Sustainability – Vancouver 2019

On Feb­ru­ary 23, 2019, CNMN host­ed a knowl­edge-shar­ing event around Sus­tain­abil­i­ty for the new music com­mu­ni­ty at the Cen­tre for Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Research on Sus­tain­abil­i­ty at UBC (CIRS). The goal was to dis­cuss ways our prac­tice can be more sus­tain­able and the costs and advan­tages of such eco­log­i­cal stewardship.

We began the day with a Sound­walk led by Hilde­gard West­erkamp. Despite rain and slight­ly chilly con­di­tions, every­one wel­comed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to, as Hilde­gard sug­gest­ed, “come into the pres­ence of sound in this loca­tion, to cre­ate a lis­ten­ing atmos­phere for the day ahead of us, to lis­ten togeth­er to the sound world around us, to the group and indeed to our own ways of lis­ten­ing.” A dis­cus­sion of our impres­sions, thoughts and expe­ri­ences fol­lowed.

This led seam­less­ly into a talk­ing cir­cle facil­i­tat­ed by Rob Thom­son, who encour­aged every­one to present them­selves, their home ter­ri­to­ry and to share one way that they are prac­tic­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty in their every­day life. Answers ranged from reject­ing the use of plas­tics in the house­hold to reduc­ing air trav­el. Rob closed with a pre­sen­ta­tion some of the work Full Cir­cle is doing on sus­tain­abil­i­ty, includ­ing effi­cien­cy in the way they book our trav­el­ing per­form­ers and how they max­i­mize their stay. 

This oppor­tu­ni­ty for each par­tic­i­pant to present their self, sit­u­a­tion and ideas led to an ani­mat­ed lunch-time dis­cus­sion still in our talk­ing circle.

To rouse us from our lunch­es, Sharon Kallis invit­ed every­one to par­tic­i­pate in rope mak­ing. Once she had taught us the basics, she began to share some sto­ries about her prac­tice of “con­nect­ing to this place through the plants, bring­ing oth­ers along for that jour­ney, work­ing with plants like sting­ing net­tle which can serve as cul­ture con­nec­tors.” Hear­ing about such direct work with issues of stew­ard­ship and sus­tain­abil­i­ty raised a lot of ques­tions about how that might trans­late to music and sound prac­tice.

For the con­ver­sa­tion part of the after­noon,  Tina Pear­son sug­gest­ed we work in pairs or trios to enable more per­son­al and vul­ner­a­ble con­ver­sa­tions around what sus­tain­abil­i­ty, ecol­o­gy and art prac­tice raise for peo­ple. She pro­vid­ed us with a state­ment in the run-up to the event that framed the conversation: 

Many in the new music com­mu­ni­ty have begun to at least con­sid­er changes to themes and mate­ri­als of prac­tices, modes of dis­sem­i­na­tion, and pat­terns of engage­ment with each oth­er and with audi­ences / par­tic­i­pants in con­sid­er­a­tion of the real­i­ties of envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion. Although com­mit­ments can be made to, say, trav­el less, to focus on the local, to make one’s work more polit­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant, and/or to use music and sound art prac­tices to bring aware­ness to eco­log­i­cal con­cerns, are there deep­er and more vul­ner­a­ble ques­tions to be asked?

Sim­i­lar to the ques­tion­ing that has been prompt­ed by the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Commission’s Calls to Action, it seems that an unlearn­ing process is need­ed, where assump­tions about con­text, impact, own­er­ship and inten­tion in new music prac­tice can be unrav­eled as a pre­lim­i­nary step in any move­ments toward address­ing envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

It makes sense to first ask what each indi­vid­ual, and the com­mu­ni­ty, intends to sus­tain. Exam­in­ing val­ues, ethics and beliefs about belong­ing, roles, respon­si­bil­i­ties, rights, lin­eages and lega­cies can be illu­mi­nat­ing, as can defin­ing what “com­mu­ni­ty” means when things fall apart.

Ques­tions of stew­ard­ship of the place we inhab­it, for some, pri­or­i­tizes the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of a lifestyle, a job, or of human sus­tain­abil­i­ty – ensur­ing opti­mum sur­vival of upcom­ing gen­er­a­tions. For oth­ers, stew­ard­ship is weight­ed toward sus­tain­abil­i­ty of the plan­et as a liv­ing enti­ty, there­by sac­ri­fic­ing cur­rent human lifestyle priv­i­leges in order to leave as gen­tle a foot­print as pos­si­ble. For still oth­ers, sus­tain­abil­i­ty is focused so ful­ly and com­plete­ly on prac­tice that oth­er mat­ters are assumed to, and per­haps do, take care of them­selves.

After shar­ing some of our small group dis­cus­sions, Tina led us in a prac­tice of Pauline Oliv­eros’ Heart Chant.

Dur­ing the day, the con­ver­sa­tions and pre­sen­ta­tions were also sup­port­ed by the pres­ence of our guest, Gior­gio Mag­na­nen­si.

CNMN is grate­ful to the sup­port of FACTOR for the pro­duc­tion of this event.