Many years ago I stumbled into acoustic ecology when I was studying at SFU, and promptly switched my major. Although I never met Mr. Schafer, his book The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World was revelatory — an astonishing read that roiled with ideas I’d never considered.
A 2009 short film by David New serves as a brief introduction of some of R. Murray Schafer’s ideas:
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” — John Cage
Today, NoType is re-releasing an album of electronic music I recorded over twenty years ago. Solar Cycle 23 is an album of noisy, minimal electronic music based primarily on shortwave radio recordings I made. You can listen to or download Solar Cycle 23 for free or by donation.
“I came late to the love of birds. For years I saw them only as a tremor at the edge of vision. They know suffering and joy in simple states not possible for us. Their lives quicken and warm to a pulse our hearts can never reach. They race to oblivion. They are old before we have finished growing.” — J.A. Baker, The Peregrine
“… nature embraces the anomalous, unlikely, and strange with arms wider than the human imagination.” – Maria Mudd Ruth, Rare Bird
As a volunteer with the Vancouver Avian Research Association, I’m often granted the opportunity to see the sunrise over the misty fields of Colony Farm Regional Park. For most animals, sunrise is a vital moment of transition, yet we regularly miss it — either sleeping through it, or trapped in the concrete walls of a building, fretting about numbers on a clock and their relation to numbers in our bank account.
Before Homo sapiens feet stood on the Earth, the morning broke through the darkness and the birds chorused as they still do. Their songs are not for us.
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.” — Voltaire
Birding teaches you quickly that your perception and judgement are unstable and easily fooled. A talented birder has remarkable ability to see only what they see and hear only what they hear. Dropping our mental chatter and expectations when looking at birds (or butterflies, mushrooms, snakes, or anything at all) brings us outside ourselves.
Beware of birders or anyone else who claim certainty. In both the world of nature and knowledge we must tread lightly. We must be honest with others, and especially ourselves, that there is always some mystery.