Season 4 (2023) : Sounding Modernity – your weekly 5-minute sound meditation

e99 winter diary revisited – homage to r. murray schafer (25′ introduction + 40′ composition + 3′ credits)

e99 winter diary revisited - homage to r. murray schafer (25' introduction + 40' composition in 12 parts + 3m credits) is a 68-minute episode that closes season 3 and features a soundscape composition of mine based on an unpublished essay that composer R. Murray Schafer wrote after a 10-day field recording trip that he and I undertook in rural Manitoba in February 1997 to produce a radio program on winter soundscapes for the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (WDR). In this episode, I ‘revisit’ this trip by illustrating Schafer's text with new winter soundscapes recorded in Ontario and Quebec in 2022 as well as archival soundscapes. The final mix was realized and presented as part of a residency at the New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) in South River, Ontario. 2. e99 (b) winter diary revisited - homage to r. murray schafer (composition only) is the 40-minute composition only (without the introduction or credits). A video version is also available on vimeo. The French language version is cons conscient episode 100. I'll be back with season 4 in January 2023.

Note: an article for the Institute for Music in Canada about this composition is available here : Winter Diary Revisited  
e99 winter diary revisited trailer
e99 winter diary revisited video version

Episode Notes

Barn on the farm of R. Murray Schafer and Eleanor James, Indian River, Ontario, January 19, 2022 (photo by me)

Note: the text below is a transcription of the narration in the episode (sounds are described, with their source where possible)

Welcome to episode 99 of the conscient podcast, the last episode of season 3, which you might recall was on the theme of radical listening. 

(fade in of sound of barn)

I invite you to guess what is this space. There are some sonic clues. It’s clearly an indoor space and yet there is a hollowing wind with a deep, rich texture… You can hear the gentle crackling of wood… the occasional slap of a rope… a squirrel. 

(fade out sound of barn)

This soundscape was recorded on January 19th, 2022, in a barn, on a farm that belonged to composer R. Murray Schafer and is now the home of his wife, the singer Eleanor James. The farm is located near Indian River, Ontario, about 20k east of Peterborough which is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga people adjacent to Haudenosaunee Territory and in the territory covered by the Williams Treaty. 

I went to the farm to record winter soundscapes for this episode, Winter Diary Revisited, which is a soundscape composition dedicated to the memory of composer, writer, music educator, and environmentalist, R. Murray Schafer.

1st floor of barn of R. Murray Schafer and Elanor James, near Indian River, ON, January 19, 2022
Eleanor James, January 19, 2022, Indian River, Ontario (photo by me)

While visiting the farm, I had a conversation with Eleanor James about Murray and his relationship to winter. Here is an excerpt:

Claude: I’m with Eleanor James and I just spent some time in your barn. Thank you so much. I recorded a bunch of sounds, and I went into the forest and captured sounds of wind and some of the things that Murray and I did when we did the Winter Diary, which is to do this kind of yelling out, to enliven the space and get a feeling of it.

 (sound of snowshoeing and distant ‘Hey’ at the farm on January 19, 2022)

Claude: There are so many things that you could talk about Murray. Any thoughts about soundscapes but also around recording and winter sounds? 

Eleanor: There’s a couple of things come to mind, which are in his creative output and one of them is Music in the Cold. It’s a lovely little manifesto done in an artistic style about how it’s better to be in the North than in the South and that music in the cold is tougher and hardier and more austere and (laughs) so he goes into a diatribe about that kind of thing. He really is a Northern personality. So, you have to forgive him for going on a rant about it, but, of course, it was an artistic creation, so it was intended to be hyperbolic. I think it’s quite delightful. It’s got a midnight blue cover and then the title Music in the Cold.

Speaking of which, he has written a wonderful string quartet called Winter Birds which the Molinari quartet of Montreal have recorded, in which his own voice occurs in the very last movement where he describes the winter of 2005 looking out his studio window at the birds feeding. We used to fill the feeders with seeds, and we’d have all kinds of little birds coming and fluttering and going and making little soft sounds. In the string quartet, he describes a whole event of birds, just fluttering and coming and going and the total silence surrounding them, not only acoustically, but visually as well. Nothing but the snow, just like it is today, with snow heaped everywhere and just these little birds making tiny fluttering sounds with their wings.

There’s also the piece that he wrote for choir called Snowforms which is actually quite popular, and he wrote it as a graphic score and it’s written on a sort of pale turquoise green paper, and the choir reads the shapes of snow and again, those shapes were something that he observed looking out his studio window and drew graphically and then composed it so that pitches were associated with these tones. It’s just a marvelous description of winter and so for Murray, all of the soundscape work that he was so interested in fed into his artistic abilities and his artistic gifts as a composer.


Note: See String Quartet no. 10 – Winter Birds (extrait) / R. Murray Schafer for an excerpt of Winter Birds performed by the Molinari Quartet. See Snowforms for a performance of Snowforms by the Vancouver Chamber Choir.

I re-read Murray’s Music in the Cold book when I got back home to Ottawa, which he wrote in 1977, when I was 17. It’s interesting to look back at this piece of artistic reflection and provocation. Here are the last 11 lines of the book: 

Saplings are beginning to sprout again in the moist earth.

Beneath it animals can be heard digging their burrows.

Soon the thrush will return.

The old technology of waste is gone.

What then remains?

The old virtues: harmony; the universal soul; hard work.

I will live supersensitized, the antennae of a new race.

I will create a new mythology.

It will take time.

It will take time.

There will be time. 

(fade in recording of Eclogue for an Alpine Meadow)

I remember back in August of 1985, the late composer Robert Rosen, Murray and I produced a series of ecological radio programs to be performed at Spry Lake, near Canmore, Alberta. Murray was in Banff to present his music theatre piece Princess of the Stars. We each wrote a piece of music for this space.  Mine was for bass clarinet and trombone called ‘Eclogue for an Alpine Meadow’ . You can hear me on bass clarinet. Murray was a mentor to Robert and myself on this project, sharing his vast experience in writing music for and with a natural environment. 

Note: You can hear the entire piece on the Whom Am I page of the conscient podcast website. 

Robert Rosen, R. Murray Schafer and me in Banff in 1985 during ecological radio programs project (photo credit unknown)
Excerpt of first page of my ‘Eclogue for an Alpine Meadow’ for bass clarinet and trombone
Me and trombonist (name not known) at Spray Lake, Alberta, recording ‘Eclogue for an Alpine Meadow’ for bass clarinet and trombone (photo credit unknown)

Murray’s music, and in particular his research in acoustic ecology, have had a deep influence on many composers, educators, researchers and sound artists around the world, including myself. Among other things, Murray taught me how to listen deeply, both with my ears and with a microphone.

Me, Kozo Hiramatsu and R. Murray Schafer at Hör Upp! Stockholm acoustic ecology conference, Stockholm, Sweden 1998 (photo credit unknown)

I remember having long conversations with Murray about listening, radio, acoustic ecology, field recording, technology, including how it make a living as a composer. Here is a short excerpt from a conversation I had with him in July of 1990 in a restaurant in Peterborough. I apologise for the poor quality of the recording, but I think you’ll enjoy listening to Murray speak about the art of listening:

You probe by asking further questions. Was it inside? Was it outside? Are there a lot of people assembled there? Is there nobody there? Is this in Canada? Is it outside of Canada? Is it in Europe? You heard a train. Is it Canadian train whistle or a European train whistle? You heard a language. What language was it you heard? Any of these cues that you might have heard that would help you identify where you were and then tell them afterwards where the actual recording was made but force them to really use their ears. Did you hear any birds? Did you hear any of this, did you hear any sounds that would help you to localize? I’m just saying that that’s one sort of type of exercise, which I think someday somebody should put together a package, an educational package.

I just feel that one has to constantly go back to nature and listen again, look again, learn again. It’s as simple as that. Anytime you get too far in touch with it, you’re probably going to be in trouble. If you don’t know how to come, go back and look at a butterfly, because you’re so spell bound by strobe lights or something, I think you’re in trouble, which is not to say that you can’t go back and look at it and reanalyze it. It will change things and then you go back to your old environment and see things differently. In nature, what you’re so conscious of is a cycle of life and death, and rather the interchange, that almost sine wave of life and death, but also of silence and activity and that there are certain times when certain creatures are far and certain other times when they speak and that you take in the natural soundscape. Sometimes it’s hard to find those rhythms in a modern urban soundscape where everybody sounds so aggressively trying to catch the attention of everyone else.

Claude: they lose touch with the balance of their lives.

Murray passed away on August 14, 2021, at age 88 in his farmhouse.

Home of R. Murray Schafer and Eleanor James, Indian River, Ontario, January 19, 2022
Studio of R. Murray Schafer, Indian River, Ontario, January 19, 2022

Shortly after his passing, I was honoured to be asked to write a remembrance piece about my personal experience with Murray. This request came from Eric Leonardson, president of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) an organization that Murray helped found in 1993 at the Banff Centre and that continues its good work to this day. Kirk MacKenzie and Robin Elliott of the University of Toronto also approached me to write a remembrance piece about Murray for a series of memorials they are producing about Murray and his legacy. 

I decided to produce a soundscape composition instead of writing an article for this remembrance piece. Here’s the story.

In 1996, Murray received a commission from the Akustische Kunst department of the West German Radio, the WDR, in Germany, produced by Klaus Schöning, to record a radio program about the winter soundscapes of rural Manitoba called Winter Diary. Murray had produced many radio pieces before for the CBC and the WDR, but he needed a hand with this rather large-scale production, so he hired me as a recordist, editor and mixer, but also as a driver and scout. I was 37 at the time and was about to be married to filmmaker Sabrina Mathews and start a family in Montreal, which we did.  However back then I still had the time and energy to do a 10-day road trip and to spend weeks afterwards editing it together with Murray. We certainly had a lot of fun together on that trip

(sequence of Claude and Murray laughing during the recording of ‘Winter Diary’ in 1997)

Me in my home studio in Montreal in the 1990’s (photo credit unknown)
Letter from R. Murray Schafer to me, September 27, 1998

Winter Diary ended up winning the Karl-Sczuka-Prize for radio art in 1998. I was deeply moved by the jury’s statement, which I think captures the spirit of Murray’s composition and the essence of our collaboration in its production:

It is with great autonomy and imperturbability that Schafer draws the sound spectrum of a Canadian winter into his acoustic image. From the calm sequence of concise sound events an acoustic landscape emerges, almost spatial in its presence. To the point of noiselessness, of silence, everything audible is there concretely and non-arbitrarily. It is a work which ushers its listeners to a place of unhurried, patient listening, insists upon the wealth of nuances in acoustic perception, and takes a stand against sound refuse and staged hyperactivity.

Scan of the first paragraph of Schafer’s Winter Diary (not Dairy :-)) essay, February 15, 1997

While I was doing research for this piece, I found the first draft of an unpublished, 13-page essay in my archives that Murray wrote, at his farm, on February 15th, 1997, about the creation of Winter Diary. I was so excited. It’s a brilliant piece of writing about our adventures in Manitoba, but the essay also includes reflections on a number of other issues: listening, art history, philosophy, his dreams, literature, and use the microphone. I decided to create a composition around his essay. A sonic illustration and interpretation of his words. 

But first let me tell a bit of a story about microphones. Murray had a love – hate relationship with the microphone. Here is another excerpt from that July 1990 restaurant conversation where he talks a bit more about distant listening, which is a key element of his aesthetic:

If the microphone replaces your ear, there’s something wrong. And as you see in a lot of our listening that 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.

Claude (in the field from afar, recorded at Adawe Crossing, Ottawa): 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 think you understand what I mean. 

Adawe Crossing, Rideau River, Ottawa where I recorded the ‘distant’ passage above, January 2022

With the kind permission of Eleanor James, I used excerpts from Murray’s essay as the narrative for the soundscape composition that you are about to hear. I did not use any of the field recordings from our original trip in 1997, outside of those few moments of laughter. Instead, I decided to record all new material during the winter of 2022, some 25 years later, not in Manitoba, but rather around where I live in Ontario and Québec, hence the idea of revisiting Winter Diary. However, I did use some field recordings from my archives, as well as a few excerpts from some of my previous soundscape compositions. All of those are noted in the episode script. Most of the soundscapes that you’re about to hear are natural but a few have been transformed using tools like GRM Tools and ‘spatialisers’. I was interested in exploring that liminal space between reality and fantasy. 

While recording these winter soundscapes, and it’s been a cold winter so far as you’ll hear, I kept thinking about what the Karl Szuckaprize jury said about Murray’s interest in the ‘noiselessness of silence’. I also thought about the idea of ushering the listener ‘to a place of unhurried, patient listening’.

I tried to explore the idea of patient, unhurried listening in this piece as well as the notion of radical listening.

Me on January 17, 2022 recording winter soundscapes in Ottawa (photo by Sabrina Mathews)

Before we start, I want to let you know that some recordings are very quiet, at the threshold of what you might be able to hear on speakers or headphones so don’t worry if you hear long silences or can’t make out some of the detail, especially if you are in a car or in a noisier environment. You can listen to the Winter Diary Revisited again, in high resolution.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to honour the memory of R. Murray Schafer and hope you enjoy this sonic illustration from his Winter Diary essay.

Script

Note: This script is drawn from R. Murray Schafer’s Winter Diary Essay, first draft, February 15, 1997 (sounds are described with their source where possible)

(door slapping and footsteps approaching the gate and mailbox at Murray’s farm in Indian River)

1. gates

Gate at Murray and Eleanor’s property near Indian River, January 19, 2022 (photo by me)

Claude Schryer came by today to plan the Winter Diary radio program for the West German Radio. After dinner we walked the quarter mile out to the road. 

(walking towards the gate)

There was a powdering of light snow, making the landscape bright under the stars. I opened and closed the gate while Claude recorded it; then I went to the tin mailbox and flapped the lid – both are sounds characteristic of rural life in Canada. 

(mailbox lid and gate)

The flapping got the neighbour’s dog barking. Then, more distantly other dogs began to bark. Dogs were the original alarm systems in the countryside and remain so despite electronic technology. Could be a thief or a wolf out there. The message is telegraphed from farm to farm and behind every dark doorway a farmer cocks his gun. The dogs grew silent again as we trudged back. 

(crossfade entry of house towards fire)

Entering the warm house with a fire burning brightly in the grate, I suddenly realized that we had already discovered a valuable leitmotif for our program: the contrast between warm, populated rooms

(crossfade with quiet cedar forest)

 and the vast, cold spaces that surround them during the Canadian winter.

(wind from Murray’s farm, slow fade to silence)

Screen door at my cottage, Duhamel, Québec, December 2021 (photo by me)

2. doors

There is a painting by Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) entitled “Merrymaking” that illustrates this drama between interior and exterior. 

(my wife Sabrina, son Riel and daughter Clara exiting our home and walking into our yard)

A party at the Jolifu Inn is breaking up and the revellers are spilling out to depart into the cold, snowy dawn.  The drama of the scene is depicted in Brueghel style, but the contrast between hot interior and cold exterior is distinctly Canadian. The same theme recurs in our best novelists, for instance in Frederick Philip Grove’s, “Over Prairie Trails” (1922) or in Sinclair Ross’s, “As for Me and My House” (1941). The contrast between interior and exterior creates the drama between society and selfhood. Marshall McLuhan summed it up epigrammatically when he said that Canadians go out to be alone and come in to be with company while elsewhere people go out to be with company and come home to be alone. 

Woman skater (family friend): If you’re really lucky to be at a cottage in the winter in the morning and they’re almost no sounds and you’ll hear a branch cracking or something…

(Quiet forest with cracking of frozen trees)

The hinge is the door. One sound characteristic of the Canadian countryside is the slap of a screen door. 

(Various door slappings from Murray’s farm and our cottage)

I’ve known it since my childhood. Of course, it is intended to keep the insects out of the house in summer but out of laziness the screen door is often left on during winter too – as mine is. The door has a coil spring attached to it so that it will slap shut quickly. Usually there is another contraption on the side with a hairpin spring to snap it firm. If it isn’t oiled, it squeaks. So, the entire sound event is actually quite complex, consisting first of a swish as the door opens, then a swoosh as it closes followed by a residual snap as the second spring is released to hold it shut. 

(More door sounds)

The subject of doors could occupy a doctoral thesis or two. Every continent and climate has its own vocabulary and rhetoric of doors as different as the languages of the people who open and close them.

(More door sounds)

3. trains

Passing train from simplesoundscapes e73, March 20, 2018, Montréal (photo by me)

(processed L14 train whistle with GRM Evolution Tool and Dear VR Pro spatializer)

Every Canadian knows the three-toned Canadian train whistle – without knowing it. Tuned to an E-flat minor triad with a fundamental at 311 Hertz, it’s the most authoritative sound mark of the country, curiously analogous to the Yellow Bell or Huang Chung, which established the tuning for all music in the golden days of ancient China.

(Meditation bell)

The legend goes that when the tuning of the Yellow Bell was abandoned the empire would fall into ruin.

(Overpass from simplesoundscapes e167 above + train passing with gate processing)

Something like that is happening here, for today more and more train whistles are out of tune, and with the building of overpasses and tunnels urban dwellers rarely ever hear them. 

(more processed L14 train whistle)

Canadian railroads all run east-west. As the authority of the railroad vanishes the east-west axis gives way to a south-north bias, i.e., American invasion. … Eventually in the far distance we hear the L14 whistle (the signal for a level crossing, long, long, short, long,) which incidentally is also the rhythm of the opening phrase of the Canadian national anthem.

(noon siren excerpt from my 1996 composition Vancouver Soundscape Revisited)

4. hooves

‘Cricket’, Mono, Ontario during recording of ‘hooves’ scene. (photo by me)

(wind from Murray’s farm) 

It is warmer today then yesterday and a heavy fog lies over the snow so that the acoustic horizon surpasses the visual. Frederick Philip Grove talks about getting lost in the fog in Over Prairie Trails. Then he had to rely on the instinct of his horses.

(sound of horse hooves from Cricket in Mono, Ontario)

Note: below is a quote from Frederick Philip Grove’s Over Prairie Trails, Toronto, 1991, p.47.

‘I had become all ear. Even though my buggy was silent and though the road was coated with a thin film of soft clay-mud. I could distinctly hear by the muffled thud of the horses’ hooves on the ground that they were running over a grade.’ 

(Grade and farm sounds and return of hoove sounds)

‘That confirmed my bearings… So now I was close to the three-farm cluster. I listened intently again for the horses’ thump. Yes, there was that muffled hoof-beat again – I was on the last grade that led to the angling road across the corner of the marsh.‘ 

5. microphones

Zoom H4N Pro recording wind sounds at R. Murray Schafer farm, January 19, 2022

(wind from Murray’s field)

What would the Prairies be without wind? 

(Wind from Murray’s barn mixed with forest sounds in South River, Ontario)

It’s the keynote sound here, the one against which everything else is registered. But to record it? Impossible. The microphone hasn’t yet been invented to effectively record nature’s most elementary sounds: wind, rain, fire.

(thunder and rain sound from simplesoundscapes e105 thunder, fire from fireplace at our cottage)

The mistake in recording the environment is in trying to pull a huge spread of events, far and near in all directions, into a single focus. The soundscape isn’t stereophonic, its spherical. The stereophonic preoccupation in recording results from stereoscopy rather than any real understanding of the listening experience, in which one is always at the centre. 

(microphone panning ventilation system)

One would like the microphone to observe the same respect for figure-ground that our ears do, elevating those sounds we wish to receive and suppressing those we don’t.  But of course, the microphone is not an ear, and everything is registered according to its amplitude only. Could we imagine a future microphone with a discrimination circuit to allow us to reproduce the wished-for soundscape rather than the real one? Or is that merely another form of pathetic fallacy that only the romantic recordist could hope for? 

Claude (from snow pellets on dried leaves in Misikew provincial park): and here’s an example of a sound that is so delicate that the microphone picks it up better than the human ear. 

The value of the microphone is that it presents simply what is there. The tape recorder puts a frame around it, often astonishing us with the sound events our real ears have missed.

6. footsteps

Footstep tracks at Warbler’s Roost, South River, ON, February, 2022

Claude confesses his excitement for recording. He is almost like a fighter pilot seeking out the enemy, the elusive sound object, slating his various dives at the material we’ve targeted for a take, hoping the desired event will occur on cue, wondering whether to stalk it silently or prompt it – or forget it and seek another campaign. “So many things can go wrong,” he says excitedly. Ruefully I agree.

Note: I recorded my voice saying “So many things can go wrong,”

Claude (xcountry ski sequence, December 2021): When Murray and I recorded Winter Diary in 1997, we record a lot of different winter sounds but not cross-country skiing. It is a typical sound of winter in Canada and a very rich one. You can hear me skiing now, as well as people skiing beside me. Skiing sounds have number of different elements: there’s the push and pull of the ski, the poles that hit into the snow and of course the breath of the skier. Sometimes you can hear the wind in the trees, snowmobiles a distance, dogs…

People who live by the sea know how the colour of the water changes constantly, but one has to live with a long winter to know the perpetual changes in the sound (as well as the colour) of snow. 

(various foot and snow sounds)

Even the lapse of an hour can alter it profoundly, and the experienced listener can pinpoint the temperature by the sound of his footsteps in it. On the cold nights it screeches. Sometimes a crust will build up to produce a crunchy quality. Or even several crusts, separated by layers of powdery snow, giving variations of dissonance with each step. 

(Steps on crusty snow)

7. cars

Lumber truck passing on Eagle Road, South River, ON

We always take the most ordinary sounds for granted. Assuming cars to be universal, we forget that they sound different in different environments. 

(bus stuck on a hill and cars passing in Ottawa)

On a country highway we recorded the approach and departure of individual cars and trucks, sometimes lasting three minutes without any other sound

(Passing truck near South River, On)

Where else on earth could you do that?

8. calling

Forest where I recorded ‘calling sounds’, January 2022, Gatineau Park, Québec

Claude (Gatineau Park, Québec) : When R. Murray Schafer and I did Winter Diary, one of the sequences was called calling where we were in the forest and listening for the reverberation in a winter space and in that case, it was a forest and here I am on January 11th, 2022, in Gatineau Park. I’m going try a similar experience where I’m going to walk in a circle away from the microphone and see what that sounds like and once in a while, I’ll cry out like we did back then: Hey, and you can hear the reverberation and the movement, and it’s a way to experience a winter soundscape by interacting with it. So here we go.

(Hey sequence in forest in Gatineau QC, January 2022)

Excursion into Park. Total isolation. We realized that the only way we could give an impression of soundscape here was by making sounds ourselves, so we set up the microphone in the snow and walked away from it, calling in different directions. How far is it across the valley? What is the difference between a bare deciduous forest and a leafy evergreen one? Your voice will tell you. 

9. cracks

Forest where I recorded ‘calling sounds’, January 2022, Gatineau Park, Québec

(rumble of car on winter road, stop and get out of vehicle, then silence)

I came out alone in the car after Claude had gone to sleep. Never had I heard the world so silent. Is it near or far, this black landscape? 

(forest cracks at Murray farm)

My own slightest movement makes it seem near. The frosted crack of a distant tree makes it vast. My breathing brings it close again.  Justin Winkler pointed out that the soundscape is essentially a static term, but here it seems dynamic, increasing to an infinite volume, then shrinking right inside me as my stomach growls. 

(simplesoundscapes e01, rumble and Guérison from Au dernier vivant les biens (1998))

I turn the ignition key and am startled and relieved at the same time. My escape.

10. heater

Gas fireplace at our home in Ottawa, January 2022

(gas fireplace starting + song based on texture of fireplace ‘pings’)

Strange phenomenon this morning on waking. In my dream I had been singing a solo song at some kind of gathering. I finished and everyone applauded enthusiastically.

(Sound of small crowd clapping and saying nice song Murray)

I awoke to hear the propane heater come on. So, the conclusion of my song and heater were synchronized but I stress that I had sung a rather lengthy song to its conclusion before the applause of the heater. I even remembered the song and sang it over again to myself while lying in bed.

(Gas heater and song)

Had I anticipated the end of it and paced the singing to a sound that I could somehow fore-hear? Or had the whole event occurred in the fraction of a second as the heater came on? 

11. ice

Chunk of ice at my home in Ottawa, January 23, 2022

Spotting some children knocking down some icicles in Sainte Rose du Lac, we rushed over to record them but frightened them away. 

(gated kicking ice blocks and skating sounds)

So, we knocked the icicles down ourselves and then kicked them along the street. 

(more gated kicking ice blocks and skating sounds)

Each chunk had a different pitch and pieces when they broke into pieces the pitch rose. I was glad to have this other form of frozen water to add to our repertoire.

12. jet

Location at Murray’s farm where I recorded a passing jet, January 19, 2022

The sun was setting. It was totally quiet. 

(begin sound of jet passing)

Eventually the whisper of a jet aircraft became audible. It crossed the sky distantly, its passage lasting eight minutes without any other sound interrupting it. A perfect sound event in an anesthetized environment. 

(end sound of jet passing and fade to gentle forest sound)

Claude: I would like to conclude Winter Diary Revisited with an excerpt from Murray’s 1977 book Music in the cold. Here are the last 11 lines:

Saplings are beginning to sprout again in the moist earth.

Beneath it animals can be heard digging their burrows.

Soon the thrush will return.

The old technology of waste is gone.

What then remains?

The old virtues: harmony; the universal soul; hard work.

I will live supersensitized, the antennae of a new race.

I will create a new mythology.

It will take time.

It will take time.

There will be time. 

*

Credits

(except from the end of my composition Eclogue for an Alpine Meadow in background)

I have many people to thank. Murray’s essay is narrated by my father-in-law, the poet, political activist and educator Robin Mathews.  In passing I invite you to listen to an episode about his work e88 robin mathews – on radical listening & political poetry

Poet Robin Mathews and me recording narration of Winter Diary Essay, November 2021, Vancouver (photo by Sabrina Mathews)

I would like to thank Robin for his skillful narration, composer Christian Calon for his technical advice and moral support, artistic director Darren Copeland and Executive Director Nadene Thériault-Copeland of New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) for their encouragements and for hosting me as artist in residence from February 1 to February 6, 2022, at their facility in South River, Ontario. Thanks also to Eleanor James for permission to use Murray’s essay, for the photos of the farm and for our conversation and finally my wife Sabrina Mathews for her feedback, patience and support.

Logo of NAISA
Deep Wireless festival logo
My bedroom and editing studio
Eagle Road, where I recorded a passing truck, South River, ON
Darren Copeland setting up the Ambisonic microphone for me
Me recording forest sounds, February 2, 2022, Mikisew Provincial Park, ON
Me, Victoria Fenner and James  Bailey during Q&A on February 6, 2022 at NAISA North

Winter Diary Revisited was premiered at the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission Art on Saturday, February 5, 2022, at 7pm. 

La version française de cet épisode, Journal d’hiver revisité sera retrouve dans l’épisode 100 du balado conscient.

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