Intertidal Cymbal Works

Place-responsive sound art and performance (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. 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.

In the week I spent on the Bay of Fundy last year, I witnessed the potential of land-responsive composition and sound works using kit drums and cymbals. I intend to return to this research in 2017.