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The Listening Year at Big Walnut Creek

recording phase: July 2022-June 2023

The Listening Year at Big Walnut Creek explores the changing sonic ecology of a place, resulting in a composition for New Morse Code (cello and percussion duo) incorporating field recordings and other media. Every week from July 2022-June 2023, I made a field recording at Big Walnut Creek in Putnam County, Indiana. I - or, sometimes, a co- or guest recordist - went to the site, spent some time exploring the sounds present there that day, decided where and how to position the recorder and set levels given the sounds and conditions, and pressed record. I gave a brief verbal introduction, then listened for a minimum of five minutes before saying goodbye and ending the recording. 


Throughout the recording year, and as I work with the completed recordings creatively, I am consulting with scientists, environmentalists, local residents, colleagues in the arts, and student assistants to interpret the audio, facilitating an interdisciplinary, intergenerational creative ecology that is in conversation with the ecology of the creek. I am now in the process of creating an hour-long musical work whose title, form, content, sound material, and media emerge from this conversation and engage some of its participants as collaborators. This creative phase of the project was awarded the 2023-24 Fisher Fellowship from DePauw University. 

Big Walnut Creek forms the East boundary of the Nature Park at DePauw University. It is a small rural waterway, but it is subject to numerous human impacts on its ecology that have much broader environmental implications. By undertaking this listening and recording practice for a year, and bringing that practice into open-ended conversation with many forms of expertise about the creek and its watershed, as well as aesthetic and musical approaches to its sonic ecology, I hope to demonstrate the value of listening attentively to place as part of the solution to human environmental destruction.

image: Big Walnut Creek - The Listening Year Week 1

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