No Bottom (audio - 5min) Joe Shores, Mississippi river sounding call as recorded by Alan Lomax & Herbert Halpert, 1939

The word sounding, meaning the measurement of water depth, usually with a line and weight, derives from an old English word meaning water or sea. It has nothing to do with sound as audible. For riverboat workers on the Mississippi, however, there was a time when sounding and calling out the water depth (a necesity for navigating shallow water) literally involved sound — or song. In 1939 Alan Lomax and Herbert Halpert, two well-known folklorists, recorded Joe Shores, a 52-year old river pilot for a ferryboat that ran between Greenville, Mississippi and Arkansas City, Arkansas…

The last call, when the weighted sounding line no longer touches bottom is "No Bottom." For this project it is a metaphor for 'sounding' the unknown as a practice of art. See also the piece Malcolm Goldstein investigates the materiality of the active layer using only vibration as another version of sounding.

link: information on the Alan Lomax recordings of sounding calls