e52 mahtani – listening and connecting

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If we can find ways to encourage people to listen, that can help them to build a connection, even if it’s to a small plot of land near them. By helping them to have a new relationship with that, which will then expand and help hopefully savour a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our natural world, and small steps like that, even if it’s only a couple of people at a time, that could spread. I think that nobody, no one person, is going to be able to change the world, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. 

dr. annie mahtani, conscient podcast, june 11, 2021, united kingdom

Note: This episode is dedicated to World Listening Day on July 18 2021 on the theme of The Unquiet Earth. It was published on that day, which is also the birthday of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. For more information see https://www.worldlisteningproject.org/

Dr. Annie Mahtani is an electroacoustic composer, sound artist and performer working and living in Birmingham (UK). She studied with Jonty Harrison at master’s and doctoral level at the University of Birmingham, completing her PhD in 2008. Annie’s output encompasses electronic music composition from acousmatic music to free improvisation. As a collaborator, Annie Mahtani has worked extensively with dance and theatre, and on site-specific installations. With a strong interest in field recording, her work often explores the inherent sonic nature and identity of environmental sound, amplifying sonic characteristics that are not normally audible to the naked ear. Annie is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham and is co-director of SOUNDkitchen, a Birmingham-based collective of curators, producers and performers of live electronic music and sound art. 

I first met Annie at The Global Composition gathering in Dieburg, Germany (with thanks to organizer Sabine Breitsameter) where she presented some of her audio work and ideas on soundwalking and technology. 2 years later I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop on Reality, Extinction, Grief and Art at the BEAST FeAST 2021: Recalibration on April 23, 2021 in Birmingham (via Zoom), which explored greater appreciation of the environment, reconnection with the environment and deeper awareness of human effects on the environment. 

This workshop with 30 or so audio artists from around the world had a profound affect me. It helped me understand some of the issues my community of audio artists were facing and reminded me of the burden placed on young people as they inherit this troubled world. I also appreciated their guarded optimism and resilience. One participant suggested that, given the climate emergency, maybe all music should be acoustic ecology (the study of the acoustic environment as a whole as opposed to only the art of music) from now on. Maybe… 

This quote from the episode summarizes Annie’s thinking on the role of the festival:

For the (BEAST) festival we wanted to look at what COVID has done to alter and adjust people’s practice, the way that composers and practitioners have responded to the pandemic musically or through listening and also addressing the wider issues: what does it mean going forwards after this year, the year of uncertainty, the year of opportunity for many? What does it mean going forward to our soundscape, to our environmental practice and listening? We presented that goal for words, as a series of questions, you know, not expecting necessarily any answers, but a way in a way to address it and a way to explore and that’s what the, the weekend of concerts and talks and workshops was this kind of exploration of our soundscapes, thinking about change and thinking about our future.

I would like to thank Annie for taking the time to speak with me about our shared interest in electroacoustic music, for her excellence as a composer and curator, for her commitment to social justice and her passion for listening. 

For more information on Annie’s work, see http://www.anniemahtani.co.uk/

travail d’Annie, voir http://www.anniemahtani.co.uk/

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