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WATER DRUMMING

Socially-engaged and place-responsive sound art performance (2015 - Present, Bay of Fundy, NS)

The drum is the voice of the landscape from which it came — experienced in relationship to its surroundings and in a constant process of transformation.

The same could be said of water. 

Water is constantly transforming, responding, listening, sounding. Water is the connective tissue of our planet, and, like rhythm, it requires constant cooperation. 

You would not have a drum without water. The tree. The animal. The land. All need water. And a drum continues to need water through its life. 

While at a residency on the Bay of Fundy three years ago, I was inspired by my research of Mohawk water drums — a small wood or clay vessel that one fills with water and covers with animal hide to create a drum. Observing the Bay, I noticed it was similar to a water drum in the way the water rhythmically flowed in and out, with the landscape as the container. I decided to respond to the rhythms and cycles of the tide by engaging with the water as if it was a drum. 

At this time, I was not aware of water drumming traditions in other cultures, such as the Baka in Central Africa or the water music of Vanuatu. I am not working from these traditions, but am seeking to understand and eventually engage in a cultural exchange. My work with water drumming came from my lifelong and profound relationship with the drum and water, particularly the Bay of Fundy, and my soul's desire to more deeply explore their relationship. It came on a dream. 

I had a dream. A dream that I was larger than the ocean, and the ocean was a drum. A resonant body. Absorbing my impact to its depths. Receiving my story. Amplifying my gesture. Listening to the land. Giving life. 

Like rhythm, water facilitates cooperation and a united consciousness. For instance, if you're living downstream from another community, you hope that they're not dumping bad things into the water. But, unfortunately, this is happening everywhere. Indigenous peoples are presently at the front lines of the struggle for healthy and clean water, but it is an issue that connects us all.

Water drumming is a very visible articulation of water as connective tissue and how our actions echo outward. By employing rhythm, which requires cooperation within individual bodies, between people and with the environment, we see it emanating outward, in concentric waves, becoming larger than the composite parts. We also see people working together, and with the water. We hear collective, rhythmic gestures, an articulation of a united consciousness, in the context of the larger rhythms and cycles of the ocean. Through drumming, we can hear our relationship with water speak.

Photos by Lucas Ferguson Sharp, Eli Gordon and Lindsay Dobbin. Thank you to Arts Nova Scotia and White Rabbit Arts for supporting this project.