My monthly conscient blog for February 2023 with learning and unlearning for the month of January 2023.
january 1, 2023
I had an exchange with a colleague about how encouragement was important…
especially during times that seem to often gaslight and isolate people for going against the currentfrom a colleague in the podcasting community
Everything we do is an offering to life, whether we know it or not. Some have positive impact, most not but all we can do is offer and try to reciprocate when we receive, right?
This exchange reminded me of this swimmer in a sketch by Sabrina Mathews and the energy it takes to swim upstream as opposed to ‘going with the flow’. More on this later in the year…
january 2, 2023
Episode 1 (e101) was a great start and stirring for me. I wanted it to last longer (even though my answer to your question was that I felt restless and annoyed). The gift of silence and breathing throughout and especially towards the end are so much appreciated. I am curious if these silences appear in the middle, how much are we conditioned not to trust the silence/devices and to sway towards checking our phones/devices to see whether the soundtrack stopped or is still playing. This can be an episode by itself 🙂from a colleague from the Facing Human Wrongs course
I wonder if others have had this experience of thinking their device was broken or the stream disrupted while listening? I do plan more episodes on silence.
january 3, 2023
I walked down the sea line of San Andrés Island, in the Caribbean, as I listened.
Felt the ten
I grew up on this island. I notice the shoreline getting smaller.
I notice the corals turning grey. I notice the buildings growing taller. The overlapping regaetton and vallenato music from competeen speakers.
I notice everything getting louder.
I notice the
Tens – ion.
I notice the menus saying fish is scarce.
In my lungs the tension. In my eyes the tension.
In my waves, in my feet.
The tension.from Carolina Duque, Columbia
Gracias Carolina, Thank you for the beautiful soundwalk poem. I was reading Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing book today and came upon this sentence that relates to your response ‘I hold up bioregionalism as a model for how we might begin to think again about place’, which to me means that we need to be stewards of the land, wherever we are, in collaboration with all living beings.
e22 westerkamp – slowing down through listening – conscient podcast
january 3, 2023
Thank you for this first installment. As it came to its end, I heard a few additional deeper pitches that sounded like a cadence to the pitches you had played up to that point. It sounded like they were also part of your piece! Turns out they came from downstairs, from my electric piano, on which a young friend was experimenting with various pitches. An interesting release of tension… Your plucking of the fish line demonstrated tension and its release in a clear, sonic way. Not so the fence sounds. To my ears they were the sounds of resonance, a sound filling a space, giving voice to its inner dimensions. I hear no tension in that. What do you think?from Hildegard Westerkamp, Vancouver
Thanks for your comment. I’m not surprised that other sounds mix in with so much silence at the end of e101. Another response I received today suggested I do an entire episode about silence, which I might… You make a good point about the plucking versus fence sounds. The ocean fence with stick (2nd fence) was meant to represent the release of tension in time as opposed to a pitch slow down. The fence tap with finger (1st fence) was intended as a steady pulse to contrast the other 2 moving ones, however I realize now that it might have better to find a different ‘slowing down pace’ sound. Overall, my intention was to suggest that we carry a lot of excess tension in our modern lives and bodies and that it is useful to release the tension by slowing down our pace so that we can notice ‘how we feel now’. That’s actually what you said in your conversation with me in https://www.conscient.ca/podcast/e22-westerkamp/ about slowing down through listening… Thanks for this learning moment.
e58 huddart – the arts show us what is possible – conscient podcast
january 3, 2023
Thank you for a welcome and welcoming portal into reflection about the moment we are living through. The tensions you’ve captured in this soundscape reflect the simultaneous dying down of manufactured tensions that have long kept me attuned to things like the daily news ‘Kevin McCarthy fails to get elected on one, two, three, four, five, six votes’. (who cares?) ‘Fishing line tension’ is giving way to a more resonant one – your fingers on a fence rang with the tension of a new sound and rhythm. There’s a tension between what is dying and what is being born, at least to those who hear it, and these days, when I’m doing qigong or just sitting looking at the ocean, I sometimes feel like I embody it. There’s a third element though – the one that is about the ‘I’ or the eye that is observing tensions one and two. Seeing and hearing these, and naming them, situates me in the moment. Happy New Year my friend, and thank you, StephenStephen Huddart, Victoria BC
Thank you, Stephen. The portal is indeed intended to be a humble offering (my next blog is on this topic). I agree that the tensions I heard that day in Vancouver (pluck, tap, strike) can serve as metaphor for various forms of ‘dying downs’ but also of rebirth if we are able to figure out the ‘art of staying in balance’. I had not thought of the third sound as an observer but the pace of our walking about is a way of opening our senses and situating us in this moment. The silence that follows is an invitation to make note of that space, which is why I ask ‘how do you feel now’ because every time you listen to e101 your external and interior space will be different in that silence. My hope is that it opens the listeners’ awareness to their reality in that moment (my zen training!) which could lead to an act of kindness towards another living being or perhaps simply treading more lightly on this good earth.
I recall our conversation from e58 huddart – the arts show us what is possible where you said:
We are in this position of emerging awareness that in order to have this civilization, in some form, continue we have to move quickly, and the arts can help us do that by giving us a shared sense of this moment and its gravity, but also what’s possible and how quickly that tipping point could be reached.
Thanks for this learning and unlearning moment.
january 5, 2023
It’s beautiful and transparent, all this reflection.from Shuni Tsou, Ottawa
Thank you Shuni. I am trying to find a balance between aesthetic pleasure (a critical element in our lives) and the ‘hard’ role of art to show us the ‘ugliness’ around us that we have to face. Transparency, in this sense, is essential, insofar as it is necessary to face reality in order to move forward. The role of art, as you said so well in é32 tsou – changing our culture is fundamental (in French):
Citizen engagement is necessary for cultural change around climate action. It’s really a cultural shift in any setting. When you want to make big systemic changes, you have to change the culture, and arts and culture are good tools to change the culture.
january 15, 2023
Here’s something interesting: as I was listening to this meditation, the furnace in my home started circulating warm air, as it does when the temperature gets below the number I’ve set for it. There was a rumbling sound at first followed by a forceful airflow, and it felt like the sounds in my own home were competing with the sounds in this recording – different methods of distributing heat battling it out, asserting their superiority. Does the loudest win? Or is the aim to be as soundless as possible, so we don’t have to acknowledge its existence in our lives? There, I answered your question with a question!From Jessica Ruano (Ottawa)
january 15, 2023
Thank you, Claude, for this piece and your question. I had hoped that decarbonization would generally sound quieter. Like Jessica, I heard my gas furnace come on in tandem with your heat pump. Would the electric power source of your heat pump not mean a quieter motor? Having driven a hybrid car for years now, has been a much quieter driving experience since I sold my VW Golf. Is your heat pump as loud as your gas furnace was, or are we simply hearing a close-up recording and in fact the sound in the rest of your house may be quieter? And what is the source of the knocking sound?From Hildegard Westerkamp (Vancouver)
I replied :
Hildi and all, Thanks for your thoughts. What you hear in the piece are 3 recordings 1. the tapping sound of tin from the basement to the 2nd floor during the installation 3. gentle rumble of the heat pump in the basement after it was installed 3. Loud exterior fan. Overall the sound volume of the heat pump system is quieter than the gas furnace because there is a constant flow of air with the heat pump as opposed to the ‘surge’ of the gas furnace. My goal with the e103 heat was to invite listeners to experience the sound of energy production and reflect upon how they might make different choices to reduce their carbon footprint. Interesting that the sounds and silence in the episodes are mixing with real sounds in the listener’s space.
I also had the privilege this week of facilitating a discussion with fellow sound artists at ecoartspace’s Sound Dialogues, where we talked about a range of issues , including the ethics of field recording and this resource was shared:
january 22 2023
Thanks so much to those who have taken the time to share public or private comments. Here are some of my learnings and unlearnings in relation to these gifts.
A colleague (USA) wrote:
I found it very intriguing and appreciated how you tuned into and out of different frequencies in episode 102. Since listening, I’ve found myself trying to do something similar with my body, noticing what sounds I tend to tune into and out of. I wonder how de-modernizing art won’t be linear? It almost felt like the spoken narrative followed a more linear path whereas the sounds were more cyclical and messy. It was an interesting juxtaposition.
Sound artist and broadcaster Don Hill (Alberta) wrote:
So, yes — the city is humming along in a flatted G (aka 47 Hz)… How does this compare with other cityscapes? And how does that perceived hum jive with local power grids, such as they are around the world, ranging from (an unusual) 40 Hz (sic) to 50 Hz (much of europe, for instance) and 60 Hz (North America, Japan…). What kind of standing waves may occur in the human central nervous system? And what of it (affects and so forth)?
What if we were more ‘conscient’ of how frequencies affect us? How would this inform our behaviour?
That same colleague (USA) also wrote about e103 heat:
Sometimes I hum to my furnace/AC unit, trying to harmonize. Last summer, it started getting me thinking about humming to well pads since there is a lot of fracking for natural gas in my hometown. I have a dream to audio record a well pad and then try to create some sort of music with it. Your question about decarbonization brought me back to this. How can we make music with what’s hurting the land and our bodies? How can this be both healing and harmful?
I will ponder this good question, which raises the issue of exploitation of the land through recording and of the (intentional or unintentional) ‘aestheticization’ of our environment for profit, which is an ethical dilemma that I struggle with every day, microphone in hand…
january 29, 2023
In particular, I took to heart how the article begins:
We chose the word “gesture” for the title of our collective to underscore the fact that decolonization is impossible when our livelihoods are underwritten by colonial violence and unsustainability. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, our health systems and social security, and the technologies that allow us to write about this are all subsidized by expropriation, dispossession, destitution, genocides and ecocides. There is no way around it: we cannot bypass it, the only way is through. …
How we fail is important. It is actually in the moments when we fail that the deepest learning becomes possible and that is usually where we stumble upon something unexpected and extremely useful. Failing generatively requires both intellectual and relational rigour.
Like falling off a bike and getting back up again?
What did I learn since my last blog? For example, I wrote in the conscient newsletter :
One of my learnings from this project is letting go of expectations and the need for validation. Rather, without pretence and with humility, it is better to present one’s artwork as an offering and through this creative work, to deepen connections and relations.
I also learned to be (more) patient this week.
A good friend told me that my podcast does not take 5 minutes in one’s life, it requires much more: time to prepare, absorb and reflect on the content and even more time and energy to respond. This friend mentioned that we are already over solicited and our attention is precious. They said, ‘I don’t have the headspace’…
Message received and thank you.
Thanks for setting the pace on creative responses, Peter!
january 29, 2023
I listened to this (e105 rope) with my 12 year old daughter. In the beginning, we felt the sound inside our bodies and then like we were in a cavern under the ocean and finally emerging above ground at the end, with the sound of the wind and people talking.from Kelly Langgard and Lychee (Toronto)
Thanks for your response! I’m glad you had such an interesting journey with these sounds and silences. I can relate to feeling inside the sound, caved in and finally emerging into the air! My intention wiht e105 rope was to have a series of ‘spaced out’ versions of the rope followed by the real sound which provides a contrast but also an opportunity to reflect upon what the creaking feels like, including a sensation of relief.
january 29, 2023
This morning I listened to episode 105 ‘rope’ of the conscient podcast. I listened to it while walking in the Sonora Desert and looking at the impressive San Jacinto Mountains. I felt the tension of the rope with the movement of the water. I also felt the immense tension that the mountain created, pushing a large layer of land upwards. Then the silences… like the silences of the mountain that occupy a completely different temporal reality and which, in this moment, cultivates immobility in its meditative state. In short, a very inspiring episode! Thank you.’From France Trépanier (Sonora Desert, USA)
Glad to read about your experience with e105. e105 is open to all interpretations. By the way, it reminds me of… e104 time, where you said:
‘with hindsight, we will realize that this was a very small moment in a much larger space, and that we are returning to very deep knowledge.’
Thank you for this reminder that there are much larger spaces and silences whose temporal reality eludes us.
january 30, 2022
I really appreciated the train sound (e 104 time) and the invitation to reflect on what it means to be a small moment in a much larger space. A lot to unpack there in such a very subtle proposal.From Flora Gomez (Toronto)
Yours is the first comment on this episode, which so far, is closest to what I originally intended with this project, e.g. a field recording that sounds and feels like modernity (train passing), followed by moment of transition (revealing an urban space after the train passes) and concluding with a point of arrival (mountain forest) accompanied by the wise words of France Trépanier. Thanks for your feedback and for the opportunity to ‘unpack’ this episode.
january 31, 2023
Congrats on your new initiative – I liked e104 especially I tried e105 as audio only first – it was much more intriguing with video added, for me. I love your use of ‘incidental text’ (or none) in these, and their brevity. (Who can’t afford 5’?)From Peter Hatch (Saltspring Island BC)
Peter goes on to add my first audiovisual response to an episode:
A couple of weeks ago I made a train recording that I was happy with (using Rode Go II mics) in Bellingham. Related to your topic, it seemed a nice metaphor for our western (linear) view of time. Fittingly, it was a coal train. Here it is if you’re interested: https://vimeo.com/792706570/602c02ba6c.
Time as objective reality has never made much sense to me. It’s what happens that matters. How can minutes and years, devices of our own creation, mean the same thing to gnats and to cedars? Two hundred years is young for the trees whose tops this morning are hung with mist. It’s an eyeblink of time for the river and nothing at all for the rocks. The rocks and the river and these very same trees are likely to be here in another two hundred years, if we take good care. As for me, and that chipmunk, and the cloud of gnats milling in a shaft of sunlight—we will have moved on.
Thanks for setting the pace on creative responses, Peter!