World Listening Day 2015 with Annea Lockwood

In celebration of World Listening Day 2015 we are pleased to present a feature with Annea Lockwood as part of the virtual symposium content. Annea Lockwood’s incredible body of work was an inspiration for our theme this year and we are thrilled she has shared these inspiring words with us.

Annea Lockwood

“My life has been threaded by rivers, from my childhood in NZ – especially the Waimakariri, to this summer, spent beside the Flathead River, as every summer, in NW Montana (US). I have been recording rivers since the late 1960s, starting with the River Archive and moving on to recording, from source to mouth, the Hudson, the Danube and the Housatonic, three Sound Maps, each a sound installation with a physical map by which listeners can trace the journey as the audio unfolds.

Human relationships with rivers are incorporated in two of these works: for the Hudson I asked river-people about their physical experiences of the river’s considerable power, an important aspect of that river which people in NYC are rarely able to experience directly. Such access is not so easy, and so for most New Yorkers, the Hudson is a visual treasure to walk, jog, bike along, view from a rooftop at a party. But the strength of its currents is not felt by the eyes, once the river reaches the city, nor by the ears even, so these interviews – the stories they elicited, became an important component of the Sound Map of the Hudson. Even so, people often choose to listen only to the river – this is possible because the installation design sent the river’s sound through speakers while the interviews can be heard only through headphones (with the river in the background). Rivers are mesmerizing.

Twenty years later, thinking about the Danube, I wanted to get at why we are so drawn to rivers, creeks etc. and was asking people what the Danube means to them, and – a potent question which evoked deeply emotional responses, “Could you live without it?” One of the gifts which that river gave to me after four years of exploring was the realization that humans are a part of the river-created environment, as are its aquatic insects, fish, frogs, alders and willows, water plants, rocks – a part of its fibre, not acting upon, but within the riparian ecosystem, not separate but rather, shaped by the river – something I’d long believed conceptually, but now I could really feel it. So for this sound map people’s voices are fully integrated into the mix. To quote the anthropologist Philippe Descola “Plants and animals, rivers and rocks, meteors and the seasons do not exist all together in an ontological niche defined by the absence of human beings.”

While the growing water crisis is accelerating the commodification of water, affordable access to which should be a human right, and the old reaction of “We’ve got to put in a dam” still kicks in too often, it’s very heartening to learn about many people’s efforts to rethink our relationships with the non-human, to sense and act upon our interdependence with plants and animals, rivers and rocks, and climate.

‘Re-wilding’ our thinking, as Maja and Reuben Fowkes strikingly express it in the introduction to their recent publication – ‘River Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental Humanities on the Danube’ (Translocal Institute, Budapest 2015). This brings to mind the idea that it might be helpful to ditch such terms as ‘capture’, ‘grab’ and even ‘take’, in relation to environmental sound, and replace them simply by ‘record’ and ‘sample’, for example. Language can be a useful place to start work on deep change and this will be a profound change.

So, ‘Rethink’, yes, but even more directly, re-feel those connections with the non-human. That has been the thrust of my work with rivers and, recently, with geophysical, solar, biological and other phenomena in Wild Energy, to feel the connection through your body. For Wild Energy, a sound installation made in collaboration with Robert Bielecki, we set up two hammocks in a wooded area and concealed all the technology in the brush. As a woman who visited said “You lie down and are instantly floating”, supported and relaxed – an important concern for me, as a relaxed body is open and responsive. So – no physical distractions, just hearing, sensing, with the sound vibrations coursing through your body. The upside of the fact that we have no physiological defenses against sound is that we can feel deeply permeated by it. When this happens, we are making a form of visceral contact with the source of the sound, I feel, making sound a powerful and intimate channel through which to experience other phenomena, and then we can go further, to the feeling of interconnectedness and the desire to sustain.

Immersion in the sonic energy of rivers through listening closely to them, for example, pulls them from data abstraction back into sensory experience – hydro-energy made tangible. The acoustic spectra they create fall largely within our hearing range; in addition, we can drink them, absorbing them internally; watch the play of light on their constantly changing surfaces, smell them, feel them on the skin. They are accessible to all our senses.

A common thread running through many of the interviews I recorded along the Danube was that for these people the river is alive – which I also came to feel. I hear it in the details of its constantly changing sounds, and if your sense of a river incorporates the fish, insects, aquatic plants, willows and alders, mammals and people which depend upon it, then a river is indeed alive.”

Annea Lockwood, World Listening Day 2015.

World Listening Day 2015: H2O

WLD2015logoYou are invited to participate in World Listening Day 2015, an annual global event held on July 18.

The purposes of World Listening Day are to:

  • Celebrate the listening practices of the world and the ecology of its acoustic environments;
  • Raise awareness about the growing number of individual and group efforts that creatively explore Acoustic Ecology based on the pioneering efforts of the World Soundscape Project, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, La Semaine du Son, Deep Listening Institute, among many others;
  • Design and implement educational initiatives that explore these concepts and practices.

This year’s theme for World Listening Day is “H2O”.

The global water crisis means 750 million people around the world lack access to safe water. Water is rapidly becoming the commodity of the 21st century and the catastrophic effects of climate change often involve negative associations with water. Rising sea levels, devastating floods, melting ice in Antarctica and droughts spreading throughout the globe, all highlight our increasingly unpredictable and extreme relationship with water.

Yet H2O is vital for life, water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, and 60% of our bodies are made of water. Oceans, rivers and lakes are the core of many of the world’s iconic cities and historically civilizations formed around water. Indigenous communities across the globe believe water is at the core of our existence. For thousands of years communities have lived sustainably by holding significant cultural and spiritual value of rivers, lakes and oceans.

World leaders believe we need to create a cultural shift in how we think about water. We need a better understanding and awareness of the value of water and we need to make critical changes to avoid the ramifications of the global water crisis. In the words of Sylvia Earle “even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.”

World Listening Day 2015: H2O invites you to reflect on water, metaphorically in how you listen, or through creative events inspired by water and sound across the globe. The 2015 theme resonates at a time where we need to shift our collective thinking and actions towards water globally.

World Listening Day 2015 includes the H2O virtual symposium hosted on WaterWheel, an electronic publication, and hundreds of events taking place across the globe.

World Listening Day is co-organized by the World Listening Project (WLP), the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology (MSAE) and Biosphere Soundscapes. July 18 was chosen because it is the birthday of Canadian writer, educator, philosopher, visual artist, and composer R. Murray Schafer. His efforts leading the World Soundscape Project and his seminal book, The Tuning of the World, inspired global interest in a new field of research and practice known as Acoustic Ecology.

World Listening Project, Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology and Biosphere Soundscapes invite you to participate in World Listening Day 2015 on Saturday, July 18, and through the week of July 12th-18th. Some suggestions on how you can participate and organize include:

  • Soundwalks or listening events in your local community, with a particular focus on oceans, rivers, lakes and catchments
  • Field recording trips or workshops
  • Site-specific performance events
  • Concerts curating water inspired compositions (contact us to connect with composers and sound artists)
  • Personal experiences of attentive listening or field recording
  • Educational events that relate to acoustic ecology, field recording, or a similar topic
  • Public talks or lectures about listening, water and acoustic ecology including participation in the World Listening Day H2O virtual symposium on July 17-18.

Use the hashtag #WLD2015 to connect with other local and global groups participating in the World Listening Day 2015: H2O and get involved.

Participation in World Listening Day is rapidly expanding every year. In this sixth year we anticipate even greater activity and interest.

Please join in the World Listening Day 2015 activities by emailing about your plans and be sure to include “World Listening Day” in the subject line.

Please fill out the World Listening Day 2015 online participation form so we can promote your projects and include them in our documentation.

Please use our Quick Submission Form if you would prefer to provide brief details about your activities. It will only take two minutes! Thanks!


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