This post is also available in: French
Note: I completed season 1 of the conscient : art & environment blog and podcast in October 2020 and am taking a break as outlined in my pause blog. I will be back during the spring of 2021 with season 2 of the podcast on the theme of ‘reality’. Thanks Claude Schryer
I acknowledge that I live and work in the unceded and unsurrendered Territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation, whose presence in the Ottawa region reaches back to time immemorial. This acknowledgement is also a commitment.
Welcome to the conscient web site that houses the conscient blog (in English), the blogue conscient (en francais) as well as the conscient podcast (in English or French), all of which are available by free subscription.
background on the conscient project
The term “conscient” is defined as “being aware of one’s surroundings, thoughts and motivations”. With this intention in mind, the goal of conscient is to explore how the arts and culture contribute to environmental awareness and action. This goal might change as conscient evolves. The touchstone for conscient is terrified, 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. conscient follows up on my http://simplesoundscapes.ca (2016–2019) project which produced 175, 3-minute audio and video field recordings that explore mindful listening.
conscient’s carbon footprint
I am aware of the many privileges we have as Canadian citizens and I acknowledge that the production of conscient creates 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.
links to other activities
Sustainability in the Cultural Sector (video of a panel on culture and SDG as part of Together-Ensemble conference) My presentation is @32 minutes
who am I?
I am a composer and arts administrator. I was born in Ottawa in 1959. I grew up in the North Bay, Ontario area where I was a pianist, clarinettist, composer, hunter and fisherman. I was introduced to science by my father Maurice, who was a doctor, and to culture by my mother Jeannine, who is an artist. As a result, I developed a passion for both the environment and art, and this has become a focal point of my life. Here are some recordings of some of my earlier compositions:
I moved to Montreal in 1982 and travelled for residencies, tours and productions. Among other things, I worked on acoustic ecology projects with composer R. Murray Schafer, who taught me that‘soundscapes are continuous musical compositions.’ I also worked with French composer Luc Ferrari who taught me ‘that it’s about recognizing sounds one above the other and in relation to each other, that is, in layers, and this is learned through the sensitivity that one develops and through consciousness.’
During the 90s, my artistic approach was to listen, record and analyse soundscapes in order to produce electroacoustic and instrumental creations for concert and radio. For example, the first movement of Marche sonore 1 (Soundwalk 1) produced in 1992 in collaboration with Hélène Prévost at Radio-Canada, is an example of my interest in editing from voices and soundscapes:
In 1997, I tried to describe my artistic practice in the following way: ‘I want to write electroacoustic novels that use the sound environment as a paramusical language. I want to use wind as a noun, water as a verb and the beep-beep of a truck backing up as an adjective. I want to conjugate noise with the past future and bring the listener to the heart of a sound story, perhaps without words and perhaps even without music…‘
In other words, it was the context of sound that fascinated me back then (and still does today). I’ve always loved what surrounds music: the atmospheres, the noises, the empty spaces, the mistakes, the conversations, the random noises, etc. In essence, most everything except (and this might seem contradictory) the final product in the concert hall (without offence to my dear musician colleagues).
I was married to Sabrina Mathews in June, 1998. Our son Riel was born also in January 1998 and our daughter Clara was born in October 2001.
The ‘electroacoustic composition’ chapter of my artistic practice came to an end on August 9, 1999 when I accepted a position at the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa to lead the Inter-Arts Office. I went to be the senior strategic advisor in arts granting from 2016 until my retirement in 2020.
In 2016, I am ready to return to my artistic practice. I produced www.simplesoundscapes.ca, a series of 3-minute audio and video recordings that explore conscious listening in relation to my Zen practice.
Soundscapes have always been a form of knowledge, pleasure and discovery for me. A way of life. I love the process of recording soundscapes. I feel present moment when I capture a sound or an image. I then follow my creative instincts and produce artistic works from these fragments. For example, episode 74 – Sky, recorded on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal during the spring of 2018.
During this time, I became a student at the Ottawa Zen Centre, under the guidance of Venerable Anzan Hoshin roshi, who taught us that ‘zen is simply a matter of paying attention to our real experiences and our lives as they are’.
The simplesoundscapes chapter of my artistic practice comes to an end in July 2019 with a 175th broadcast. I decide to take a break from my microphone in order to reflect on the climate crisis.
In January 2020, I launched conscient: art & environment and I publish my first podcast, terrified. My goal is to explore the contribution of art and culture to environmental awareness and action.
I invite you to contact me through the social media listed on the conscient web site or to email@example.com. This web site was developed in collaboration with Ayesha Barmania. Thanks to everyone who has supported conscient.