(bell and breath)
(movement 1 of vancouver soundscape revisited, eagle)
You’re listening to the first movement, eagle, of my 1996 soundscape composition, vancouver soundscape revisited.
I describe the piece in the program note as :
- an impressionistic portrait of the musicality and poetry of past, present and future soundscapes of Vancouver composed using archival sounds dating from the World Soundscape Project in the early 1970’s and from recordings of Vancouver made in the early 1990’s by Bob MacNevin on behalf of the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University (SFU). My method was to select a few hundred sounds from the collection, which I edited and catalogued by spectrum, category, function, pitch, and context. I then experimented with various combinations and modifications of the material until interesting sonic alchemies were found…’
For example, you can now hear the ubiquitous sound of rain in Vancouver, a distant train whistle, bird song, the rumble of the harbour and… the 9 o’clock gun.
Let me tell you a short story.
On June 23, 2023 I had the pleasure, and the privilege, of attending ‘Listening to Lhq’a:lets’ (I hope I’m pronouncing that right), otherwise known as the city of Vancouver, at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Learning at the University of British Coumbia, which is situated l on the unceded and ancestral territory of the Musqueam Nation.
A group of artists, all women, spoke about their week-long residency, organized by indigenous sound scholar and UBC professor Dr. Dylan Robinson. They shared a wide range of sensory engagements through listening to Lhq’a:lets: how our bodies listen through the haptics of vibration, about hearing and feeling the voices of our non-human relations, about how we can perceive the built environment with new perspectives – the air, waterways and earth that surround us.
They spoke about their encounters with the trans-mountain pipeline, their dialogues with animals and birds, their encounters with haunting vibrations and their thoughts about the past, present and future sounds of this region.
What they did not talk about was themselves, their accomplishments or the type of technology they used to extract and manipulate the sounds. None of that. There was also no reverence for say R. Murray Schafer or the World Soundscape Project, nor any nostalgia about the good old days when, say, the term ‘soundscape’ was invented. There was no disrespect either. They were listening from a different position.
So I heard stories, poems, anecdotes, images, silences and prophecies… It was uplifting.
(excerpt from movement 2, fire)
So when I listened back to my soundscape composition, I realized that my revisitation was mostly a, let’s call it, a reshuffling of the colonial deck chairs.
Yes I cleverly combined horns, whistles, sirens, industrial and natural sounds as a commentary on the beauty and madness of contemporary urban life but my revisitation was from a very narrow point of view.
I now realise that this music, my music, is inherently complicit with colonialism and that my creative gestures are actually further cycles of exploitation.
In retrospect it might have been more useful for me to figure out how to repair the damage done to past, present and future soundscapes of Lhq’a:lets.
What does decolonized listening sound like to you?
This event was part of the three-part Friday evening series, Artists Within the Anthropocene. Presented in partnership with the Belkin Art Gallery. Listening to Lhq’a:lets / Vancouver is also part of a week-long artist residency organized with The Score: Performing, Listening and Decolonization UBC Research Excellence Cluster, in partnership with the UBC School of Music and Evergreen. The six participating artists were Bonnie Devine, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Dolleen Manning, Lisa Myers, Astrida Neimanis, Lisa Ravensbergen and Rita Wong.
With thanks to the six artists who represented their work on June 23 and to Dylan Robinson for his ongoing enquiries.
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 to Full Circle.
The post e128 revisited – what does decolonized listening sound like to you? 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.
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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 http://simplesoundscapes.ca (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 :