Place-responsive sound art and performance (2015 - Present, Bay of Fundy, NS)

For the past five years I have been investigating traditional drums and drumming through mentorship, cultural exchange, self-driven research and practice. Incited by a desire to engage in a cultural practice that facilitates a deep connection to my Indigenous (Mohawk) ancestry, the research is concerned with how traditional drums embody the environment they come from: when you play a traditional drum, you not only hear the drum, but the spirit of the animal, the tree, the place.

In 2015 I returned to the drums that were my first introduction to percussion in middle school — a four-piece Pearl drum kit and cymbals. Over a week, I explored how these drums and cymbals responded in a natural environment, particularly the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy embodies rhythm with its extreme tides and the daily erosion of landscape. There, I took a floor tom into the ocean, playing it as it filled with water; I rolled a cymbal down the beach, leaving a wave-like pattern in the sand; and I created a wind whistle out of two stacked cymbals. 

In these brief experiments, I began to see the drums as subjects containing a myriad of possibilities when in direct relation to landscape, not just as sounding objects to be used in a specific configuration. Their mere materiality – something that rolls, floats, contains, erodes – gives rise to a whole world of possibility in terms of sound that responds to the natural world. Drums can be employed to frame how we listen to the landscape.

I have witnessed the potential of land-responsive composition and sound works using kit drums and cymbals, and I'm diving deeper into this work in 2017 and 2018. 

Support for this project from Arts Nova Scotia, Canada Council for the Arts and Sabian Cymbals is gratefully acknowledged.