Letter from the Editor
As I mentioned in the call for artists, a soundscape is all about perception. With that in mind I opened the submissions for UNTIL 12 with the intent to observe my perception of each artist’s work submitted and to deliberately leave the artist statements unread until after I had spent some time with each submission. I wanted to know if the pieces submitted give me some insight into each artist’s relationship to sound and their sonic environment. Some of these relationships were quite apparent, some took more work.
Soundscapes are often ignored – background noise if you will – and I am always amazed and intrigued by how artists relate to their sonic environment. I am grateful to have had the chance to experience how all of the artists who submitted their work experience their soundscape.
– Michael Benneyworth
Alison Bigg is a professional artist working in Victoria, BC. She graduated in 1989 from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. After following other creative pursuits Alison came back to visual art in 2017, completing an Independent Studies program at the Vancouver Island School of Art. She has had many solo and group shows throughout BC.
Using Objet Trouvé, ceramics, casting and printmaking, she creates her installation and sculptural work. The intention of Alison’s art work is to awaken a sense of curiosity, to encourage the use of imagination to think and experience the world in new ways.
lostfoundsound (work in progress)
Over the last 6 years I have experiencing severe hearing loss due to otosclerosis. Since thinking about this project, lostfoundsound has evolved from a work about me and my hearing loss into a work about the importance of communication and listening. lostfoundsound is about the tools needed to slow down and amplify our listening, allowing us to absorb more of what is important to hear. These tools transport us back 30 years, to a time before the web, an analog age, when the amount of information to hear was tractable.Hearing is the mechanical process of the ears taking in information. Listening is the processing in the mind of that information. As huge, unmanageable amounts of information have been made available through various digital devices, some “hearing” frequencies have been lost. It is either too much to take in so that what is hardest to hear is consciously or unconsciously ignored, or the empathic listening is lost due to information overload, causing a communal deafness. Perhaps the ‘sound’ needs to be louder, or the information needs to be filtered through a ‘critical listening tool’ to become focused, understood and acted upon. Each assemblage is a different communication tool. It may be for critical listening, used as hearing aides, an information filter or a sound amplifier. It is up to the viewer to ‘guess’ what each tool might be used for, what the noise that comes with it is, creating an aspect of imaginative playfulness and curiosity.
Clive Beal was born in a small U.S. town, as a Canadian, in 1960. He was
exposed to values as a boy within the context of the social unrest at the time. In Victoria off and on since 1976, his education ranged from technology and math, tovisual arts; then, in 1992, Clive became employed as a photocopier technician and remained in Victoria. In 2003, Clive discovered Pandora Arts. This led to volunteerism in areas of social justice within the Quality of Life Challenge.
Clive was one of a group that established the Pandora Arts Collective Society, at the Fernwood Community Association, in 2005. The front room of the FCA was converted to a gallery in 2007. Clive facilitated the little fernwood gallery for 10 years with principles of inclusion, and mentorship. Drawing from PACS, from the Fernwood neighbourhood, from the region, lfg featured new and emerging artists, at a cost which would not be a barrier to participation. The FCA provided the venue, and time for the opening reception. The lfg was a hub for the annual Fernwood Art Stroll. It was not a “profitable” enterprise, but rather more of a community building
In recent years, Clive enjoys the “en plein air” experience. With a companion, the two will explore the South Island region to paint the landscape.
Clive’s approach to music is largely improvisational, playing by ear, with a deep sense of rhythm. He has produced many CD’s of original music, some pop songs, some more experimental, since 1987.
Clive also has a book of poem and image:”Quest of the Water Time”.
The creative process is one of interpreting circumstance as we relate to our environs. Fate can lead one to a crossroads, but then, we must decide. In search of a location for the en plein air experience, one has a general destination, like Goldstream. Yet, the view which is chosen, of the river, looking North, can be arranged in a natural, but arbitrary way. It is the task to select out the features one wishes, and so, interpret.
In physics, there is a principle: the most downhill path. A phonograph record
is a good analogy. As each follows his groove, the bumps and valleys jostle us this way and that, following the circumstances of the groove. You may think it implies we have no free will, if we always follow the most downhill path. Yet the metaphor allows that each of us, like the phonograph needle, we can make music out of the journey. In sound, if we start with the arbitrary, like a bird song, we can then improvise a rhythm and a melody which compliments.
Choosing a subject for a painting is a careful process. We can walk up and
down the path looking for a view, up high on a rock, even standing in the river. Then one can see a grouping of features which would translate well to canvas. In a jazz sense, we can start with a theme, then interpret it. The circumstance of one phrase leads naturally to the next.
With practice, one develops a method. Begin with thinned colours to block in
the composition. Then, study reveals each element to be expressed: the tree, the cover of rocks; gradually refining and filling in detail. A song can be developed the same way, with layers.
Part of the en plein air experience is in the elements of nature. One feels the chill air, listening to the waves, becoming immersed in a state of place, that changes through an afternoon. Interpretation can be responsive, the way the wind at the shore blew the sand into the oil paint.
Yet, we use a part of ourselves that is beyond language. We use non-verbal
reasoning. When an artist is in deep meditation over a work, he will study the work critically to see how it might be corrected, or enhanced to more closely match the spirit of the subject, which is now a memory. Visualization comes the way the cadent note calls for the root; not with words, but with a visceral knowing. The result is more than a photograph. As artists, we convey meaning.
Herein, you may find a sequence of images which describe the process of one painting: “Beacon Hill NW”; 18”h x 14”w, oil on canvas. Completed in June, 2022.
Also, I submit a soundscape, simply: “Birds”; a 2 minute recording of bird song, recorded outside my downtown apartment, accompanied by guitar and keyboard. The bird sang as it would, repeating its’ song, though not in a particular
I use an Ovation Celebrity guitar, a Yamaha DX27 synthesizer, various drums, and a Tascam 8 track recording studio, More music, story and image can be found at the website: truvuart.ca
Jake Duncan is a practicing visual artist working with their ideas of cultural heritage, their local environment both ecological and urban, and worlds without such extreme binaries. Their practice is multidisciplinary with a tendency towards tactile materials. Their most recent work has been focused on drawing with pencils and thinking about recycled materials. Duncan was born in Perth, Scotland and currently lives on the unceded territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Musqueam, Stz’uminus, and Stó:lō First Nations, also known as Vancouver, British Columbia. They hold a diploma from the Camosun College Visual Arts Program and will be joining the Critical and Cultural Practices Program at Emily Carr University this coming September. Their work has been displayed at the Camosun College Library, the Cedar Hill Center, the Fernwood Community Center, and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
Ocean Water, Mountain Sky is concerned with the landscape of silence. Since moving to Vancouver for school, the greatest difference I have noticed between here and the island is the presence of constant noise. Returning to the island is like slipping under water; the surrounding sound is dimmed and muffled rather than grating and overpowering.
I have yet to become accustomed to the industrial soundscape of this city and I often find myself overwhelmed by the traffic, the machinery, the bustling of it all. While I feel disconnected from everything that makes a city what it is, I find my silence in the surrounding mountains and ocean.
John G Boehme
John G. Boehme identifies as a cisgender white male of German and Scottish heritage living in Victoria, BC,
Canada, the Lekwungen-speaking peoples. His early art practise included painting, sculpture, performance
video and digital technology, installation and photography. Boehme describes recent work as “trans-
disciplinary,” often employing performance, video, audio and objects in several pieces simultaneously;
Boehme is not constrained to any particular creative mode and therefore utilizes integrated approaches to
realize the work. John continues to have exhibitions, screenings and participate in festivals across Canada,
Australia, the Americas, the United Kingdom, Europe and China. John is an Artist and Educator, teaching
Performance Art, Ceramics and Sculpture as a continuing faculty of the Visual Arts Department at Camosun
What interests me is the ongoing reformulation of a set of critical interests. These interests are drawn from my observations of Western society’s less considered compulsions. Exploring the performance of gender,
specifically masculinity, the valorization of labour, the pursuit of leisure, and the marshalling of amity. I explore language and paralanguage, that is, both the spoken and gestural aspects of human communication.
Live artwork presents a direct relationship with material, with action and process, with human interaction, as I understand it. Physical involvement is the most embodied way in which to create meaning. Through durational works, both the artist and the audience gain access to the experience uniquely available through such commitment. This is, of course, the archetypal modality of ‘performance art,’ an experience that unfolds over an extended period. Nothing can replace that learning, that specific duration of being. Although there is no alternative to the durational aspect of performance per se, I remain interested in the question of representation of performance. The apparent and obvious problem of making the ephemeral available to a larger audience at a different time. Using video to “reconstruct” an event makes publication and discourse possible. Despite its material concerns, I believe that art is rendered ultimately in the social domain.
With regard to multi-disciplinary works, I prefer the alternative term “trans-disciplinary,” as it refers to integration between media, as opposed to, say, sequential use of different forms. For instance, I employ
performance, video, audio and objects simultaneously in many of my pieces. I am not constrained to any
particular mode; instead, I utilize integrated approaches within my practice.
Julian (Jules) Fisher
Julian (Jules) Fisher is a DJ, avid field (sound) recordist, birder, electronic music maker and a PhD Candidate at Western University in the department of Theory & Criticism. His thesis considers how perception and imagination are embedded in the wider ecology of plants, animals and elements. He recently performed ambient soundscape compositions at the Geopoetics symposium on Cortes Island and presented a paper at the summer meeting of the International Society for Environmental Ethics in Finland. His writing has appeared in the journals Environmental Philosophy and Chiasma. He lives in Lekwungen Territory, otherwise known as Victoria BC. His music and recordings can be found online at julesfisher.ca/links.
The Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), a brilliant and tiny green and pink bird, is a consistent feature of the soundscape of the Songhees Walkway where I often end up most days—for a walk to take a break from work, as a place to sit and watch the sunset, or as somewhere to go and listen to the waves after the city has gone to sleep. One day in December of 2021 I made a recording of these magnificent birds performing their ritual flight display in which one of them soars high up into the sky and then descends like a jet plane with extraordinary speed towards the Earth. At what seems to be the last second before collision with the ground, they emit a loud, “high-frequency chirp” as they turn back upwards to the sky. Scientists only confirmed in 2008 through high-speed video recordings that this sound is made not by the voice but through the rapid movement of the bird’s tail feathers. This harsh and high-pitched sound cuts through the chatter and traffic noises and beckons to be listened to with attention. It is a persistent feature of the neighborhoods and parks of Victoria, alongside the crunchy almost machinic vocalizations that the Anna’s Hummingbird produces constantly. I made several other recordings on this sound walk along the walkway, which coincided with that December’s full moon, the “cold moon.” I chose to work with this single recording I made at a wooden bridge because I wanted to give a sense of what it’s like to stop at one spot and really listen, stretch one’s attention for at least five or ten minutes in a singular sonic environment. The Hummingbirds are always very active at this bridge, and the sounds of conversation and passing pedestrians I think adds some texture to piece. A careful listener will also pick up on the alarm calls of two of my other favourite species of songbirds—a dark eyed Junco and a Song Sparrow. The ambient musical accompaniment was made with a tiny midi keyboard and software instruments in Ableton Live.
I am a contemporary visual artist and have been creating art for 30 years. Currently employed at the University of Victoria, I have 15 years of art teaching experience at various institutions. Originally from the province of Ontario, I have lived in Québec and Manitoba before settling in Victoria.
“Art is an amazing conduit for social engagement, community building and individual happiness!” KH
In the last 10 years, I have concentrated on painting watercolours. I am painting both abstractly as well as representationally. My Imagery may reference light refractions or natural phenomena or sound. Watercolour is ideal as water is elusive and transformative, mirroring my concepts.
Most recently, I’ve been inspired by sound which I translate into visual language with shapes and colour. I continue to paint trees and the life they support. These are more representational. The trees are anthropomorphized, so I am attributing human traits to the non-human.
My work is included in many collections both private and public, including Bio-Diversity Museum, UBC, Loto- Québec, and the MOMA Artist Book Collection.
“I feel that art provides a great coping mechanism for whatever life throws at you. It engages the soul as well as has a grounding effect.”
These 2 images, “La Chanteuse” and “Portrait of a Singer” are paintings inspired by singing. I’ve interpreted acoustic waves through lightwaves or colour. Lightwaves relate somewhat to sound waves, both needing to be interpreted by the brain for us to make sense of them. Vibrations received by the listener are interpreted by the brain as sound and, light waves are seen by the viewer and interpreted by the brain as colour.
I am using shape, line, texture and colour to express vocalizations visually. The singers themselves are portrayed abstractly rather than figuratively.
I teach art and I use different approaches to creative expression. Art students welcome the theme of sound for an art project. Utilizing another sense changes one’s perspective, transforming the imagery. I do a “sound walk” with a class and we then discuss what we’ve heard-dialogues, crows cawing, venting machines chugging, bikes whizzing, dry leaves crunching, water splashing, whispering, pages turning, the photocopier buzzing….during a 20 minute walk through the UVIC campus. They are able to use conventions or tropes such as- speech bubbles, onomatopoeia, text, numbers musical notation, vibrating lines depicting sound waves….to reference sound for their project, adding another dimension or layer.
Creativity doesn’t necessarily stick to categories and can be multi-dimensional or trans disciplinary. Sound art and visual art can blur the lines and we are creatures with many senses, often experienced simultaneously.
In the last 10 years, I have concentrated on painting watercolours, switching between the abstract and representational. Themes may reference, for instance, metamorphosis or transcendence via depictions of light refractions or weather phenomena or nature. Watercolour is ideal as water is elusive and transformative, mirroring my changing concepts.
The work I am presenting here is very much interpreting sound waves via light waves (colour), texture and shapes. The imagery reminds me very much of the inner mechanics of the singer’s body, creating reverberations. Interestingly, vocal tone is often described as vocal colour.
“We often use adjectives such as bright, warm, brassy etc. to describe vocal colours and timbres. Depending on the mood of the song and the style of music, you can change your own vocal colour.”
Musician, songwriter and recording artist Kathryn Calder was chosen as the City of Victoria Artist in Residence for 2019 – 2021. After a few projects involving interactive collaborations, one of her preferred methods of working, the COVID 19 pandemic arrived in March 2020. The projects discussed below are a result of Kathryn’s shifting of focus to allow her work to continue during the restrictions and to still reach as wide an audience as she could. “Patched In” was directly influenced by the changes the acoustic environment as a result of the reduced traffic noise. “BE CALM” was Kathryn’s gift to those who felt isolated by the lockdown.
(Edited transcript of a recorded meeting between Kathryn Calder – 2019-2021 City of Victoria Artist in Residence – and Michael Benneyworth – guest editor, UNTIL 12. Recorded: June 22, 2022)
Michael Benneyworth: Let’s start with “Patched In”. Your artist in residence blog said that you used the recordings of the birds to lead the writing process for the audio that you did for that. Do you use field recordings a lot?
Kathryn Calder: Well, I love field recordings, but I don’t always get an opportunity to use them in practice. There was a record that I made years ago that used quite a bit of found sounds, recordings around the house. It’s fun for me to just pick up things from around the house and play them as though they’re instruments and add percussion. Like the clanging of a metal bowl, or something, if it sounded nice. And I couldn’t get sound, you know, good in the recording. So, I do that. I don’t usually go out and do field recordings, although I have, but this project was a pandemic project because originally, I had other things in mind. Though this original project was still in the process of being developed. I had an idea for what I wanted, but the pandemic made it that too complicated because it involved people, and it just felt really overwhelming, so I did a pivot.
I didn’t really know what the sounds were going to be used for but I started recording the birds in my backyard that because it was around this time May and June, and I caught a lot of really beautiful birdsong and I just kept it on a hard drive.
There was a lot of twists and turns to this project about how it came to be. When I saw the alley, the Lee Mong Kow Way Alley, and it had all those beautiful Magnolia trees, I thought “I’m sure I could use this bird song for something in here”. And, there was this giant empty wall that was perfect for a mural. It just started coming together and the Chinese public school was right across the street and I love incorporating kids into projects.
MB: That’s evident in a lot of the blog on the City of Victoria webpage.
KC: Yeah, there was a quite a strong intergenerational thread that connected all of my projects through the residency. I just looked at the school and I thought, you know, it’s called Lee Mong Kow Way after the first principal of the school. The reason I say “I think” is because he might have been the founder.
I’m not sure I remember off the top of my head but he was a very important person connected to the Chinese Public School. So, we got the staff and the students involved at the school and they created these colorful birdhouses and we put them in the trees. Then the bird song was the background so we have real birds playing in the background. I play the instruments on the track. I took a map of Victoria and found there’s a website you can go to that where the birders load all of the birdsong that they record. It’s a global website, but I zoomed in on Victoria to find out what birds are here. Then I took those songs I had recorded and translated them into music. So, you can hear that in the piece.
The experience of actually being in the alley with the recording is a little bit different than, like, the recorded piece on Band Camp, because each channel randomly cycles through the different musical loops that I’ve made, and so it’s always a little bit different. It’s not playing a linear song. I wanted it to not always be the same and not always be playing. The birds are always in the background. They’re in every speaker. And they come on and off too. It’s not always just an onslaught of constant birds. There’s also some background music that’s more supportive rather than melodic.
MB: The minimalist bits of piano?
KC: Yeah, so there’s the piano, that is more of a melody. Then there’s these pads that represent the ocean and waves coming and going; they kind of are slower moving and are lower, usually in frequency. I’m a songwriter, so I can’t help but think in terms of the song and so I was thinking of it in terms of frequency. What would be nice to hear with these high melodies would be something lower like a bass sound, and I was trying to fill out the frequencies that way as well. There is the higher musical bird song and then the lower tones. I call them habitat sounds.
MB: It’s a good description.
KC: Like the waves of, you know, the ocean or what I would envision a lake would sound like. It is like water. Sort of feels that in a body of water there is a heavier and lower weight. There’s some weight there. These are the things that I was thinking about when composing the piece and trying to make it random when it played.
But it is technology so….
MB: You never know what’s happening.
Note – Discussion about some of MB working practices – text omitted.
KC: What you just said reminded me that, like the sounds, they come through each speaker but they also pan across. So, there’s one channel per speaker and they also pan across all six speakers.
MB: OK, so there’s actually channels moving.
KC: Yes, the audio moves from speaker to speaker.
MB: Yes, as well as coming in and out.
That’s a very cool idea.
KC: I’m just trying to think back…. It is one channel per speaker. I think I did all six speakers for the birds. All six speakers for some of the lower sounds and then certain of the melodies have their own buckets and they come in and out and they pan. It might not be one specific thing per speaker but it is there. They come as a whole and you can pan across them.
MB: Was the site chosen beforehand, or did you have a say in choosing the site?
KC: I had a couple of other options in mind and then, like I say, the whole project kind of took a turn, or left hand turn or U turn. I asked some of the folks at the city if they could recommend some places that might make sense for the sound installation and they recommended a few different alleys in Victoria. I went to Lee Mong Kow Way and, it was the trees.
MB: The trees did it for you.
KC: They did you know, the trees. I looked at the trees and I was like well, this could be cool. I feel like when you start those projects, it’s a lot of like just gut instinct, you know. And if you’re really just trying to pull the pieces together, pull the threads together into something. When you have a kind of a general idea of what you want to do, but nothing specific, nothing really concrete. I spent some time looking around the city early on, very early on, in the in the residency. Kind of thinking about where might be an interesting place for a sound installation. Some of the things I was thinking about were noise and sound. I didn’t really want it to be next to somebody’s house; I thought that was unfair and would be unpopular with the people who live in the house. I was like kind of looking for a space that was as sheltered as possible from residences.
And then I saw the Lee Mong Kow Way.
As I said, it was the trees and the fact that one of the walls is a parkade; on the other side is a is an office building. I felt that the folks in the office were OK with having a sound installation because they weren’t living there. I know that folks hang out in Centennial Square a lot and so I was really aware of them. I didn’t want it to be oppressive. When you don’t have control over sound, and it goes on and on and on, it can be. Yeah, it can be hard so I was trying to be aware of the neighbors. The other thing that I liked about this space was that it felt possible there and there was no heavy traffic.
MB: The mural came about after the location had been chosen?
KC: Yes. I chose the location and it had this beautiful wall that was big enough for a mural and could use some paint. I got in touch with a friend of mine, Meghan Hildebrand, who does really beautiful murals, and I gave her the very Coles notes of the project and she came up with the idea of a patchwork quilt. Based on tones of the forest and the natural world. We wanted it to be something that wasn’t too dense because it was already quite shady in the alley and so we wanted it to be open and bright basically, so that the shade in the alley didn’t make it darker. So that it stood out.
I think she did a really amazing job. I had really nothing to do with that mural aside from supplying the dimensions. Meghan came up with some ideas and I really liked the quilt because it’s her vision. Quilting is one of those art forms that has a lot of history in the female world. Meghan was bringing in her intergenerational family background in quilts.
MB: When did the name come?
KC: That came that came from Meghan, actually. We were talking about the name and I was asking if she had a name for the mural. I needed it for something and she was like “I’m going to call the mural Patched In”. And I thought that’s so brilliant because we have this electronics component as well and I just thought it was a really sweet name. So, I took it.
MB: It’s very fitting I think because it does cover the quilt and the cooperative nature of everybody who worked on it.
KC: Yes, exactly.
MB: It does and from the electronics side of things too.
It’s very appropriate.
KC: It is a great name.
MB: Yes, it is.
It’s interesting to hear you talk about the way you’re working, in talking with other people who do other art. There are many of these ‘ah ha’ moments that just come out of a conversation or come out of a discussion or come out of banging your head against the wall for a while and then somebody comes by and says. “You know, no, you don’t need to do that. Here’s an idea.”
KC: There I feel like there were like twenty of those for this project. The project moves forward and as it moves forward ideas come and I think there’s something in creativity where you just have to move forward. And if you’re thinking about it. I spent a long time thinking about it. A lot of time. Then the ideas come, and then somebody will have a great idea like “Hey, this is a great spot for a mural.” And I’m like “Yeah it is a great spot for a mural.”
There were lots of things like that.
MB: And the erhu was one of those?
KC: Well, I was playing all my little synth pads and my keyboards and my piano. And I thought there could be some other timbres in here and because it was Lee Mong Kow Way – because of the Chinese Public School and the history with the community – I thought “Well, let’s maybe somebody in town knows how to play the erhu.” And somebody did. I thought that it added a really beautiful timbre. There’s also some drumming that adds like a percussive element. A kind of low indigenous drumming added to it for another timbre as well.
I could have kept going….
MB: To me, it is well done. I like that there are layers, but they are not overwhelming. Seemingly sparse, there are multiple textures and multiple layers that that can keep you interested. And that’s from listening to the ten minute recording on Band Camp.
KC: Thank you. That was a consideration because when it got too busy it got a little cacophonous and I was trying to figure out the balance of how many bird sounds go together. How many of these melodies can go at one time? And, when you start putting all the melodies together it kind of starts to sound the same even if there’s a bunch of different things playing. So there was a balance there of having only a few at a time, a handful at a time so it never really got too symphonic or too orchestral. I think we got a nice balance.
MB: I agree.
KC: Thank you, glad you think so.
(Note – I mentioned I had gone to see Patched In and it wasn’t running when it was supposed to be. I used the QR code to get to the Band Camp extract of the audio and listened to that as I walked along the alley. I didn’t have headphones so I was listening to it as loud as I could play it back on my phone.)
MB: The interesting part was there was actually probably two or three different birds in the trees; there were actually little bits of live accompaniment.
KC: Yeah, you know it’s funny because they that does happen when the music is also playing.
It often makes the birds chime in and you hear them, it’s so sweet.
MB: BE CALM.
Shall we talk about that next?
I have an idea where it came from. Having talked to you for about 45 minutes now.
KC: BE CALM was another project that was inspired; no that’s not the right term. It was another project that came about because of the pandemic. At the time when I was first coming up with it, I guess it would have been maybe fall of 2020?; the vaccines weren’t here yet and people were really scared. Folks were, like…. I mean, we all lived through it, so I know you know.
But thinking back it was a very isolating time and I was particularly thinking about seniors who were in long term care homes or that older generation who I knew were feeling disconnected from their friends and family. That was initially why I wanted to do a phone line because the phone felt like something everybody pretty much knows how to navigate. I felt it was like an older technology that is still very much used. It actually was inspired by another phone line that a school had done in Calgary. They had the kids telling jokes and it was a sweet thing. I thought that was a cool idea and maybe we could make it a little different, include the arts community. And have these different art mediums and that was what we did. We came up with nine lines for the nine numbers on the phone. It was really a sweet project. A lot of the people who were involved in particular were really happy to be doing it because they loved the idea of using their art to connect people. I think that’s like why a lot of people make art. So, we just put together this little package and we did three of them in the end. And that felt good and it was, it was meant, as a sweet project to connect people. A feel good project that people could call in and hopefully have an experience. Get a smile out of them when things were getting dark in general.
MB: It’s a very intimate thing, the act of picking up the phone and listening. In that sense I think that would increase the sense of connection. Especially with the spoken word or the kids laughing one, yeah?
KC: I mean for me, when I pick up the phone, not always but sometimes, I’m calling my good friends.
I agree it is kind of an intimate thing and it came from the idea, particularly the voice ones, that you’re connecting to people.
There’s something in particular I wanted to say here about the voice, but I think the voice carries so much actually that we pick up on subconsciously. And so, as a sound artist, I was also thinking about that too.
The act of listening to a voice is very interesting. We pick up on the tones, the way people talk and it’s absolutely part of the message that’s getting conveyed. When you’re listening to the poet recite their own poetry over the phone, you’re very close to them, and you can really hear the nuances in their voice and they’re speaking to you in that way. I hope it felt kind of personal. In a way, I was hoping that it would feel personal and no pressure. You know?
MB: The sense of connectedness that you were looking for.
KC: Yes, but without the pressure of having to respond to it in any kind of way, except to just experience it.
MB: It’s a bit of a passive listening exercise, but it’s not really.
You know the act is passive, but the result is not.
It’s fascinating to me and an amazing work.
KC: Thank you
MB: It was absolutely fit for its time. And it is still good even out of its time. It still, I’m going to use the word resonates again, because it can still reach people.
KC: None of it is grounded in any particular time. My point is that I think that if you were to listen to the pieces in 10 years or in 20 years they would still sound good.
MB: They wouldn’t be out of place.
KC: They wouldn’t be out of place. Thank you. Yes, they would still make sense. Even when the phone line is closed and it’s on the website, you know when people listen to it, it’ll still be babies giggling.
MB: It’s still going to make you smile.
KC: It’s funny.
MB: Thank you for giving people a little bit of an insight into Kathryn Calder’s process and thinking around these two works. I do have to say I could see how much BE CALM was a very personal project for you. That’s where I got the idea of ‘intimate’. It seems that BE CALM was very close to you.
KC: It was and, I mean, it deals with all the things that I love. (laughs)
What am I missing? I’m missing something.
MB: Spoken word.
KC: Spoken word yeah.
If it were a bigger project, I would’ve done more languages. I mean you could do anything with those things and have it be really cool I think.
MB: In the call for artists in for UNTIL 12 I am looking for works based on soundscape that resonates with the individual artist. The questions in the call are:
What is your perception of the sounds around you?
Does what you hear affect your sense of place?
Can the soundscape set a rhythm for you?
Are there sounds that define a special or personal environment?
How can your perception of a soundscape shape your creative output?
Any of those trigger any thoughts?
KC: When I was first starting the residency, I did this little research project at the museum.
It was for their New Year’s Eve celebration; this was 2019 New Year’s Eve.
I was trying to come up with something like this:
What do you think of like when you think of Victoria?
What sounds do you love?
Was sounds drive you crazy?
I was kind of trying to dig a little bit because I was hoping to turn it into something.
I didn’t do that project.
Something I’ve noticed about the act of recording sounds is that, personally, it makes me feel very present.
Because I’m listening. I’m listening because I’m actively recording and so I’m kind of listening in a different way than I would be if I were just out and about, or even if I was just sitting outside and listening. Because you pick out things that you want to hear and you tune out things you don’t want to hear unless they’re too loud. Then all you can hear is that thing that’s too loud.
Still, I feel it’s a different listening experience when recording because you are listening to every detail. I wasn’t even wearing headphones and I could tell that the recorder was picking up so many things. I was trying to record the birds. All of a sudden there’d be a dog barking that I‘d notice because I was trying to get something really quiet. I was trying to get it so there was no sound except the birds and it was still impossible even during the pandemic because everybody was home. I had to pick times when there weren’t people mowing the lawns and when there weren’t people out with their kids and their dogs, which they’re obviously allowed to do. But I had a goal so I was just hyper aware of every sound that was interrupting my recording. I was having to get up earlier and earlier.
I think the reason that I thought that it would be good was because at that time all the planes were grounded and I live close to the airport and there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the highway. Which is a totally bizarre and unique time. All of that to say, you become very aware of what is going on around you when you have your recording device on, and I think that’s interesting in and of itself. I think the practice of recording your space or recording walk would be interesting because I think you would hear things that you wouldn’t normally hear and, as a person who loves sound, I can appreciate that.
MB: Along the lines of Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening, that you set out with an intent to listen.
KC: It’s hard to do.
MB: It’s very hard to.
KC: It’s extremely….
It’s like you have to really….
It’s like a meditation, almost like you just really have to focus and try to not get distracted.
Because your mind will wander and then, you’re like, wait….
Wait, wait, deep listening.
I’m not deep thinking.
I’m deep listening.
MB: I live right on Hillside Ave and we have lots of traffic. Again, and again during the lockdown, one of the things I noticed was the amount of birdsong that we have here in the city. There’re all these birds, not just the robins, starlings and sparrows. There are other birds around.
KC: I know, there are tons of birds. There was an article that I read about how birds, when there’s traffic, they kind of, they just have to yell louder to be heard. And as a person who loves birds, it’s always very upsetting to read these things. But part of it is the recognition that birds live here too.
MB: There’s another population around.
KC: Yes, and we’re noisy. And I know I’m adding noise by my installation.
We’re a noisy, noisy group, humans.
When I was thinking about this project there was a podcast I was listening to about sound. There was a woman there who had grown up, I can’t remember exactly, but somewhere in like the Midwest US. Very, very rural, on a farm with nothing but nature around her. Then she moved to New York City. She found New York just so difficult to live in because there was this constant sound.
It was just a really interesting thing to think about. She had a lot of anxiety and she couldn’t figure out why. And then it finally was like, oh, that’s because there’s just constant background noise going on.
So, she puts her headphones on and listens to nature sounds as she walks down the streets of New York and that helps her. She’ll also go to Central Park and experience a little bit of nature. Be in the city and find ways to reconnect.
I’ve definitely noticed that living out here that I’m really sensitive. I’ve gotten a lot more sensitive to the city, the sounds of the city. I grew up in Fairfield so I was used to living in town and now that I’m out here I find, for example, the sounds of the bus air brakes are a really hard sound because it is very loud. I’m also sensitive anyway because I’m a musician and so I’m just, I’m just this poor sensitive person coming in from my house out by the airport. (laughs) It’s an interesting perspective shift that I’ve had because it is quite quiet out here.
MB: So, your soundscape, your preferred soundscape – if you want to talk about it that way – is less industrial, less urban, more rural.
Kevin Lee Burton
Kevin Lee Burton (Swampy Cree) is an award-winning filmmaker, programmer and freelance editor. One of the main areas in which Kevin has focused his artistic endeavors is to explore how “traditional” concepts can be coherently iterated within technological contexts. Specifically, Kevin has designed a niche by working in his ancestral tongue, Cree. Kevin received his film training at the Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking Program in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and has worked as program assistant for the Native and Indigenous Initiatives at the Sundance Institute in Beverly Hills, California. He was raised in the remote area of God’s Lake Narrows, MB, but now lives and works in Vancouver, BC.
In 2007 his experimental film, Nikamowin (Song), received the Best Experimental Video and Best Indigenous Language Production awards at the ImagineNATIVE Film Festival and then went on to do its US Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Nikamowin has also received the Best Short Film Award at the Art Gallery of Hamilton Film + Video Festival and was named one of Canada’s Top Ten short films of 2008 by the Toronto International Film Festival Group. Kevin’s experimental documentary, Writing the Land, received the Gerry Brunet Award at the Out On Screen Film Festival in Vancouver, BC and helped Kevin’s reputation as a filmmaker secure a spot in Victoria Film Festival’s Springboard Program as one of Canada’s Top Talents of 2008.
There are so many elements loaded into the term “traditional” that it can dichotomize those that exist within the term. There are too many issues about how “traditional” is defined and how this term shapes and defines Indigenous persons. Within my artistic expressions I look at linguistic, social, emotional, spiritual and psychological scenarios and try to make sense of how my “traditional” values can be coherently iterated and/or demonstrated within a technological context. I do this to explore the many unanswered questions around how the notion of how “traditional” is not only something of the past, but is current and ever fluid.
Creating a linguistic soundscape through aural elements of Cree, Kevin Lee Burton weaves sound and image with a political and rhythmic resonance. Exploring diverse landscapes by remixing their formal textures, the visual construction of this experimental video underscores questions of how languages emerge, exist, transform and dissolve.
Mark Nazemi works at the intersection of sound, technology, education, and well-being in Vancouver, Canada. He completed his Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University (SFU), School of Interactive Arts & Technology, where he currently resides as a faculty member. Mark has been involved in digital media and education for over ten years and has provided consulting services to the entertainment, health, and education industries. His research into sound and pain management has been featured at international conferences such as CHI, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, 8th Congress of the European Pain Federation, Siggraph Asia, Audio Mostly, Artech, etc., and media such as CBC radio, American News Report, and GRAND NCE. In addition, he has received the Quality Service Award from the Kaiser Permanente Journal and the R.Murray Schafer scholarship for his research in Soundscapes.
My work is constantly evolving to understand the nuanced relationship between the physical properties of sound, acoustic communication, and its impact on our well-being. There is an intentional process involved in the way I capture and manipulate sounds evoking memories or simply placing the listener in a relaxing state.
My sonic palette combines field recordings, synthesized sounds using various electronic and virtual instruments, and effects processing to shape the final compositional listening experience.
I tend to avoid labeling myself as an artist. Instead, I find it more fitting to be referred to as a sonic explorer. I gain new knowledge about my practice, sound equipment, and the auditory experience generated through my process with every composition or sound project. I take great satisfaction when a listener experiences my work and shares their reflection with me on how their whole mind and body attune to the sonic milieu, creating a calming sensation in the nervous system. Such experiences are what motivate me to continue my exploration into the possibilities of working with sound and the therapeutic effect on the body.
Mike Andrew McLean
***Please listen with headphones to hear the binaural recording.***
Mike Andrew McLean (he/ him) is an uninvited settler on lək̓ʷəŋən Traditional Territory. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows at galleries including Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Richmond Art Gallery, Open Space, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, and Gallery 44. McLean works as a sessional instructor and lecturer, and has led workshops in digital, analog and historical-based photographic processes. He is currently the Media Technologist in the Visual Art Department at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia where he lives with his family.
On the evening of December 31, 2015, after our son was tucked in bed, my wife and I ate, drank and talked about possibilities for the future. Half-jokingly, she suggested I should take up running. The next morning I went for my first slow jog, and like most who are new to the sport will attest, it was the worst. Yet when I got home, caught my breath, took some painkillers and had a coffee, something connected. Now running is structured into my weekly routine and has become integral to my physical and mental well-being. On Sunday, April 30th, 2019, I, along with 6837 others participated in the TC 10K. Unlike most of the other participants, I wore a binaural audio recorder and documented the effort. This is a vignette of that recording.
I am a painter, poet and performance artist who has exhibited my works since 1983. I have received five BC Arts Council Awards, a Canada Council Grant and I am represented in many private and public collections. I have been a founding member of several performance/music/visual art collectives such as Jiswopp:A Way of Life, The Hermaphrodite Brotherhood, Bad Sculpture and The Kelly Green Kollective. I am currently working on an international virtual reality collaboration, creating music for VR installations.
Please find enclosed an MP3, this original music is copyright free and I encourage others to download, sample or remix it.
Conference of the Birds derives its title from a Persian poem by 12th century Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar. In this allegorical poem the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their sovereign, as they have none.The birds traverse seven valleys in their search for enlightenment and freedom. My audio works is comprised of various local bird calls that have been sampled and manipulated using the Sony ACID digital programme. Additional ambient music was composed using the Caustic music application. Layers of bird call combine with soft synths and ambient rhythms to create an auditory oasis that is corollary to my recent oil on canvas bird paintings and poetry performances.
Yulia Petrova is an aspiring artist of Ukrainian-Russian descent based in Greater Victoria, British Columbia. Yulia always thought she couldn’t draw, but that changed when she met an artist who said she could teach anyone how to draw. Yulia was encouraged and soon after taking weekly lessons was amazed by the progress she was making: “I realized that most of my life I lived in illusion. Art was always an interest of mine, but I would never ever have thought that I could express what I feel and see on paper… Maybe someone in my childhood mentioned my lack of talent or that I couldn’t draw, and I believed. Now I can clearly see that it is not only about the talent… You need to have the passion for art and the desire to learn. I learn something new all the time, using different medias and trying new techniques. The learning opportunities are endless when it comes to art, but most importantly, this creative practice makes me feel more fulfilled and happier”.
From the moment I landed on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples, I was charmed by its unique acoustic identity, especially with a variety of sounds surrounding me every morning. Most of my days start with walks where I am accompanied by my furry friend Domino, my dog. Our first stop is always a coffee shop. Sounds of coffee beans being ground, people’s light chattering, patio chairs being dragged mixed in with seagulls demanding their breakfast and the rustling of leaves in the trees – it all mixes in harmony to create a soundscape of productivity, even on a grayish rainy day. This ambience shapes my creative output, as I often sketch and draw outside or take pictures to bring these stories with me – stories that were seen and inspired by a morning routine that brings things and people together, if only for a moment.
Until next time…