Archives for category: Docs

2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Romantic-era composer Robert Schumann. Schumann was perhaps the archetypal moody artist, alternating between blazing bouts of creativity and periods of antisocial depression. It’s a common cliché that has, all too often, been sustained by sad life stories punctuated by tragic endings. Schumann died a broken man in an insane asylum.

More recently, we’ve seen gifted musicians like Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith take their own lives after struggling with depression.

There are many, many others who fit the cliché (Tchaikovsky, Billie Holiday, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis…the list goes on and on). Why are there so many artists and musicians that struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness?

Anthony Storr was a British psychiatrist who wrote about music and mental illness in his book Music and the Mind. He suggested that there might be a link between mental illness and creativity – he wrote: “The ability to think creatively, to make new links between concepts, is more often found in families which include a member who is diagnosable as mentally ill.”

I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’d be surprised if Schumann, Cobain and Smith weren’t at their happiest when they were writing and playing music. We’ve all experienced a moment in our lives when music has helped us get through a rough patch; when listening to or singing a particular song has just seemed to simultaneously hurt so good and help mitigate the pain.

Is it also possible that, for Schumann, Cobain and Smith, music was almost like self-medication, a treatment for their mental ailments?

I put together a short musical essay about music and mental illness that first aired on CBC Radio 2’s In Concert on Sunday October 24th, 2010. For info on all the music I used in the piece, please look here and scroll down to the list of musical works.

I’m thrilled to announce that my documentary The Sound and the Sea has won a Silver Medal for Best Sound at the 2010 New York Festivals Radio Program and Promotion Awards.

I produced it last year for CBC Radio’s The Current. It was based on my original audio artwork Ode to the Salish Sea. Producing it in documentary format allowed me to explore more deeply the story of the Salish Sea and its various proponents and opponents as a new name for the inland waters stretching from Olympia, WA to Campbell River, BC.

The Salish Sea became an official geographic name in July, 2010, overlaying but not replacing existing place names like the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, which also remain official.

The sound design of The Sound and the Sea was inspired by the diversity and beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

There’s a great new show launching on CBC Radio today called Day 6.

They commissioned me to create a sound piece that made me pay close attention to a story that I might have willfully ignored as overblown media hype – and that I think the international news media really ought to have ignored: the hate-filled ravings of a certain Islamophobic pastor in Florida.

The assignment was to remix some of the soundbites to come out of the story in a 90-second “for-the-record” news mashup.

I thought “American Idiot” by Green Day might provide an appropriate musical counterpoint to all the hysteria.

Listen to the mashup on the Day 6 website by clicking HERE.

I first started suffering from tinnitus about seven years ago. I’ve learned how to live with it, mostly. It usually affects me the most when I’m in a very silent environment, like somewhere in the wilderness.

Gordon Hempton is someone who knows all about very quiet places and so I thought he might have some insight into how I might learn to listen to them again despite my tinnitus. He’s a Grammy-award winning sound recordist and acoustic ecologist based in Port Angeles, WA, and he’s also the founder and caretaker of One Square Inch of silence in Washington’s Olympic National Park – the quietest place in the USA.

When we spoke, he said some very interesting things about how society is sort of suffering from a collective temporary hearing loss – and how he believes that learning how to listen again could help us take better care of the planet we live on. I mixed his words from that conversation together with some of my recordings of human and environmental sounds to create this short radio piece.

This piece originally ran on CBC Radio’s excellent 2010 summer series The Bottom Line with David Suzuki.

Just over a year ago, I composed an audio artwork commissioned by the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio Art. I’m excited to share it as the first audio I’m posting here on my new website (now that I’ve figured out how to post audio).

It’s called Ode to the Salish Sea and it premiered in Toronto on May 30, 2009 in octophonic surround sound at the Wychwood Art Barns, during the Radio Without Boundaries conference. It was broadcast that month across Canada on the venerable and undeservedly discontinued CBC program Outfront, and has since been broadcast on KUOW in Seattle.

At the time of the production of the piece, the Salish Sea was a proposed name for the inland waters that run from Olympia, WA, north to Campbell River, BC.  Last November, it became an official name in the USA, to be used on all new maps. I later produced a documentary for CBC’s The Current called The Sound and the Sea, based on Ode to the Salish Sea. (I’ll be posting that here too in a little bit, but if you like, you can hear it here now.)

A very long-winded description of the Ode, written during production, follows below.

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