Conscient Podcast: e138 rouge – fishy, where are you?

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a soundscape composition about soundscape composition at Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto


(Bell and breath) 

(various field recordings from rouge national urban park)

Me (at Rouge Park) :

Lake Ontario, Rouge Park, Water, Train sound coming, go.

On August 21, 2023 I joined composer Wendalyn Bartley and ecologist Leo Cabrera on a visit to the Rouge National Urban Park, which is centred around the Rouge River and its tributaries in the Greater Toronto Area. 

We were there to listen to soundscapes, such as what you’re hearing now, a train passing by.

At the end of our listening session Leo asked me to explain how I create soundscape compositions, so this episode explores that question, accompanied by…

(Sound of woman talking about ‘fishies’)


So what is soundscape composition? 

Soundscape composition is a form of electroacoustic music characterized by the presence of recognizable environmental sounds and contexts … 

Claude (during field recording) 

Rouge National Park, August 21, about 7pm, I’m waiting for a train.

And context is important here. 

For example, what do you hear now? I heard a swan, birds, voices echoing under a bridge, a bike just went by, there’s rumble of the city  in the background, and a baby crying, there’s some young people arriving and … and I hear someone dragging their feet a bit, making a lovely little sound.

(train passing)

Of course, I hear trains and now we’re in another space. What about this place? What’s the story here? 

And what would happen if I changed the story by cutting the low frequencies from this swan and these waves? 

And what if I made the train a bit more distant … and put it to the left?

And what if I place that mom talking to her son about fishies in reverberation a little… on the right side.

And how would you feel if there is no sound at all? 

You see, to me, soundscape composition and art in general, for that matter, is a game of illusion. Artists are constantly playing with our senses of perception and our understanding and interpretation of reality. 

So what I’m doing is inviting you to listen to reality – at least what my microphones captured that day – but also to fantasy, which are my manipulations of those sounds and it’s an interesting liminal zone but it’s also a very privileged space because not everyone who can afford to create and listen to soundscape compositions this way, right? 

I’m thinking in particular about living beings – human and non human – who cannot lower the volume of say, a rumbling train passing by their home every few minutes like this one I recorded in the park. 

(loud train passes)

Also, what about sounds that have disappeared from our acoustic environment? 

How can we remember and mourn sounds that have become extinct? 

What efforts  can we make to bring some of them back? 

How can soundscape composition help with that? 

Now as I told Leo, my approach to soundscape composition is to ask a lot of questions… about the ethics of field recording, about positionality, about  the added value of an artistic intervention in a given acoustic space.

I also ask myself to whom am I accountable when I record and how can one create sound art that does not perpetuate cycles of extraction and exploitation that are quite literally killing us. 

So many questions….

What do you think?

I’ll end this episode with an excerpt from a conversation I had during the summer of 1990 with the late composer R. Murray Schafer, author of the Tuning of the World book and leader of the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser university in Vancouver in the 1970’s. 

Murray and I were talking about microphones and listening:

If the microphone replaces your ear, there’s something wrong. And as you see in a lot of our listening, the microphone has replaced the ear. The mere fact that for instance, we demand presence on all recorded sounds and they’re all close mic-ed, is a recognition of the fact that the microphone, which is an instrument for getting closeups, is respected more than our own sort of hearing experience. The fact that we can no longer listen to the distance. Now, if you’re going to get involved, really, with ecology in the environment, you have to rediscover how to listen to the distance, because an awful lot of the sounds you’re talking about are distant.

I agree with Murray that we need to question our use of technology, for sure, but also learn to listen at a distance, with or without microphones. 

Listen… at a distance.

(Woman talking)

Fishy, where are you?


Thanks to Wendalyn and Leo, my colleagues on the board of directors of the Canadian Association for Sound Ecology (CASE)  for joining me during this field recording trip. My thanks also to those who were recorded that day and a tip of the hat to Murray Schafer who continues to be present in our lives through his words and music.

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 the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).  

The post e138 rouge – fishy, where are 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 (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 :

acknowledgement of eco-responsibility

I acknowledge that the production of the conscient podcast / balado conscient produces carbon. I try to minimize this carbon footprint by being as efficient as possible, including using GreenGeeks as my web server and acquiring carbon offsets for my equipment and travel activities from BullFrog Power and Less.

a word about privilege and bias.

While recording episode 19 “reality”, I heard elements of “privilege” in my voice that I had not noticed before. It sounded a bit like “ecological mansplaining”. I realize that, in spite of good intentions, I need to work my way through issues of privilege (of all kinds) and unconscious bias the way I did through ecological anxiety and grief during the fall of 2020. My re-education is ongoing.

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