Sustainable Sound: ecology and the urban soundscape

CESSA’s upcoming series of workshops will explore the relationship between sound, music, and the environment

“How we live, what we consume, and how we interact with our environment has a direct impact on the world of future generations,” said Malte Leander, president of the Concordia Electroacoustic Studies Student Association (CESSA) and head of the club’s board association.

CESSA will be hosting Sustainable Sound, a series of workshops and lectures centred around the relationship between sound, music, and the environment.

CESSA represents students within Concordia’s Music Department, however those in other departments or areas of study are encouraged to apply. They aim to facilitate collaborations with other departments and student associations through initiatives that will benefit students in the program.

The presentations, which will explore acoustic ecology, sustainability, noise, and the interstices of the aforementioned, will take place throughout  April and May and will feature speakers from around the globe.

The positive thing about virtual events is the possibility for people to join in from anywhere,” said Leander, adding that the guest speakers are from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; each bringing their own perspective on the notion of place.

In Jordan Lacey’s lecture, Sonic Rupture: theory and practice in the urban soundscape, the artist and researcher will be discussing the relationship between urbanity and nature via sonic encounters. Lacey is a Melbourne-based sound researcher, curator, and musician. His work explores urban design and sound art.

In Acts of Air: Reshaping the urban sonic, Lisa Hall will be hosting a workshop where viewers will be invited to enact and embody sound-works within the urban environment. After her lecture, participants will be asked to perform one of the discussed artworks within their environment and subsequently share their experience with the group.

Hall is a London-based sound-artist who uses audio and performance to explore urban environments. She does this by using audio and performance to intervene and interrupt, in an effort to raise questions and explore possibilities within a space.

In Pamela Z’s lecture and presentation, the composer and performer will be discussing her work in the artist space. Z works primarily with sampled sound and electronic processing.

Though the artists all work in different capacities, they all aim to uncover the relationship between sound, our environment, and the place we hold in relation to the two.

“An area not nearly spoken enough about is how our sonic environments affect us; our health, concentration levels, and sleep patterns,” said Leander. “In the case for most of us, that sonic environment is the roar that is the urban soundscape of Montreal.”

With environmentalism becoming increasingly popular throughout many aspects of everyday life, Leander notes that there is equally a “green” movement within the topics of acoustic ecology and ecoacoustics, which have been around for quite some time.

The urgency of change for a more sustainable future calls for a bigger integration of reflection upon sustainability and a call for change; both through what means, and in what way that audio is produced and composed, but also how the topics are approached,” said Leander.

Leander added that purposefully producing reflective art around environmentalism can yield deeper reflections within the public and the listener. In turn, potentially contributing to acts of change within other aspects of life.

“We are wanting to raise awareness about these things in an attempt to make more people more conscious of our surroundings, also in the domain of sound,” said Leander. “The sounds around you affect you more than you think.”

For more information about the Concordia Electroacoustic Studies Student Association, follow them on Instagram or visit their Bandcamp. To register for Sustainable Sound, visit their Facebook page.


Feature graphic courtesy of Allie Brown.


Ecologies pays homage to planet Earth

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ latest exhibition captures the complexities of global warming

I have rarely left a museum feeling emotional and so deeply invested in the curator’s cause. Walking out onto Sherbrooke Street after leaving Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet, I found myself breathtaken and with a heavy heart; both hopeful and troubled for the future that awaits us.

Curated by Iris Amizlev, curator of intercultural arts, Ecologies features over 90 works from the museum’s collection, all of which interpret the current environmental crisis in a different way. Featured artists include Shuvinai Ashoona, Olafur Eliasson, and Lorraine Gilbert.

Upon walking into the space, viewers can observe Giuseppe Penone’s Path (1983), an almost whimsical sculpture that appears to be at once a human and a flowering tree. Penone’s bronze cast figure serves as a demonstration and connection between humans and nature — a theme which Amizlev has made apparent at various instances throughout the exhibition.

Another example of the relationship between humans and the environment can be observed in Lorraine Gilbert’s Boreal Forest Floor, La Macaza, Quebec (2010). The print, which is only half of a diptych from the series “Once Upon a Forest,” features manipulated photographs of plants that are native to Quebec.

Gilbert manipulated the photographs, creating what is essentially a collage, in an attempt to give viewers a “man-made” view of an already beautiful landscape. By resizing, reorganizing, and essentially recreating the scenery, the work demonstrates society’s inclination towards controlling a natural process.

Further in the space, viewers can admire Osuitok Ipeelee’s Untitled (Walruses) (1977) and Peter Qumaluk Itukalla’s Untitled (Bear and Cub) (2003). Though the works are not directly about the climate crisis, the stone sculptures capture the beauty of the threatened Canadian wilderness.

By referencing Indigenous artists and the impacts of colonization, Amizlev makes the important connection between a longstanding history of environmental injustice and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, two issues which fall hand-in-hand.

Olafur Eliasson’s Untitled no. 44 (1997), from his series “Iceland,” is a print featuring a stunning depiction of an Icelandic landscape. The contrast between the grassy plain and snowy field in the distance allows viewers to appreciate the grandiosity and serenity of the vast Nordic region.

Eliasson’s works frequently incorporate science, and specifically more “elemental” materials such as water and air. The Danish-Icelandic artist primarily creates installations, and explores themes such as weather, the environment, and space.

In contrast to Eliasson’s tranquil photograph, Adrian Stimson’s Beyond Redemption (2010) is forthright and provocative. Consisting of a taxidermied bison surrounded by ten bison skins draped across black crosses, Stimson’s installation pays homage to the history and importance of the bison in Indigenous communities.

Stimson, a member of the Siksika nation, sacrificed a bison as a means of honouring the near-eradication of the species, as well as the Indigenous tribes who rely on them for sustenance. He offers a glance at the importance of the bison in Indigenous spirituality, as well as the ramifications of human actions on a group of animals that once dominated the wilderness.

Presented alongside Ecologies, viewers can view Paul Walde’s mesmerizing video installation, Requiem for a Glacier (2013). Performed by over 50 artists on the Farnham Glacier in British Columbia, Walde’s piece serves as an homage to the land.

In addition to being threatened by global warming, the government of British Columbia had announced developing a ski resort on the unceded Indigenous land of the Ktunaxa Nation, causing a series of land disputes which lasted over a decade. Walde’s performance features a choir singing the Latin translation of the press release published by the government authorities.

At once aesthetically gratifying and informational, Ecologies provides the public with a compelling narrative and ode to planet Earth. Amizlev’s selection of works so profoundly captures the intricacies and complexity of the climate crisis, offering viewers an experience that is both alarming and stunning.

Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, at 1380 Sherbrooke St. W., until Feb. 27, 2022. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Reservations must be made in advance. To book a ticket, visit


Photos courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

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