Conscient Podcast: e109 being – how can we listen through art?

(bell and breath)

On December 19th, 2022 I read David Maggs’ Art and the Ouija Board? blog, as part of his Metcalf Foundation Fellow on Arts and Society. 

I was struck by this section in particular:

Like a Ouija board or a dowsing wand, art is the capacity to pay attention to the world in unusual ways, a capacity to attend to the world in terms of the aesthetic. To make sense of life through lines, shapes, patterns, forms, colours, textures, rhythms, harmonies, imagery, and more. As Canadian poet Don McKay puts it, “Poetry returns from the business of naming with listening folded inside of it.” If we only speak with our arts, and do not listen with them first, revelation is replaced by dictation, and we can expect our audiences to engage with us as pamphlets or punditry. While not without purpose (no doubt didactic art can inform), information engages at the level of knowledge, whereas transformation requires engagement at the level of being, giving art a value proposition few can rival in this age of unprecedented need…

(3 minute ‘A Soundwalk in the Rain of St. John’s, NFLD’ 1992 by Claude Schryer)

Thank you David. Thank you David for your series of blogs on the relationship between art and transformation. Now David is from Newfoundland, which reminded me of a piece I recorded on July 2nd, 1992, at 2.20pm called A Soundwalk in the Rain of St. John’s, NFLD where I was a radio artist in residence at Sound Symposium 6. 

Of course, an interesting debate is whether the sounds of the environment are music or whether they’re noise. And I guess that depends principally on your interest in hearing them as music or not. What we hear now is a combination of traffic sounds and water falling on concrete and grass and falling through trees. And once in a while a drop falls directly on the microphone. It’s quite loud and quite noisy, but I find it quite beautiful to listen to. And as I listen more and more, I hear little differences in how the rain sounds as it falls and different kinds of materials, how the traffic changes, how this space, Memorial University, is in fact an acoustic space with a lot of activity, a lot of different kinds of sound activity. And so we’ll try to hear it. The rain, of course, is a problem because it really is dominant and it’s a powerful natural phenomenon that we basically can’t avoid. So we’re probably better off listening to it and enjoying it. Of course, that’s from my perspective as a person from another part of the country, Montreal, where it probably rains less than here in St. John’s but I’m particularly interested in discovering this part of the world, this province, and seeing how it sounds. So rain is a part of your life here and it’s quite fascinating. It’s quiet though, and, and it’s a little gray here….

How can we listen through art?


Thanks to David Maggs and the Metcalf Foundation for your important work. David and I were co-founders of the Sectoral Climate Arts Leadership for the Emergency (SCALE) and have had many fruitful exchanges over the years. I admire his courage and encourage you to subscribe to his Dispatches (at the bottom of the page)

I am grateful and accountable to the earth and the human labour that provided me with the privilege of producing this episode. (including all the toxic materials and extractive processes behind the computers, recorders, transportation and infrastructure that make this podcast possible).

My gesture of reciprocity for this episode is a donation to the First Light St-John’s Friendship Centre.

The post e109 being – how can we listen through art? appeared first on conscient. conscient is a bilingual blog and podcast (French or English) by audio artist Claude Schryer that explores how arts and culture contribute to environmental awareness and action.


About the Concient Podcast from Claude Schryer

The conscient podcast / balado conscient is a series of conversations about art, conscience and the ecological crisis. This podcast is bilingual (in either English or French). The language of the guest determines the language of the podcast. Episode notes are translated but not individual interviews.

I started the conscient project in 2020 as a personal learning journey and knowledge sharing exercise. It has been rewarding, and sometimes surprising.

The term “conscient” is defined as “being aware of one’s surroundings, thoughts and motivations”. My touchstone for the podcast is episode 1, e01 terrified, based on an essay I wrote in May 2019, where I share my anxiety about the climate crisis and my belief that arts and culture can play a critical role in raising public awareness about environmental issues. The conscient podcast / balado conscient follows up on my (2016-2019) project: 175, 3-minute audio and video field recordings that explore mindful listening.

season 1 (may – october 2020) : environmental awareness and action Season 1 (May to October 2020) explored how the arts contribute to environmental awareness and action. I produced 3 episodes in French and 15 in English. The episodes cover a wide range of content, including activism, impact measurement, gaming, arts funding, cross-sectoral collaborations, social justice, artistic practices, etc. Episodes 8 to 17 were recorded while I was at the Creative Climate Leadership USA course in Arizona in March 2020 (led by Julie”s Bicycle). Episode 18 is a compilation of highlights from these conversations.

season 2 (march – august 2021 ) : reality and ecological grief Season 2 (March 2021 ) explores the concept of reality and is about accepting reality, working through ecological grief and charting a path forward. The first episode of season 2 (e19 reality) mixes quotations from 28 authors with field recordings from simplesoundscapes and from my 1998 soundscape composition, Au dernier vivant les biens. One of my findings from this episode is that “I now see, and more importantly, I now feel in my bones, “the state of things as they actually exist”, without social filters or unsustainable stories blocking the way”. e19 reality touches upon 7 topics: our perception of reality, the possibility of human extinction, ecological anxiety and ecological grief, hope, arts, storytelling and the wisdom of indigenous cultures. The rest of season 2 features interviews with thought leaders about their responses and reactions to e19 reality.

season 3 (october 2021 – february 2022 ) : radical listening Season 3 was about radical listening : listening deeply without passing judgment, knowing the truth and filtering out the noise and opening attention to reality and responding to what needs to be done. The format is similar the first podcast format I did in 2016 with the simplesoundscapes project, which was to ‘speak my mind’ and ‘think out loud’. I start this season with a ‘soundscape composition’, e63 a case study (part 1) and e64 a case study (part 2), a bilingual speculative fiction radio play, set in an undergraduate university history seminar course called ‘History of 2021 in Canada’. It concluded with a soundscape composition ‘Winter Diary Revisited’.

season 4 (1 january – 31 december 2023) : sounding modernity


I’ve been retired from the Canada Council for the Arts since September 15, 2020 where I served as a senior strategic advisor in arts granting (2016-2020) and manager of the Inter-Arts Office (1999-2015). My focus in (quasi) retirement is environmental issues within my area of expertise in arts and culture, in particular in acoustic ecology. I”m open to become involved in projects that align with my values and that move forward environmental concerns. Feel free to email me for a conversation :

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