Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols,
CLEAR lab meetings shifted online for 2019-2021. With this move to virtual meetings, lab members’ participation in meetings were no longer contingent on their presence in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Instead, members were able to join in from various corners of the world including occupied Indigenous territories across so-called Canada as well as the United States, and one member phoning in from Bangladesh. Participation in these kinds of virtual social environments while being physically situated within a separate geo- and social location is a phenomenon described by Blackwell, Birnholtz, & Abbott (2014) as ‘co-presence’.
With CLEAR’s roots in
anti-colonial science, members’ individual introductions during meetings often include descriptions of the place(s) from which they’re from as well as where they are currently residing and their relationships to those places. These descriptions most often include (where applicable) the place’s traditional name or treaty name/number, the names of the Indigenous communities who are the traditional custodians of that region, and the member’s own relationship to that place (nation member, visitor, guest, settler, immigrant, displaced person, etc.).
Given this lingering sense of co-presence across multiple territories, this Artist-In-Residence (AIR) project sought to further explore, through the use of soundscapes and soundwalks, CLEAR members’ commitment to forming better land relations within and outside of laboratory research. Following Dylan Robinson’s suggestions in
Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (2020) for developing an anti-colonial listening practice, CLEAR members were instructed to record and describe a local soundscape or soundwalk. The goals of this exercise, along with introducing an anti-colonial listening practice, was to embrace a new method of environmental engagement. Through a critical listening practice, it becomes possible to reflect on individual positionalities: how and where we take up space, as community members, visitors, and settlers.
Following is the list of CLEAR members who participated in the project, their recordings as well as a program note describing the context of each of their pieces:
Hello. My name is Alex Zahara. My pronouns are he and him. I’m a settler from kistapinānihk, which is currently called prince albert Saskatchewan, located in Treaty 6 Territory, which is the traditional homelands of Dene, Cree, Dakota and Metis people. So the place that I went to for my soundscape is this little grassy area located about two or three blocks from my parent’s house. It’s surrounded by houses and it’s just sort of this non-descript little area of grass probably about the length of a block. It’s an area that I walked through quite often growing up– probably hundreds of times on my way to school, but up until until the last year, I never sort of paid attention to it as a (pause) delightful (laughs)space. So in the last year, since COVID, I ended up going a lot of walks, usually with my mom in the morning. It’s a quieter place, you’ll maybe hear some bird sounds in the distance. But the reason that it’s quiet is there are hawks in the trees. So there’s about four or five trees– a couple of pine trees and a couple of poplar. And in May the area is hope to 2—3 hawks in the area, so when the hawks are here, you don’t really hear many bird sounds because they do not want to get in the hawks’ way. Later on in the summer, at least as of last year, the hawks move away and the area becomes really quite full of sounds as other birds move in [note spliced another recording in here as a loud motorbike went by while dictating haha]. In the fall, it’s home to a lot of crows. And then in the winter the crows leave and move south as the ravens come from up north. This is not something I realized at all until this year. And I’m just grateful for these walks and for getting to sort of pause and get to realize that there’s so much that I don’t know about this place, and it is so full of life, and I’m just grateful for that. Thank you.
My name is Alexander Flynn (he/him). I am a member of the NunatuKavut community from the south coast of Labrador. I am a settler on the island of Newfoundland in the city of St. John’s, which is located on the stolen ancestral homeland of the Beothuk peoples. I am currently a Master’s student in biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a research assistant at CLEAR. The place I chose for my soundscape was Cape Spear, where I participated multiple times in repatriation of animal remains, which were used in research, to the Land. Many of these remains were individuals that I had worked with and visiting this place reminds me of those times. Coming back here is a bit like visiting a graveyard in a way, to pay respect and remember. Although this comparison may sound a bit extreme to some. It also serves as a reminder of how scientific research can be conducted with accountability and humility as values, in ways that previously believed were not possible. The connection I feel to these “samples” is unlike anything I experienced in research work before and for that I am very grateful to them and this place. On a different note, I also really like the sound of crashing waves. My house growing up was next to the ocean so I would often fall asleep to the sounds of waves hitting the beach. Because of the rocky and steep layout of the shoreline the waves there are large and loud. Contradictory, I find this peaceful.
My name is Abu Arif. My pronouns are he/him/they/them. I am currently involved with CLEAR from my ancestorial homeland Chittagong, Bangladesh. The place I have chosen is my mother’s home where I reside for now. I have chosen my reading space which is next to a verandah facing a “not-so-busy” intersection of Chittagong. It is Monsoon here – my favourite season of my ancestorial homeland. I have chosen this space because I have spent most of my time thinking about various wonderings of mine from here. It is surrounded by green trees which never change its colours with the change of weather. I can see the temple of Kali – the goddess of destruction. According Hindu faith, goddess Kali demolishes only to recreate. In many ways, the temple symbolizes what I have come to learn at CLEAR – reimagine the world. In Arundhati Roy’s words “what lies ahead? Reimagining the world. Only that.”
Back again, and it feels/hurts so good I’m Christina Crespo and my pronouns are she/her. I’m an anthropology PhD student from South Florida and am of Anglo settler and Cuban descent. This soundscape is on a trail at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia, part of the University of Georgia system which is built on the ancestral homelands of the Muscogee Creek, the Eastern Cherokee, and the Yuchi. The trail makes a 4-mile loop through the woods and down by the river that I used to run three times a week, almost every week, since I moved to Athens about 6 years ago. The woods here felt different to me when I first moved and I missed being in the tropics, being by the ocean, so badly. I still do. But the ritual of running here became a sanctuary for me. And yet, it’s been a year and a week since I was on the trail. The last time I was at this particular spot, I tripped over the tree roots I’m standing next to now, managing to completely tear one and partially tear another ligament in my ankle…Oops…This is my first time back since the injury. I’m still in the process of rehabbing my ankle, but I’m excited to finally be able to get out here again. The place has changed a bit—some paths have eroded away and others have actually been paved. Trees have toppled over from storms. How I feel here has also changed. Walking hurts a bit now, but more so it just feels strange to have trepidation press up inside of me while moving through a space that used to feel so familiar and safe. Being back is hard and I’m itching to run but I know that I’m not there yet. Patience. Walking also means I can actually notice what’s around me. So, for now, I’m just happy to be back.
Boozhoo, Deondre Smiles indizhinikaaz. Awazisii ndoodem. My name is Deondre Smiles, I am Black, Anishinaabe and settler, and I am of the bullhead clan. I’m a citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, currently living on occupied Miami and Shawnee lands, and in the process of moving to unceded Lekwungen, WSANEC, and Esquimalt lands. This soundscape was recorded alongside Mirror Lake, which is an artificial lake in the middle of the campus of The Ohio State University, where I currently work as a postdoc. It is a quiet, tree lined space, and usually is deserted at night, as it was when I recorded it on a quiet, warm June evening. It’s a space I like to go to, to get away and think, as well as be close to a body of water.
Hello, my name is Domenica (they/she) and I am an immigrant from Guayaquil, Ecuador doing my Bachelor of Science in Geography with a minor in oceanography at Memorial University of Newfoundland and my main interest is pursuing a career helping the environment. I am a lab research assistant at CLEAR working on science and social science projects. We are at the top of an electrical corridor in Long Pond, St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. In this corridor, both sides are forest and if you keep going down there’s a trail. You are basically covered in forests, but on the left side of the corridor there’s this burned part of the park that burned about two years ago out of anthropogenic caused fire so it’s really cool because you can pick out the charcoals which I love to do. At the back of the forest you can see memorial university, you can see signal Hill, you can see the Health Sciences, you can basically see the whole city from here and you can hear the cars, the factories near the highways and at the same time hearing the birds and the nature that surrounds us so it’s pretty cool because it’s forest inside of the city. Sometimes you can hear the electrical wires from the corridor, because you can see the huge electrical poles and it’s cool because you can also see from the bird side of the forest it’s regrowing from the bottom up and the sky looks beautiful from here it’s around sunset time it’s June 16 of 2021. You are also, since this is off trail, it’s a corridor made out of basic construction material and nature has taken over on top of the construction material, so it’s complicated to come up here but it’s worth it because of the view. You can also hear the wind from here today. It was a very windy day but it was also really warm. I can feel the insects around me and I can feel the wind.
The Noise Between: Bde Maka Ska, June 10 June 10, 2021 | 38 degrees | steady wind My name is Emily Roehl (she/her), and I am a settler from the Great Plains who grew up on Pawnee land. I currently live in the homelands of the Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Jumanos, Lipan Apache, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, and Tonkawa in what is now called Texas. I am not in Texas right now, though the heat would beg to differ. I am in the homelands of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ near the banks of Bde Maka Ska in what is now called Minneapolis. In the Dakota language, this place is called Bdeóta Othúŋwe. I recorded this audio in an area known as “The Mall,” a tree-lined residential boulevard that runs perpendicular to Hennepin Avenue, a route that predates the Belgian priest and explorer whose name was chosen for the road and the county. I created this recording on an unseasonably hot day in June, deep into the second week of a heat advisory, where daily highs hung around 38 degrees.
University X My name is Girish Daswani. I am a settler on Indigenous lands associated with The Dish with One Spoon treaty made between the Anishnaabe, Missisaugas and the Haudenosaunee nations – home to many Indigenous nations including the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca. My own ancestors are from Sind (now in Pakistan), I was born in Madras (South India), grew up in Singapore and, spent several years in London, before coming here to Ta-karonto. I am also an anthropologist who conducts research in Ghana – where my father’s family have lived since the 1920’s. My current pronouns are he/him. The place I described was the quad at University X, where I came with my son when we first moved into this neighbourhood. We had yet to find a spot for him at a daycare. The laughter and sounds of children playing drew my attention. We found a place for him there. The quad is still where we come to play, watch birds, and talk to squirrels – especially during the pandemic. This is also next to a place where a statue of a man used to stand. The surrounding university was named after this man. A couple of weeks ago, I brought my sons shoes to add to those already there to remember the 215. On June 6, 2021 – he finally came down – his mouth taped, a Palestinian scarf tied round his neck, draped in Mohawk flags, he lay there defeated. I listened to the songs of an Indigenous woman as she hammered his head in rhythm and left before his head was sawed off and thrown into the lake nearby. A fitting end to the settler colonial architect of genocide.
Simple Pleasures Kaitlyn Hawkins (she/her) a settler who grew up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador–the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk. This soundscape was recorded while sitting in my backyard on my patio, in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador — the ancestral homelands of the beothuk. It was recorded around midday on a cloudless, bright and sunny, but not overly warm day in June. There was a light wind blowing, calmer than usual. I go out there often to sit and relax, watch my dogs play and bask in the sun, and to bask in the sun myself. Living in a place that experiences a lot of rain and fog makes me appreciate the nice weather and the sun even more when it comes. I spent my childhood growing up outside in nature in a little rural Newfoundland town. After living in the city for the past 6 years or so, with all the hustle and bustle of that, I often find myself needing to take time just to sit outside for a while, destress, and ground myself. It gives me the peace I need to make it through till the next time I’m able to go back to my hometown–the place where I’m truly happiest and most at peace.
Nunnery Hill, 5:30am My name is Dr. Max Liboiron (Michif/Métis, they/them) and grew up in Lac la Biche, Treaty 6 Territory. I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Memorial University, and CLEAR is my lab. This sound recording was done on Nunnery Hill, St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, at 5:30am on a rare, cloudless morning. It’s a place I’ve come to nearly every morning with the dogs for over a year since the pandemic began to see the sun rise, even though I’ve lived a block away from this spot for nearly five years. This is the most easterly point in North America, so we see the sun here first. I usually take a photo and post it on Twitter. You can see the view during this recording here. Greeting the sun/being greeted by the sun every morning is an act of gratitude, and reminds me that even when the world seems to be shit, the sun always comes and changes the sky and water every day. Gratitude and grief can coexist, and this is the landscape that reminds me of this every morning.
Molly Rivers (she/her) is from Bristol, England and a settler in St John’s, Newfoundland, the ancestral home of the Beothuk. I’m an international graduate student in Ocean Sciences at MUN and research assistant at CLEAR. The location of my soundscape is next to OSC, where I work all day everyday, where I went everyday during the Covid lock down. This small piece of ocean and calm is where I come to have lunch, to watch whales, to get fresh air. It is a place of relaxation, of stress, of calm, of excitement. It is a piece of nature right next to a large piece of human modernization (the research facility). Date: 09.06.2021 Time: ~ 11 am Location: Logy Bay, East coast trail, near Ocean Sciences Center (OSC), on the rocks close to the ocean Weather: Sunny, warm and clear day. Very calm sea and a light breeze (by Newfoundland standards) Sight description: Sun is shining through the ocean and on the trees, rocks and cliffs, making everything sparkle Seagulls and guillemots bob on ocean near by and fly overhead OSC looms to my right, there are cars and trucks parked by the main building There are no people on the trail that I can see There are lobster or crab traps floating nearby There is one boat far away on the horizon I’m about 10 m above the ocean, I can see to the bottom Everything feels a lot more still and calm than usual Sound description Gentle crashing of waves on the nearby rocks The wind gently blowing Sea gulls screeching The monotonous hum of the buildings and equipment of OSC It feels calmer and quieter than usual Missing sounds People talking and walking on the trail Trucks and other vehicles moving and beeping around the parking lot and OSC People talking and shouting around OSC Violent crashing of the ocean
My name is Pam and I use she/her pronouns. I am a visitor here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on the ancestral lands of the Beothuk and have lived and worked all over the province for almost 50 years—the island being also the land of the Mi’kmaq and Labrador being the land of the Innuit and Innu people. I made a home here when I was still being formed. I recorded early morning sounds in my garden in downtown St. John’s, where I have lived, in this same old house since 1987. I helped the weather make this garden and even in the winter often spend time there. In the spring and summer it is where I being each day. So it is HOME. It sounds different from moment to moment, but there is almost always the sound of wind and crows. It is a place if peace and contemplation, of loneliness and deep love and of almost constant wonder and gratitude. All the bits of my life flow through me when I am in this place—body, mind, art, science, love and labour. It is the first land I think of when I think about my land relations… the responsibility I carry to tend to it, to give it my attention… daily, monthly, across the seasons and across the years. In many ways it is the foundation of my “care” (care-taking and care-giving) in the world.
Hello, my name is Rui Liu. I use she/her pronouns. I’m a Chinese settler living in Dish with One Spoon territory, in a place some call Toronto, located in Treaty 13 Territory which is the homelands of the Mississaugas of the Credit River, the Wyandot, and the Seneca. I recently moved to the Corktown neighborhood in Toronto and am currently familiarizing myself with this area. Like many parts of Toronto, there are signs of gentrification everywhere here against the backdrop of this city’s burgeoning housing crisis. I am grappling with my own gentrifying and settling presence within this space. The place I recorded my soundwalk is located along a long stretch of park south of where I live by the Windmill Line Cooperative Homes. I sat on a park bench beside a busy and well-loved community basketball court and playground. It was a windy and brilliant afternoon, and the leaves and grasses rustled alongside the sounds of basketball dribbles, chirping birds, and rumbling cars. Whoops and cheers emanated from the nearby basketball game, and at some point, a bus laboriously drove by, and issued a huge gust of air at its stop. I picked this spot because sitting here on an orange blue June afternoon, it is easier to feel and imagine a different kind of collective living.
Hi! My name is Morgan Davidson (she/her). I am a settler from Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador. I am currently enrolled in my second year at Memorial University, where I am working towards a bachelor of science, with my major being biochemistry nutrition. I am working as a research assistant with a project involving food pricing in Newfoundland and Labrador. I recorded this soundscape on a dreary afternoon in June. I was standing on the beach behind my family’s house that I grew up in, situated in Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador. It had just finished raining so the air was damp and the rocks were slippery, as I watched the tide roll in and out, crashing onto the rocks. If I look directly across I can see Random Island across the sound. When I was younger, my dad would take my two siblings and I for walks along the beach to collect beach glass. Many of my favourite memories growing up such as campfires with friends, collecting beach glass, and kayaking with my mom have all happened along this little cove behind our house. My recording, of random sound, is the sound of home.
Hi, I’m Emma Ford, and my pronouns are she/they. That creek you just heard was the door to my cabin that my grandparents bought about 30 years ago, and my mom recently inherited. I am a settler, surrounded by a family of settlers. What you are hearing now, is the Atlantic ocean on a rocky beach. To the right there’s usually eagles soaring above. I think that there is a nest in the forest over there. The cabin is about a 1 minute walk, up from the beach. The cabin and this beach are both on the ancestral homelands of the beothuk. About 20 minutes away from here, there was evidence found of the Beothuk, and there is old outdated signs of information that sugarcoats the genocide of the Beothuk, and also the language is really outdated as well. I often think about how they probably lived on this beach too. I’m angry that it is me sitting here, not them. I am frustrated at how I can feel, see and hear colonialism still contaminating this land. About 15 years ago, my grandparents cut down the forest to have a clear view of the ocean. I was heartbroken, even as a little child. After 10 years of growth, my dad wants to cut them all down again. It’s only this year I’m hearing birds that I’ve never heard before. This place is my place of reflection, and what it means to be a settler, and the obligations I have as an uninvited guest here. Whenever I talk about the relations of this land and the Beothuk, and the importance of nurturing the forest back to health, I get strange looks from my family. It feels like the only ones around that understand are the ants, and the birds, even the rabbit that sometimes comes to visit. I’m sitting on this beach, trying to listen to the true soundscape of this place, but all I can hear are noises of construction and boats that just don’t belong here. I look to the left, and I see the neighboring cabin with a flagpole, with the canadian flag on it… on the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk.
Morning Chores at the barn with Hillary Hillary Bradshaw (she/her/settler) Location: Cavan, Ontario Date: June 18, 2021 As I go to my family farm to help turn the horses out in the morning. I walk into the barn as the horses (Spice, Tango, and Bailey) call out (neigh) in excitement to go out for the day. I place my phone in my pocket as I continue to do the morning chores. This takes about 5 minutes to move hay out into the horse field, make sure there is lots of water in the outdoor water trough, and then we start taking the horses out of their stalls and walk them into the field. You will hear the stall doors being opened and the rattle of the horse halter as I pick it up which is hanging on the stall front and gently place it on the horses head. There is shuffling of rubber boots on the concrete floor which belong to my dad. As I bring one horse out, I lead them from their stall to the field. The sound of their hooves on concrete is steady and get more loud and fast as their halter is removed and they leave the barn into the field. Once all horses are out in the field, the happy horse sounds of snorts (and a cough – I think my one
CLEAR AIR & Artist Bio:
In January 2020, CLEAR put out a call for artists–poets, storytellers, writers, photographers, and/or visual artists–to join the lab in the creation of methods and protocols based in equity, humility, a sense of place, and anticolonial justice. Artists were asked to work with other lab members to think about what kind of work should be done, how it can be done ethically and collaboratively, and how it should be shared and circulated. Such questions are central to all work produced at CLEAR. The
Collective Listening: CLEAR Soundscapes project was facilitated by artist-in-residence Prakash Krishnan in June-July 2021 and was heavily inspired by Hungry Listening as well as Talking to Each Other: A Collective Sounding Project.
Prakash Krishnan (he/him) is a first generation Tamil Malaysian settler born and raised on Dish With One Spoon Territory and currently resides on the unceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation on the island known as Tio’tia:ke, Mooniyang, or Montréal. He is currently a Master of Arts candidate in Media Studies at Concordia University where he studies cultural heritage exhibition on social media as a critical community archival practice. Prakash is also cultural worker and artist-researcher in constant collaboration with various academic, artistic, and community spaces exploring issues of accessibility, knowledge sharing, and collective organizing. He co-hosts and produces weekly the anti-colonial podcast,
Do The Kids Know.
Blackwell, C., Birnholtz, J., & Abbott, C. (2014). Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app.
New Media & Society,17(7), 1117-1136. doi:10.1177/1461444814521595
Feminist Media Studio. (2021, June 11). Talking to Each Other: A Collective Sounding Project. Retrieved from
Robinson, D. (2020).
Hungry listening: Resonant theory for indigenous sound studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Further Reading & Additional Sound Studies Resources
Krobath, H. (2020). Audio Essay East Vancouver Dispatch: Ecotones and Subsistence Zones.
Design and Culture,13(1), 135-136. doi:10.1080/17547075.2020.1827844
Martin, A. (2019, August 5). Hearing Change in the Chocolate City: Soundwalking as Black Feminist Method. Retrieved from
Westercamp, H. (2015, December 4). Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989). Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg96nU6ltLk Yoganathan, N. (2021, April 6). Critical Race Studies into Soundscape Studies. Retrieved from https://www.concordia.ca/ctl/curriculum/anti-racist-pedagogy/videos/critical-race-studies-into-soundscape-studies.html