April 29, 2024

Branching Songs  /  A Renewed Sense of Wonder 

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Trees and forests have a crucial role to play in climate change mitigation and they are critical multispecies habitats. The Branching Songs project aims to draw attention to the ecological significance of trees, their importance to sustaining life on Earth, and how listening to them may grow empathy for multispecies flourishing.

Branching Songs seeks to expand our perceptions about trees and forests by investigating how multispecies sound art may offer insights into the vital contributions of trees to human and more-than-human life. Focusing on old trees in Vancouver area and the Sunshine Coast, including those affected by the Transmountain Pipeline expansion and clear-cutting, the project elevates the voices of these inhabitants and ecosystems, highlighting their role in supporting both human and nonhuman life.

Led by Julie Andreyev, an artist, ECU associate professor, and co-director of the Basically Good Media Lab along with a team of ECU and community researchers —Maria Lantin, Simon Overstall, Lara Felsing, Giorgio Magnanensi, Sam Street, Keira Madsen, Cara Jacobsen, Leanne Plisic, Myles Feltenberger and Emma Pallay — Branching Songs draws inspiration from acoustic ecology, multispecies creativity, and performance, to forge new relations with trees as participants in immersive media and sound art.

Interspecies sounds, land-based practices, and Indigenous ways of knowing

By integrating creativity, technology, Indigenous ways of knowing and scientific inquiry, projects like Branching Songs invite us to reimagine our relationship with trees and forests, inspiring a renewed sense of wonder and reverence for the intricate web of life that surrounds us.

The project explores decolonial and land-based methods, by adapting Indigenous ways of knowing into the artistic process. Lara Felsing, an interdisciplinary Métis artist and recent MFA grad from ECU, created a noninvasive method for attaching contact microphones to trees. Drawing inspiration from Métis Ribbon Tree healing ceremonies, Lara devised ‘ribbons’ fashioned from recycled plant-based fabrics and combined them with her own harvesting and natural dying techniques. Through this adaptation, trees become active collaborators, woven into the fabric of sound art.

With Felsing, the team created Tree Feelers, instruments, sourced from the land, as touch interfaces to compose interspecies sounds, forging a harmonious dialogue between humans and nature.

Watch Recital With a Forest

Branching Songs is a complex and multifaceted project, composed of performances, installations, and workshops.

One of the performances, called Recital With a Forest, is a site-specific multispecies sound art staged in an intact old growth forest on the Sunshine Coast threatened by clear-cutting by BC Timber. Hand-crafted instruments with contact mics, biosensors, and local cast-off materials facilitated the collaboration with trees. In the performance, the Ensemble responds to the emergent soundscape of the forest, improvising sonic dialogues with elements like wind and bird songs, silent pauses highlight human-made sounds, fostering a nuanced relationship with the living forest ecology. Rooted in care and gratitude, this immersive experience embodies reciprocity between humans and forests, weaving a sonic tapestry of touch, tree acoustics, and forest vitality—a harmonious multispecies dialogue.

Click here to watch the performance.

Branching Songs is supported by the BGML .

Other Visions

Want to know more about acoustic ecology and soundscape studies?

Canadian Association for Sound Ecology

Hildegard Westerkamp

R. Murray Schafer

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Credits

1 – Branching Songs Ensemble (left to right: Julie Andreyev, Myles Feltenberger, Giorgio Magnanensi, Keira Madsen, Simon Overstall) performing Recital With a Forest in Tuwanek Springs Forest, Sunshine Coast 2023. Photo courtesy of Keira Madsen. / 2 – Julie Andreyev using a Tree Feeler, as part of the Recital With a Forest performance in Tuwanek Springs Forest, Sunshine Coast 2023. Photo courtesy of Keira Madsen.