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Cross Waves Series

Cross Waves Series #4: DISTANT TRANSMISSION: Story and Sound from the North
curated by Janna Graham

Distant Transmission is an eclectic program of sound, stories and radio transmissions from northern Canada. Rather than exploring one particular theme, I’ve selected pieces that seem to articulate a sense of nordicity.
Nordicity is a wide concept developed in Canada from the 1960s that refers to the perceived, real or even imagined condition of high-latitude regions. It deals with a large variety of issues taken from both the natural and the human world that may lead to the combined understanding of facts, ideas and interventions of these northern lands. 1

Janna Graham is a sound artist and radio producer based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. She is a community radio advocate who believes in the power of participatory media. Her work has been broadcast on public and community radio across the country and on low-power pirate transmissions in her neighborhood.

1 http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/nordicity/

Article

DISTANT TRANSMISSION: Story and Sound from the North


Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

Banks of the Mackenzie River [Click image to enlarge]



“We are all Northerners, sharing a million acres of wildness in the imagination. This is our only uncounterfeit resource, and we should seek to draw directly from it.”
- R Murray Schafer


Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

Building of Deh Cho bridge over the Mackenzie River [Click image to enlarge]




Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories [Click image to enlarge]




From Edmonton, there’s one road that leads north. A 1500 kilometre stretch of highway leads to Yellowknife. On the way, hours of jackpine, bison, and nothing. No signage advertising rest stops. No rest stops. No Tim Horton’s. Few gas stations. A beautiful, empty lack of anything other than a worn chipseal road stretching out flat for what feels like an eternity.

In more ways than one, Yellowknife is an end-of-the-road town. No one ends up here by chance. And if they do, they don’t stay long. Maybe a year or two to earn a quick buck and then they’re gone. For those rooted here by birth or otherwise, there is an inescapable calling to listen and respond to the land, the wild, and the space that’s created through the oscillation of extreme climate. From the catharsis of midnight sun to the solipsistic nine-month deep freeze, the north requires a certain level of mental fortitude, or coping skills, at least.

These survival techniques are the stories we tell each other, the greetings we send over the radio, and the call and response of being on land.

Here, radio pulses. Like beacons, call-in shows are telegrams across the distance. Yellowknife might be the hub, but many of NWT’s 33 communities have their own radio station. Perhaps the most well known is CBMQ (AKA ‘Come Back Quick Mom’) in Fort McPherson, thanks to Inuvialuit filmmaker NFB Dennis Allen’s documentary about the station. (https://www.nfb.ca/film/cbqm)

It is difficult to speak about the north without falling into cliché. And for those newcomers, like myself, it’s best to let the sound do the talking. The microphone and recorder have gifted me with some incredible opportunities to listen, record, and collaborate in the north.

While, perhaps, we are not producing as much “sound art” as other parts of the country, I think northern artists and radio producers will continue to push the boundaries of sound in studios and cabins throughout the territories.

Performances

"Emotive Ascension" performance
By Casey Koyczan
March 29, 2015, 8:00 pm
@ The NAISA Space, 601 Christie St, #252
General $10

Emotive Ascension uses found objects, natural materials, experimental effects and heavy modulation to explore chaos and harmony. Inspired by history, culture, and their interactions with the human world and technology, Casey Koyczan's work seeks to bridge the gap between visual and audio interpretations of art, while pushing the recognition for aboriginal values and politics.

Radio

Distant Transmission Programme Notes
Listen Here


Program:
I. LOVELAND by Charles Stankievech with original music by Tim Hecker

LOVELAND is a video installation by the Canadian artist Charles Stankievech, which features a Purple Cloud flowing over the frozen Arctic Ocean generating a performative act by the artist. The audio in the video is a surround sound mix by Stankievech, which includes field recordings he did on the Arctic Ocean from the electromagnetic, acoustic and ice fields.
II. at minus thirty-five the speed of sound is 310.5 metres by Jordy Walker

Jordy Walker’s at minus thirty-five the speed of sound is 310.5 metres per second is an ambient sound collage from Whitehorse, Yukon.

The air at minus thirty-five also feels incredibly present - you can never forget about the air around you the way you can at fifteen or twenty above. In this piece I wanted to reflect that idea sonically - to express the oppressiveness of the air at this temperature (when in actuality, the natural soundscape at this time of year is often quite still and soft).


Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

Map of Yellowknife Old Town neighbourhood, The Woodyard by artist Alison McCreesh. [Click image to enlarge]


III. Shack Tales (excerpt) by Pat Braden

Pat Braden is a well known musician and storyteller in Yellowknife. This excerpt from a 72-minute storytelling/musical theatre piece is about his life in the vibrant historical neighourborhood of shacks and rough and ready characters, Old Town.
IV. Heart by Courtney Chetwynd

Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

Wanda McLeod, host of Northwind on CBC North. [Click image to enlarge]



Heart is a sound piece created for Chetwnd's exhibition splitting (the) difference. Chetwynd’s interdisciplinary practice investigates how northern culture embraces the collective concept of 'the commons', where knowledge is uttered by interconnectivity to people, objects, and environment rather than simplistic hierarchy.
I have collected the heartbeats and body sounds through a stethoscope microphone (this device can record the faint sound of blood, bones, lungs etc...) of those with whom I have an intimate relationship. These sounds were then layered together and form a unifying beat--where sounds and silent pauses lap and run over each other, sometimes in harmony, sometimes at odds.

Interspersed throughout the show is Wanda Macleod’s noon hour call in show on CBC North, Northwind. Everyone loves Wanda.
V. Goose Hunt in Sach’s Harbour by Marc Winkler

Radio producer and film-maker Marc Winkler gets out on the land and creates documentaries like Tundra Cowboy, a story about a reindeer herder. Marc’s sound piece of a goose hunt in Sach’s Harbour is featured in Distant Transmission.
VI. Traces of Touch by Travis Mercredi

Travis Mercredi performs Traces of Touch, a playful and raw exploration of closeness.
VII. I Count Myself Among Them by Travis Mercredi and Reneltta Arluk

Mercredi, a Métis musician and sound designer born and raised in Northwest Territories, is also the co-produce and director of radio play, I Count Myself Among Them. The radio play is included in Distant Transmission in its entirety (49:30). It was co-produced and directed by Reneltta Arluk, an Inuk/Gwich’in/Chipewyan-Cree actor, playwright and producer.
VIII. Groove Ickkle and Lady Under The Ice by Carmen Braden

Carmen Braden shares her love of listening to and recording ice in Groove Ickkle and Lady Under The Ice. Her creative research has examined natural sonic phenomena, rhythms and harmonies, and draws on a life-time of aesthetic observations in the Canadian sub-Arctic. Carmen’s thesis work focuses on using the sounds of ice on Great Slave Lake in vocal, instrumental, and electroacoustic music.
IX. Emotive Ascension by Casey Kocyzan

Emotive Ascension uses found objects, natural materials and experimental effects and heavy modulation to explore chaos and harmony. Inspired by history, culture, and their interactions with the human world and technology, Casey Koyczan’s work seeks to bridge the gap between visual and audio interpretations of art, while pushing the recognition for aboriginal values and politics.
X. The Dew Project by Charles Stankievich

Ricardo Coelho de Souza performing David Ikard’s <em>Água Eletrônica </em>(2013)

The DEW Project. [Click image to enlarge]



The Dew Project is a site-specific installation on the bank of the Yukon River, outside of Dawson City, Yukon.
A border is not a connection but an interval of resonance, and such gaps abound in the Land of the DEW Line. The DEW Line itself, the Distant Early Warning radar system installed by the United States in the Canadian North to keep this continent in touch with Russia, points up a major Canadian role in the twentieth century, the role of hidden ground for big powers. Since the United States has become a world environment, Canada has become the anti-environment that renders the United States more acceptable and intelligible to many small countries of the world; anti-environments are indispensable for making an environment understandable.
—Marshall McLuhan

The DEW project revisits the issue of boundaries—both in regards to the environment and sovereignty while observing how communication technology plays a pivotal role in the definition and delivery of such ideologies.

Other notes:
For more info on Stephen P. McGreevy’s aurora borealis recordings: http://www.auroralchorus.com/

Bios

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