With Arboreal Audio, I turn my ear towards Western Canadian forests decimated by a recent Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. The affected trees were Lodgepole Pine, over-matured from a forest fire management plan that for many years extinguished naturally occurring forest fires as a matter of course. Added to this was successive years of warmer than normal winter temperatures and arid summer conditions attributable to anthropogenic climate change. My approach to this project reflects upon this causal relationship between human actions and their far-reaching, often unforeseen effects.
Although the scale of the disaster is immense and the implications for the global ecosystem are significant and profoundly dire, acknowledgement of the situation outside of the region is disproportionately lacking. Through Arboreal Audio I not only draw direct attention to the magnitude of the problem but I seek to reclaim sonic traces of what was lost as those expanses of forest died off.
Over a two week period in spring 2016, I assembled an extensive sound library created within a forest riddled with beetle-killed trees. These sounds serve as raw material in improvised electroacoustic performance. I think of this project as a sort of sonic silviculture. Instead of harvesting physical trees and milling them into lumber for construction applications, I’ve selectively harvested tree sounds to be repurposed in constructing immersive sonic architectures. Far from creating a soporific “sounds of nature” relaxation soundtrack, these works constitute a disruption of the pastoral imaginary by presenting something much more uncanny: a reclaimed and artificially reanimated forest, bearing the unmistakeable stamp of human interference.
A significant result of my research is an awareness of the role that unintended consequences play within any sufficiently complex system. In response, I've been using a studio set up with a no-input mixer channeled into and processed in Ableton. At this stage, I see the project developing towards an increasingly complex interface with more parameters than I can reasonably manage. My approach reflects my interest in the interplay between chance and causality, order and chaos.
Arboreal Audio was first performed live on July 15, 2016 as part of Sounds Like VI - Echoing (Silent) Machines, curated by Eric Matson. The performance used quadrophonic spatialization to envelop the audience with sounds from the dead woods. A stereo mix of the performance can be heard here.
Supported by the Saskatchewan Arts Board through the Independent Artist Media Program.
Supported by PAVED Arts through the Members Production Fund.
Listen to Wrecked Forest here
Watch a short teaser video here