We Have Art in our Nature
by Nadene Thériault-Copeland
July 18 is World Listening Day, an annual global event first initiated in 2010 by the World Listening Project to commemorate the birthday of R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer, music educator and writer who is known for his influential book The Tuning of the World and his role in the World Soundscape Project. Schafer first coined the term soundscape, referring to the soundscape as an acoustic environment consisting of events heard, rather than objects seen.
World Listening Day 2017 is an opportunity to consider and engage one another with an ear to our environment, to understand our shared role in making and listening across generations, disciplines and communities, and to reflect and honor the life and legacy of Pauline Oliveros, an influential pioneer of electronic music composition and improvisation, and a founder of the practice Deep Listening.
This year’s theme is Listening to the Ground Sometimes we walk on the ground, sometimes on sidewalks or asphalt, or other surfaces. Can we find ground to walk on and can we listen for the sound or sounds of ground? Are we losing ground? Can we find new ground by listening for it?—Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)
New Adventures in Sound Art’s World Listening Day events are on July 15 with composer and sound healer Wendalyn Bartley (workshop and performance at NAISA North Media Arts Centre in South River).
Take a 1/2 hour out of your day on July 18th and go on a soundwalk.
What is a soundwalk? In a soundwalk, we listen to the environment around us by (re)focusing our ears so that we can listen without relying on visual input. During a SOUNDwalk, we can focus on many aspects of the acoustic environment by: listening as if it were a musical composition, in which all of the parts are creating a piece for us; listening socially for sounds that effect and interact with each other, as in ‘call and response,’ or a conversation: listening for special resonances where a footstep might echo or bounce off structures in interesting ways.
Nadene Thériault-Copeland is the Executive Director of New Adventures in Sound Art and co-owner of Warbler’s Roost in South River. She studied composition with James Tenney at York University where she received her B.A. Spec. Hons. Music in 1991.
It’s been a little over a year since we moved to a 14-acre property on Deer Lake in Lount Township, west of South River, ON. Back then, the property consisted of a beautiful viceroy home that needed little work, an A-Frame that was uninhabitable (although we did not realize it at the time), 230 feet of waterfront with lots of open area and beautiful stand of pine trees right at the lakeshore, and a large 3500 sq ft two-storey unfinished brown building that from the beginning sparked our imagination as to its possibilities.
We have found that the amount of work involved in just living out here, instead of being a deterrent, makes it more real and dear to us. We have a connection to our land that we did not have in the city. I am not exactly a stranger to the north, having grown up in Callander, ON, but still, living in Toronto or nearby for 30 years changes your mindset and where we are living now is far more rural than Callander ever was (yes, you North Bayites, there are even more rural places than Callander!).
From our rooftop overlooking Deer Lake
When it snows, it really snows and so shovelling and snow blowing becomes a seemingly daily activity from November to beginning of March. My aunt related to me what surely most who live here year-round already know: when it’s cold, it’s really cold, and when it warms up, it snows.
Eagle Lake Narrows in winter
But the beauty of the winter in both the landscape and the soundscape of the Almaguin Highlands is unsurpassed. My partner and I both would often say, as we drove into town, “Wow! Do we really live here?”
We have a propane furnace, but to save on heating costs, we burn wood in our fire place. We use wood from trees that have died or are in poor health on our property so as to make this both affordable and sustainable. Almost everyone who lives up here year-round burns wood because the only other heating options are oil, propane and electric – all of which are expensive alternatives.
To save on electricity, which is three times the cost up here than it is in Toronto, we try to keep our usage to the off-hours. This means planning ahead for things like doing laundry, downloading or uploading content on the internet (we have satellite internet), and charging up our digital devices, to evenings and weekends. I use the clothes-line to dry our clothes in the spring, summer, and fall so that we don’t need the dryer as much, if at all from April to October.
We had to snowshoe in to see our property
The first time we saw our property back in February 2014, the snow banks on Eagle Lake Road were 4+ feet high. We made the acquaintance of Jason Hrabb who owns Spring Lake Lodge just down the road. He was kind enough to remove enough of the snow so that we could at least drive in to the edge of this property and then we snowshoed in from there. Still, entrance into any of the buildings required quite a bit of maneuvering since the snow in some cases covered the entrances in.
Barb Larose, our real estate agent
I’ll be forever thankful for our real estate agent, Barb Larose, who drove us in with her 4×4 and donned snowshoes with us to check out the property.
This last winter, we had even more snow as the banks were higher than 5 feet in places. Thankfully, we were able to contract Jason to snowplow our 2000 feet of private drive (1000 ft into our home and buildings and another 1000 ft down to our waterfront) throughout the winter, making access both in and out of our property fairly easy most days.
Spring brings a lot amazing sounds. Have a listen to these sounds we recorded, the most prominently featured being the sounds of peepers and ruffed grouse. Late May brings black flies and mosquitos that pretty much stay thick til mid to late June, depending on how much rain falls. No one wants to wear Deet everyday and so last June, I asked my aunt how she copes with the swarms of black flies and mosquitos in the spring, and her one-word answer? Bug-jackets. These are jackets that are made of a tight mesh that you wear as an outer layer and which prevent the pesky pests from biting. We bought several and this year we did not go outside without them for a good three weeks. Late June, July and August there are no black flies and the mosquitos are out just in the evening and on rainy days – unless you take a walk in the forest (which covers half of our property) – and so it’s much more bearable.
The ever-elusive ruffed grouse drums many times a day in Spring
Spring brings out all kinds of animals; far more than we see, as they tend to avoid humans for the most part. We have to be conscious that we are in bear country and so we lock up our garbage in our garage and make sure the doors are all secure at night. We don’t leave any garbage or food lying around either. We have not seen any bears this year, but our neighbour (a weekend cottager) unwisely left his large barbecue – which still had traces of meat on it – out on his porch and a bear knocked it over and tore off the cover to get at the grill. I couldn’t see the bear from where we are (when I say neighbour, it’s still a 5 minute walk down the road) but I could hear it. You learn to play it safe. You carry noise-makers like Bear-horns (these are just marine air-horns). We go for walks in groups, especially in June. We try not to drive at dusk in the spring and fall as that is when a lot of the wildlife come out, and with the fading light, it is harder to see them and easier to hit them if you are travelling too fast to stop.
Living in an unorganized township means you do a lot more yourself as your taxes only pay for road maintenance and land tax. We have to take our garbage to a community dump, the use of which requires we pay a yearly membership fee. This makes us far more aware of how much waste we create as we literally have to drive it to the dump and dump it into a large landfill site ourselves. Consequently we recycle a lot more and burn the paper and cardboard ourselves.
Our plans for the property have changed significantly since we moved in last May. We had originally planned to live in the A-Frame but there was far too much work to be done on that building to allow for this.
Our friends Victoria and Ed visiting over Christmas 2014
The blue house became our home and right from the start we loved the amount of space we have in it, the fireplace and vaulted ceiling as well as the wonderful view it provides for our family and friends when they come to visit.
Kayaking on Deer Lake
Eagle Lake Road in the Fall 2014
The summer is wonderful here and we swim, kayak and canoe as much as we can. The fall is breathtaking with its vibrant colours and a close second to summer for me as my favourite time of year. And the soundscape is unsurpassed for its rich sounds: the quiet solitude of winter, the peepers, drumming ruffed grouse and other birds in spring. There is also, of course, the sounds of our neighbours enjoying their cottages and the water too. Yes there are boats on deer lake and yes there are ATVs in the area, but we are somewhat insulated from most of that here and they are more like temporary intrusions.
Darcy’s Drywall and Paint replaced the shingles on our roofs
Bob Sohm’s guys Jay and Wade helping Sam Scarfone pour the basement in the brown house
Finding good trades people to do the work on what has now become the Inn was not difficult thanks to Bob Sohm, who has been so very helpful and supportive of our plans for this place (he’s also my second cousin). He provided me with names of companies and and contractors, all of whom have done an amazing job.
Warbler’s Roost Country Inn
Canoeing on Deer Lake at Warbler’s Roost waterfront
We call our place Warbler’s Roost and the property now includes, as well as our home on one side of our road, a Country Inn across the road (see our Warbler’s Roost website for yourself!). We have completely stripped the AFrame and, once renovated, it will be used as an artist facility with one large room on the ground floor that both visual artists and sound artists can use to create art. We hope to have that ready in the fall. We have a nice long dock down at the waterfront and are clearing a bit of the brush for a picnic area.
As well as being closer to family (and finding I am related to far more people in the area than I realized) we are also becoming part of the larger community here. Getting to know the people here, and become known ourselves, is wonderful, but will take time. That’s okay, because we’re here for the long-term. We are very proud to call this wonderful place our home.
Change is a bit scary as there is always the risk of losing something or overextending one’s self but it seems that trying new things on a regular basis gets easier the more you do it. It helps if you can learn to trust your instincts, know where your limits are, do the research and trust other people’s insights in instances where you have limited experience. It also helps to ask a lot of questions, look things up and to just stop fearing change and think of it as an adventures instead.
A short time after posting my first blog entry, I realized that in order to do 50 new things this year, I would need to be trying or doing something new almost every week. That set me back a bit wondering how I could actually follow through with this. But then my next thought was “How hard can it be, trying something new every week?”
I’m not normally one for making lists in my personal life but have to do so quite frequently for NAISA in order to evaluate a work project both during (to check as to whether I am on track or not) and after a project has been completed. I thought now might be the time to apply the same technique to this year’s “50 new things” goal. So here’s my list so far:
My first 8 out of 50 new things
1) Create my own web-site
It might not seem like a big deal to register a domain name, arrange for the domain to be hosted and then put content up. Beyond the actually hands-on work, the difficulty lay in thinking through the ultimate use I wanted for the web-site. I needed to sort through what should be put on the main page, how to make the design clean and uncluttered, what content would be appropriate for each page, and of course what design template would make it easiest for me to use and for readers to navigate. I’ve never designed a web-site before and so it took a few days to get the look I wanted. There are enough ‘how-to’ videos that can walk you through the process of putting content up and so I don’t need to elaborate on the how side of this endeavor.
2) Start my own blog
Starting my own blog seemed extremely risky at the time that I posted my first post largely because it just seemed so public. But I realized that the action of writing this is more important than whether anyone reads my posts and what possible outcomes there might be. Tip: Don’t over think!!
3) Take a vacation on my own
In the past 13 years, I have never taken a vacation without my husband. Normally, if circumstances meant someone needed to stay home, that person was always me. This time, however, I decided that I should try leaving others in charge and trust that everything back home would be okay without me. I really needed to let go of the idea that I was the only person who could do what needed to be done to keep things in balance, both at work and at home. I wasn’t ‘technically’ alone as I brought my oldest son with me. And we were visiting a family member (my father-in-law).
It was so very nice to have a place to go to (Hollywood, Florida) where we were made to feel so welcome and could relax and enjoy (Thanks Dennis!). And oh how wonderful it was to feel the sun on my face everyday, and to have a break from the Canadian winter.
4) Create my own youtube channel
This one should have been a no-brainer. It should be a matter of just registering with youtube and creating a channel right? Not now that google has integrated everything under one roof. And they want to see and get information from a person, not a moniker or an organization (although from what I understand, there is a way to register an organizational name now). Google does everything in its power to make your life as public as possible, from reading your gmail and using your content to link advertisers to you, to creating what it thinks you need using its social media platform.
It took a lot of patience to get it working the way I wanted it to work. My advise for anyone doing this for the first time, just keep tweaking until you get the look and information you want presented both on google+ and youtube, and do the web research necessary to find the answers you need.
5) Film, edit and upload my own youtube video
I’ve wanted to create my own youtube video for a long time. I wanted to make it very simple for the first one and luckily I was able to film the clip when I was down in Hollywood, Florida on my vacation. I filmed the 2 minute clip in one take and so really only had to add in the credits at the end. I used Final Cut ProX, not because I really needed to for this video, but because I wanted to learn how to use it so that I could become at least a little bit familiar with it in order to use it more down the road. Although I’ve designed a lot of marketing items using indesign and photoshop, as well as taken a basic sound editing workshop, I haven’t ever really edited any media clips (video etc) to any great extent so it was a bit of a learning curve.
A little background
I have rather serious tinnitus, the effects of which leave me hearing high pitched white noise most of the time, some days louder than others. It has been recommended that I use fans to cover up this incessant white noise but I find mechanical white noise to be even more irritating than the tinnitus sounds.
One of the few sounds I thoroughly enjoy is the sound of a lake, stream or the ocean. I also find the sound of leaves moving in the wind to be a somewhat similar experience. For this reason, I’ve always loved to be up north or to vacation near the ocean (lots of water and trees). My partner tells me I find this natural version of white-noise less irritating than mechanical white noise because the sounds are more complex and unpredictable.
I uploaded my “Remembering the Ocean” video to youtube to serve the purpose of allowing me (and anyone else who comes across it) to remember the sounds and sights of the ocean. Maybe it’ll sounds soothing to someone else beside myself.
6) Start looking for property/houses so we can move up north
Yes that’s right. We are hoping to move away from the city permanently. This is a huge step for us. Because both of my parents live up north and have health problems, I am finding I need to go up there very frequently out of necessity but I am also finding I enjoy the time I spend up there more and more.
As we began looking for a property and/or house, we found that each new site provided us with a different set of variables leaving us with too many possibilities and not enough head space to sort it all out. We also found quite a lot of rather awful looking houses that would not even come close to providing a home. We looked at houses that had floors we were afraid to walk on (without falling through). We looked at houses that had such ill-thought out additions that my partner began to appropriately term them as “subtractions” rather than “additions.”
We looked at vacant properties and then spent hours of time trying to find affordable options for building. We looked at properties in organized townships, whose rules have become so incredibly strict and confining that it would prevent us from using the property in a way that made sense. How it is possible that you can only build one house on a property whether it is 1 acre or 14? And how is it that you can only build a house 861 square feet or larger on your property no matter how big or small the size of it? These restrictive rules are not just in a few rural townships either. It seems that all of the organized rural townships in Ontario have adopted similar sets of zoning bylaws and have all implemented them within the last 5 years.
We have now restricted our search to unorganized townships within the area we are interested. We hope to find the right fit sometime soon.
7) Build a flip top bench
I have wanted a nice bench to fit my very small entranceway for a very long time. I also wanted something that in winter could store our hats, scarves and mittens with a shelf for our winter boots and baseball caps and shoes in the summer. I could never find the right size bench in any store.
I took some time looking up designs on the internet until I found the perfect bench that matched all of the things I wanted in a bench except for the size. I then adapted the design to make it smaller so that it would fit the width I needed for my entranceway. I am so thankful for DIY people like Ana White for posting her designs online and for offering advice, tips and instructions for making these designs. I’ll post a more lengthy blogpost about how I made the flip-top bench just in case you want to try it yourself. Suffice it to say, it was a learning experience. I’m happy with the outcome though. I love to sit down when putting on my boots!!
8) Start making plans to move up north (what will that look like? what will we do and how will we do it?)
While looking for a property up north, we quickly realized that we needed to start thinking about what we would do up there that would allow us to make a living as well as to be doing something that would be fulfilling for both of us. We decided the most important thing is that we need it to be a transition making it a priority to continue with our jobs and then transition into new vocations or keep doing some of the things we are doing now with less hours per week devoted to them, while we begin to do new things or find new jobs. We took the plunge and told our plans to our board of directors and also my boss at the other non-profit I work at and luckily that are all on board with our plan. As most of our work from home, as long as we have high speed internet where we move to, we can make this transition work. Thanks to satellite internet, this will be possible no matter how remote the property we find may be.
My partner’s idea is to create a space for artists to create work: a place they could rent at reasonable rates with access to equipment that would assist them in creating their art (whatever their art-form is). Although this is a great idea, I wondered how we could do this using a for-profit model rather than a non-for-profit. Some of the properties we’ve seen gave us the idea that perhaps we could buy a property that would allow us to rent out cottage-type houses during the summer months to families and vacationers and then have the spaces available in the winter months for artists to rent out.
We’re still working on these plans. We’re thinking it through a little more each day. When we find that perfect place, I’m sure it will all click together just as it’s supposed to.
So here’s were I am after 7 1/2 weeks. It looks like my 50 new things to do in the current year is more than doable. As my dear cousin Barb Larose (who is also our real estate agent up north) says – Cool Beans!!!
I found out quite by accident when I was researching children’s names in preparation for the birth of my first son, that my name – Nadene – means Hope. I don’t know if my Mom knew this when she picked it out for me, or whether she just liked the sound of it at the time. I’ll have to ask her. I will say though that as I look back on my life, this aspect of my personality has always been strong. Perhaps it’s an innate trait for me. Perhaps I am reading too much into it.
The thing I like most about this trait though is that it can be contagious, it can be nurtured and is easily passed on to others.
I’ve been told many times, over the last year, in my many discussions with a youth quite close to me that the reason so many youth of today are depressed is because they do not see any hope for their future, and I can’t help but wonder why we as parents have not been able to foster a sense of hope in our children? How is it possible that we have forgotten how important it is to encourage our children to dream big dreams and to follow their heart? How is this ever wrong?
I haven’t forgotten the sense of wonder I have felt – goose bumps even – when I have listened to people describe to me their hopes and dreams. There have also been some occasions, however, when the ideas have seemed so outlandish as to be entirely impossible.
Thankfully I have been able to change my perceptions in this regard. There is something I have come to realize about big or seemingly fantastical ideas and it is this: even if I am unable to understand another person’s ideas, it really has nothing to do with the feasibility of their ideas. After all, who am I to place my own limits on what another person is capable of accomplishing? Who are any of us to limit anyone else’s dreams?
I have been following the progress of an old friend of mine on facebook who is fighting cancer. I see so much bravery in how she has responded to her illness and know how important a person she has become because of her willingness to put herself out there, front and centre, so that she can help others going through the same thing. But also as a consequence to this openness about her struggles, she has built up a community of hope around herself as she goes through her treatment which currently includes chemotherapy. When she was first diagnosed, she decided to create a web-site – trustyourbust.com – with the hope that men and women with breast cancer would have a place they could go to in order to get information and share their stories. She dreams big, even during times of struggle.
My partner and I are looking to the future and taking steps that will involve many changes in our lives over the next year. This came about very recently simply because I told him what my dreams about our future were. Before I knew it, the hopes and dreams I had in the back of my mind all these years are now suddenly being discussed with every intention of making them a reality. All because I decided to share them with him.
That is the thing I think that needs to happen more often. We all need to share our hopes and dreams with at least one person close to us. Saying them somehow makes them more real and more possible. And as well, by not imposing our own limits on others, and by asking them to tell us their hopes and dreams, we help them to nurture their own dreams.
Imagine a world in which everyone was encouraged not only to follow their dreams but to dream big. Our children would do things that surpass all that we thought was possible.
So I say to you as you go on with your day: Dream Big, tell someone, and encourage those in your lives to do the same.
I've been thinking a lot this past year about the many positive effects of trying something new, especially something that has at least some element of risk.
Over the last year, I've made some first attempts at thinking beyond 'my' ordinary, beyond what I've done and how I've done it, and have even tried a few new things that I had never tried before. Like refurbishing an old porch chair my son found that someone down the street was throwing out. It did not require much skill. Anyone can hammer a nail, measure the length of a piece of wood for replacement and use a paint brush. At the time, I was too afraid to use an electric saw and so got the local hardware store to cut all of the pieces for me.
In the end, I was pleased with the result. I had fixed something. I had created a good porch chair out of an old battered one with wood so rotten it wasn't safe to sit on. It was a small thing, but it really got me thinking about how important it was to try, how good it felt to do something different and how that one repair job got me thinking about all of the other repairs I could do myself instead waiting to have them done for me.
And so I've decided today, the day I turn 50, to make this year the year I try 50 new things. I am not going to create a check-list that I cross off as I journey through the year. I don't want to go about it that way. Based on the outcomes of the new things I've tried recently, any number of new trajectories may present themselves as an outcome to trying just one new thing.
And so instead I will start with just one thing and see where it leads. I will begin with this blog, a place in which I will share my insights on my various eclectic interests and of course on the 50 new things I try. I am not sure if I will post daily, but I definitely will post often. At this point, it doesn't really matter if anyone reads my posts, only that I start writing them.
If you've followed along this far, I thank you. And just to add a bit of fun listening to this post, have a listen to "Arcane presents Lulu" by Hugh LeCaine. It's a favourite of mine, especially on this day. The sound file can be played from this page. You can read more about Hugh LeCaine here. Happy listening!