Photo by Greg Locke

By Carolyn Chong

I try to bring my 6 ½ year old to as many live performances as I can. What better way to take your listening senses to new levels than experiencing live music. I think it’s important for kids to have these opportunities, too. I admit, it doesn’t always make for the most relaxing concert-going experience for me, but with an arsenal of snacks, crayons, books, etc., I cross my fingers and hope for the best. My little concert buddy has accompanied me to a handful of Sound Symposium events this year and I’m so glad last night’s concert was one of them.

While we were sad the rainy weather didn’t allow for the performance to go ahead in the WWII Bunkers out at Cape Spear, Delf’s collaborative improvised work, Cape Spear Klang-Opus àla fin du crépuscule, intrigued our senses for an hour-long journey. In my son’s words, it was “a beautiful time machine.”

This performance literally surrounded us with sound. Ten standing speakers encircled the audience and projected a series of pre-recorded sonic soundscapes. Many were familiar like the sounds of birds, the Harbour Symphony, dripping water, bees, church bells, planes overhead, waves and walking on a pebbly beach. Other sounds were more puzzling depending on your relationship to the piece and its creators. My partner was involved in the project as an artist, so I had the backstory on some of the puzzling sounds. For instance, I recognized the sounds of the Cape Spear fence being played by the Atlantic String Quartet and Rob Power, along with the voices of a group of tourists who happened upon this unusual scene.

Layered on top of these distinct soundscapes were live improvisations of twenty or so artists who slowly walked through the aisles and around the church pews as they played their various percussion, wind, brass, and string instruments. We also heard solos by a soprano and a Chinese ghuzeng player.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the evening was the period of complete silence and stillness (my son included) before the applause – a rare social experience to get to share with a larger number of people. This moment felt longer than usual which, for me, was what made it special.

Thank you Delf for orchestrating this opportunity to open our ears. I just have one lingering question – what was up with the Styrofoam mannequin heads with the huge ears?

NOTE FROM SOUND SYMPOSIUM TEAM: That was Otto. His ears contained two very sensitive microphones, a recording technique called binaural. Otto (and his twin brother, who was hanging out at the front of the church) helped us capture a recording that feels more true to the experience you and your ears had that evening.

Carolyn Chong is a PhD candidate at MUN in ethnomusicology.