming up with concepts that are so simple they excite you. Take the beauty of mail for instance. Schaefer puts a recording device in a package, and registers its journey through the world. What you hear may not be Miles or Mozart, but at least Mr. Schaefer tries to capture straight poetry, where others in his niche bore us to bits with pretentious high concept nothingness. Or take that whole deejay & vinyl rhetoric. Our man Schaefer lays his mecano aside, lets himself be amazed 'ˆ blanc' and builds a three armed turntable. Just to see what can be done with it. Let's keep those arteries open, shall we, and keep the juices of wonderment flowing! And so for the object at hand. "Weather Report" is not a tribute to Joe Zawinul & Wayne Shorter's mighty jazz/fusion outfit, but much rather a mini-cd which registers an unheard of aspect of our daily lives. The weather. And it's being reported in a plus-twenty-minute montage. Not just wet rain or windy air. But the whole shebang, from weather reports in the media (about tornados) over snow flakes landing an a microphone to to the sounds registered by recording equipment floating up on weather balloons. And with a great, full-colour 20-page booklet to go. Fahrenheit 451? Not really. Artefact? Yes. Wondrous? Too. A boring listen? Perhaps, if you don't allow for that ole 'poetry of reality' to enter your mind. Schaefer's recordings were made in Minnesota, USA, but I'm sure this mini-cd will also become a huge hit around Dogger, Viking, Moray, Forth and Orkney!
Frecuencia Electronica [Puerto Rico] (Jorge Castro)
This document is, in my very personal opinion, the most interesting and important document in Janek Schaefer's career. This is something I find myself saying after initial listenings to most of his albums. The concept, creative process and superb execution are described in the CD's 24 page booklet. This booklet contains a massive collection of pictures which document various trips by the artist to the USA state of Minnesota, where he was chosen as "McKnight Composer in Residence" by the American Composers Forum and commissioned to create this piece on their facilities (which turned out to be the outdoors rather than any sound lab). Minnesota was the perfect place to assemble "Weather Report", because it's location in the northern united states offers extreme climate conditions in the winter and summer (and in all seasons I would presume) which Janek documented in this recording. The result of these interesting experiments is a captivating listen all the way through. Personally, I think the best thing about this piece is the editing of the sound sources, because you can definitely make out Janek's very distinct composing style. His ideas, concepts and execution are amazingly singular and are stand outs in the field of sound art. This is an interesting listen for those who know and understand sound art, as well as those who don't. The booklet suggests to listen to it outdoors and with headphones on! GO!
Igloomag.com (TJ Norris)
At 21 minutes this project-based recording had Janek Schaefer traveling to Minnesota to work with local meteorologists and nature types. Most of what you hear on this neatly packaged affair are field recordings with open mic. There is the sound of inflation of a weather balloon, winds and birds, and the people recording the changes in temperature, etc. There is also a great full color booklet documenting the project including images of snowy, windy conditions, measuring devices and other charms of local color. Weather Report uses soundclips from local news and those reporting the changing conditions of the Twin Cities area randomly to illustrate the drama of the skies. The piece opens with these skies mid way through where thunder, lightning and its voiceover illustrators report to the inevitable hostile nature to the people. But the quiet after the storm is as balanced and important to the overall ambience here and Schaefer blends the chaos with quietude. Towards the very end there are what sound like some type of gun shots, are they hunters...do they have to shoot down weather balloons...was this a salute to the completion of the work? This is one of surely other documentary recordings to expect from this multimedia artist in the future
Fallt [N Ireland]
Yet another concept-bending project... Armed with a dictaphone, a mobile phone and, I'm sure, various other 'low resolution' recording devices Schaefer set out to document, in as many ways as were to hand, everyday Minnesota weather - its monitoring, recording, forecasting, reporting and its effect on local Minnesotans. The result is packaged with a colourful booklet snapshotting the project. 'Weather Report' opens with a voice message sent from the recent past by a mobile phone suspended from a weather balloon. As the balloon inflates Schaefer's voice can be heard introducing the project, "Up, up and away!" he cries as it floats upwards buffeted by the breeze. Into earshot drift the sounds of a distant plane, a dog barking and birds twittering. In what follows nothing weather-related is left out. The unidentifiable and the commonplace - wind, ice underfoot, leaf blowers, snowflakes and rain (everything from drip-drip-drip to cats and dogs) - are intercut with local and archival TV and radio weather flashes. Mid track the blue/black sounds of a thunderstorm loom to form a kind of centre piece. Anticipation (Reporter: "That red donut is evidence of strong rotation in the low levels of the atmosphere...) and aftermath (Interviewer: "You were blown out through the wall?") are eventually joined by a veritable welter of weather-words uttered, it seems, by every weatherperson in Minnesota. The collage effect is further emphasised by Schaefer's use of time lapse material, recalling his wonderful dictaphone-in-a-package-through-the-post project 'Recorded Delivery'. As the composition ends Janek and friends are heard heading out to retrieve the dictaphone. They have guns. Shots ring out. The balloon bursts and the recording device parachutes to the ground. "End of message." An alternative soundtrack to a walk in your local park or down the street. [GM]