by john grzinich

Covid Spring (Cognitive Resonance)

This collection of recordings highlights themes I’ve been pursuing for some time, of ‘going local’ and ‘grounding’ oneself in the eco-phenomenological context one is embedded in. Admittedly this is a personal project and may not be of interest to many. Even if you can’t relate on a sonic (aesthetic?) level, at least take up the challenge on a conceptual one. Discover your own habitus or sphere of sonic wonders, particularly beyond the noise of your own existence as an exercise, to relieve the dissonance as a means to develop more forms of cognitive resonance.

Not much more needs to be said about the ‘Covid Spring’ of 2020 and the plethora of projects that emerged as a result of artists being in various forms of isolation. This was one of mine. Like some I took advantage of the brief respite in the usual density of anthropogenic traffic noise to make recordings of the non-human ‘natural’ world during the seasonal transition from winter into summer. Technically I would describe this ‘other’ as the post-natural world, the one that is degrading in many ways because we rarely hear it beyond the ubiquitous ‘hum’ of our own activity, sensorially suppressing it amid our ‘busy-ness’ as ‘civilised’ intelligent beings. Anyone who put an ‘ear to the ground’ during the lock-down, in rural or urban areas, suddenly heard the world beyond the constant pervasive noise of human-mechanical activity. This perceptual shift certainly may have contributed to many of the miraculous ‘return of nature’ stories that surfaced during the pandemic. The sad irony often being, ‘nature’ didn’t return to ‘our’ world, so much as our attention turned away from ourselves.

While this collection could fit somewhat comfortably alongside numerous similar collections of ’nature sound’ or ‘environmental’ recordings, there is one aspect of this ‘album’ that makes it distinctly unique. All the recordings here were made within 250 meters of my home. The order of tracks also follows a chronological timeline of this spring covering a period from March 22nd to June 9th. Yet my aim is not to present a clinical survey document. To do that, one would have to sink into the tens of hours of recordings I made to really grasp the scope of life activity that takes place (and even all this material represents a far from a comprehensive overview). What we have here are light mixes or clusters of sounds excerpted from durational recordings that represent different locations, periods or events of interwoven micro-ecologies, not only of the living fauna but also including the affects of the ever changing weather.

Domestic view looking toward south
View to the South

If the listener wonders whether I live in some ‘wild’ remote reserve, I do not. In fact, it is highly domesticated, nearly every square meter of it. Sure it is a deeply rural part of Estonia on the fringes of Europe, but our home is surrounded by cow pastures, crop fields and neighbours who live on similar small legacy ‘farmsteads’ with villages and towns not too far off. This is very much a human environment, yet still there is room for complex multilayered coexistence. Considering the political dimensions of listening, I would rally around this model as a call to those who argue that any attempt to relinquish 110% control of ‘our’ world would surely result in the collapse of civilisation. Yet clearly, if we give up and ‘let go’ 10, 5 or even 1% of inhabited lands, we lose nothing and gain the immeasurable (apart from the possible collapse of a few egos). This begs the question, if all of these other creatures coexist and flourish on shared territories, what gives us the right to live as an exception?

Domestic view looking toward east
View to the East
domestic view looking north
View to the North

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