field recording

ayesha barmania - quiet contemplations

Quiet Contemplations was produced and recorded by Ayesha Barmania about the relativity of quiet moments.


Ayesha says:

I have been really inspired by Ad Reinhardt's 'Abstract Painting' from 1963 which depicts nine very subtle shades of black. At first glance, the viewer sees a flat black canvas. Over time, the viewer notices the subtle tone differences - one is more red, another blue, one slightly green. The viewer wonders: which is the true black?

That concept has resonated with me when I contemplate the subtleties in silence. I don't think we can ever experience true silence - we can only ever get close to it. Even if I were in an anechoic chamber I'd still hear the sound of my heartbeat and my body moving. And it poses an even greater impossibility to broadcast or podcast silence. Yet we still know quiet when we hear it, in the same way that we know a colour is black when we see it. The relativity of quiet in relation to noise intrigued me and I wanted to explore the relativity of quiet in relation to other quiet moments.

Over this past summer, I backpacked around Canada, traveling by bus, train, plane and foot from East Coast to West. Along the way I spent a lot of time being quiet and listening to the sounds around me. This piece is a scrapbook of those quiet moments, and through the juxtaposition the listener can hear the subtleties of quiet.


Inspiring Ayesha in the world of sound:

The drone and noise art community in Peterborough continues to thrill and inspire me. Artists like B.P. Hughes challenge the idea of attractive art and attractive performance with harsh and aggressive noise. His work and the artists he curates has helped me think about noise and silence.

And outside of it:

Haruki Murakami's writing inspires a lot of my ambient sound work. I love the feeling in his books of the world washing over the main characters, in some ways I have similar experiences when I go out and record the natural sounds around me.


Constellations Says by Amita Kirpalani:

Ayesha’s piece operates in a space we could call the acoustic sublime.  The sublime feels so outmoded right now that I wanted to go back a bit and play with a wiki-Latin breakdown: sub =  underneath, limen = limit or threshold. This definition moves us away from the sublime’s more bombastic connotations of  ‘loftiness’, ‘grandness’, ‘greatness’ etc. That Ayesha’s piece moves from and around stillness, and rises up against silence, reveals the work’s complex interior logic.

Sorry, one more step backwards. In Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), Burke titles a chapter, “Why Things Not Dangerous Sometimes Produce A Passion Like Terror”. In the text, Burke positions the sublime in relation to the edges or boundaries of what is felt. And this sublime contravenes expectation; the example he quotes is moving downstairs, mis-stepping and taking a step that isn’t actually there. “Quiet Contemplations” is a journey of steps like these, a construction of tonal shifts and textures which, for this listener rouses ecological concern. A portrait of the artist at one with and distinct from nature. So more broadly, because of this particular socio-political moment, will references to nature in art always hold climate change connotations? And will this always make secondary a Romantic metaphysical reading of the work?

Pushing against this is Ayesha’s stated reference to Ad Reinhardt’s iconic black painting, Abstract Painting (1963) as an instructive communication of purity and silence with a not-always-apparent geometric structure operating below the surface. This painting was a break with a fashionable formalism of the day, and reaches for atemporality and ahistoricism through a monochromatic (or in fact colourless) endless expanse. In “Quiet Contemplations” Ayesha uses nature as the expanse and the editing of the sound wave as an underlying geometric structure.  Footsteps at once disrupt and offer a guide or edge for this notion of ‘nature’. “Quiet Contemplations” could be heard as an impractical attempt to capture ‘room tone’ in the world. Ayesha signposts to place towards the end of the piece, but ultimately situates their gathering-of-nothing-and-everything simply outside or beyond. “Quiet Contemplations” is a singular and momentary meditation on nature as it drops in and out of an impossible universalism.


Ayesha Barmania is an independent journalist, sound designer and audio producer based in Peterborough, Ontario. Their work has been broadcast on CBC Radio and in many independent podcasts, as well as published in Canadian magazines and newspapers. They are the host of the Sounds Like Life audio art podcast and the Peterborough Currents current affairs podcast. Find them on Twitter @AyeshaBarmania.

Ayesha is working on a collection of spatial audio recordings that will be released as an album on Bandcamp some time in 2019. Watch their website and Twitter for those. "

janna graham - to slow down time


To Slow Down Time was produced by Janna Graham, and features voice and sounds by Yellowknife historian Ryan Silke, the natural radio / VLF recordings of aurora borealis by sound recordist Stephen P. McCreevy, music from Duo for Solo Cello by Sarah J. Ritch, and CBC North newscasts from 2014 and 2015.

It airs for the first time here on Constellations.


Janna says

In October, 2014, Atsumi Yoshikubo, a Japanese tourist, was seen walking down the highway outside of Yellowknife with a camera and a shoulder bag. It was the last time she was seen alive. The following summer, a friend of mine, Ryan Silke, discovered her belongings in the bush, not far from town. 

Rather than delving into how Atsumi died — her death was assumed to be intentional — I began thinking about how we engage in certain processes to slow down time.  If you are tying a rope or laying out a fish net on the ice in the winter, the elders tell you to go slow. In frigid temperatures, there's deliberation and intention to every movement. It becomes impossible to move fast. Engines fail, ice fog hangs in the air.. minutes seem suspended.  I imagined Atsumi, like many tourists who visit the north, was hoping to see the aurora borealis. While it was cloudy that week she went missing, the aurora are, in fact, always pulsating in the northern sky. These natural radio signals coming from the earth's magnetosphere are always resonating. 

Natural VLF recordings of aurora borealis, which are present throughout this piece, were recorded by American sound recordist Stephen P. McCreevy. While aurora borealis are not audible to the human ear,  slowed down and processed, it's possible to hear the eerie, electric emissions. The process of environmental field recording is, to me, also a manner of slowing, or savoring, a moment in time. I have heard stories of near-death experiences were time is hyper-slowed and the soul exits the body.  All of these, as well as the beautiful yet brutal northern wilderness, are sewn into the feel of the piece. 


Inspiring Janna both in the world of sound

Community radio, indigenous language broadcasts from scrappy studios, badass women everywhere making creative radio; community builders;  the amazingly generous producers I've met when I'm able to travel to International Features Conference, Hearsay International Audio Fest and, visit virtually at the Association of Independent Radio Producers — all solid anchors in what sometimes feels like a sea of remoteness. 

And outside of it

Long, meandering trips by motorcycle by map, two-stepping, Joan Halifax,  zydeco, Patti Smith, growing food, sound installations for very small audiences, all kinds of poetry and the hilarious and zen world of dogs.


Janna Graham is currently based somewhere between Yellowknife, NWT and Canada's east coast. She is a radio feature maker, sound forager, and long-time community radio champion. Her work has aired on public radio as well as on neighbourhood pirate radio transmissions.

Check out a recent doc by Janna’s, a feature for SWR 2 (Germany) that explores the poetics of long distance travel by dog sled here.

paolo pietropaolo - ode to the salish sea


Ode to the Salish Sea was produced and composed by audio documentary producer, writer and composer Paolo Pietropaolo. It was commissioned by CBC Radio's Outfront and the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio Arts. It premiered on Outfront across Canada on May 15, 2009 and in octophonic surround sound at the Deep Wireless Festival in Toronto, Ontario on May 30, 2009.
It features the sounds of the Salish Sea and the voices of George Harris of the Chemainus First Nation, geographer Briony Penn, and monarchist Keith Roy.


Paolo says:

In 2010, a new, collective name was made official for the inland waterways off the coasts of British Columbia and the State of Washington: the Salish Sea. These waterways are also known individually as the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound. The collective name was created to honour the area's original inhabitants, the Coast Salish peoples. 

The Ode to the Salish Sea is a composed documentary I produced prior to the official acceptance of the name by the U.S. and Canadian governments. 

As the title suggests, my aim was to compose a lyrical tribute to the unique beauty of this coastal region by capturing and recomposing the sounds and languages of the Salish Sea. I also wanted to explore the complexity of the relationship between the indigenous and non-indigenous cultures that call the Salish Sea home.

There are three voices heard in two languages (the Coast Salish language Hul’qumi’num and English): George Harris of the Chemainus First Nation; Keith Roy, spokesman for the Monarchist League of Canada; and Briony Penn, a geographer and environmental activist. 

The sounds are those of the waters: creeks, waves, boats, ferries and ambient sound, and the sounds of wildlife that depend on the Salish Sea for survival. 

I like to think of the Ode as a dream-state balancing the reality of what these waterways sound like today with imagined past and future sounds of the Salish Sea.

And to this day, whenever I turn on my mics to record anything, anywhere, I always think of the pileated woodpecker that called out and swooped above me seconds after I started recording ambient sounds for the Ode in Roberts Memorial Provincial Park on Vancouver Island.


What or who is currently inspiring you both inside of the world of audio and outside of it?

In the world of radio, right now I’m most inspired by my friend Jarrett Martineau, who is opening my ears to indigenous music from around the world on his CBC Music show Reclaimed, and also by CBC journalist Connie Walker for her investigative podcast series on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, a very difficult topic that she handles with a combination of toughness, sensitivity and journalistic integrity I don’t see enough of in the world of podcasting and radio.

Outside - it’s hard not to be inspired by Wolastoqiyik artist Jeremy Dutcher, winner of Canada’s Polaris Music Prize this year for his astounding album based on his research into old archival recordings of traditional songs of the Wolastoqiyik people.


Paolo Pietropaolo is an audio documentary producer, writer and composer who lives in Vancouver, Canada, also known as the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, by the shores of the Salish Sea.

Paolo is a two-time winner of the Prix Italia, most recently for The Signature Series, a 24-part classical music mashup series taking a whimsical look at the personalities of the key signatures of music, as though they were astrological signs (I know, weird), and previously for the 8-part documentary series The Wire: the Impact of Electricity on Music, which also won a Peabody Award.

An inveterate baseball fan as well as a musician, Paolo has spent much of his life trying to explain the intricacies of the arcane to the uninitiated. After one year of undergrad science at the University of Toronto, Paolo gave up on his marine biology dreams in favour of that most secure of career paths: music. Shockingly, this strategy somehow worked when a taiko drumming gig led to a career in radio. 

Since 2012, Paolo has also been the host of In Concert, the award-winning classical music performance program on CBC Music. In Concert can be heard worldwide on Sundays at @paolopp