The Eternal Story, in its Original Language
by Jim Cummings
from the liner notes to The Dreams of
We live in a world within a world. With each passing
decade, our human lives become more insulated from the uncertain
chaosand the connective contextof the biosphere from
which we so recently sprung. We've protected ourselves from the
wind and the rain, made our countrysides safe from occasional predation
by large carnivores, and created vast webs of human sprawl nearly
devoid of plant and animal life, save some hardy insects, urbanized
rodents, and less particular birds.
Yet still we remember. . . . Something deep and true within us is
awakened by the surf line on an early morning beach, by the deepening
night of a woodland lake, by the fearsome, exhilarating heart of
a ridgeline thunderstorm. Among us are a lucky fewand within
each of us a tenacious corethat never lost touch with the
voices of the world around, that somehow escaped the deafening effects
of the human world; these ears remain open to the songs of the wind,
the tales of the frogs, the sudden visitations of the raven.
One of the greatest tragedies, and greatest follies, of our modern
era is the extent to which weve forgotten how to hear, and
be a part of, the ongoing stories of our home places. Metaphors
grope toward a reality that once was concrete beyond needing expression.
Its the Great Conversation, the voicing of the dream of life,
the simple audible breathing of the planet. It wasnt so long
ago that we knew all our companions well, that we welcomed each
as we now find delight in a phone call from a friend. But lately,
we've traded deep knowledge of our Home for a broad but shallow
understanding of the planet as a whole.
Offering touchstones on a path of remembering, a new breed of sound
artists has emerged in the past twenty years. Their work is inspired
from many sources, including early nature sound artists such as
Irv Tiebel (Environments), social commentators such as R.
Murray Schafer (The Tuning of the World), electronic and
minimalist composers, and most of all, by their own varied personal
ways of being in, and exploring, the world.
These sound sculptors have spent thousands of hours seeking, responding
to, and recording the sounds of our worldfrom mountains to
subways. They then dance with their muses in the studio, weaving
sonic essays and aural portraits in a delightful range of styles.
These new place-inspired artists deserve a spot alongside the writers,
photographers, and filmakers whose works have enriched our sense
of the connectionsand the riftsbetween humanity, nature,
and spirit. Through sound (perhaps our most integrative and expansive
sense), they are helping us to remember that language is not only
a human expression. Birds surely speak, coyotes have much to say,
trees find their voice in the wind and in stillness, even the rocks
sing when caressed by waves and roar when shaken from below. The
voices of the planet offer gifts of joy, wonder, and peace; they
also can take us intoand out ofourselves, to places
of reflection, uncertainty, and new awareness. Mostly, the song
of each place connects us with a expansiveness and mystery that
lies beyond our human world. In this, we may find ourselves once
again a part of a greater story, one in which humanity is just one
of the players.
Whether you live in a city or at the edge of the wilderness, or,
like most of us, in a place where the human world is expanding ever
deeper into various local remnants of the primal richness that once
filled your region, the work of these sound artists will help you
notice the voice of the place you walk in day to day. There is beauty
and context to be found in the whispering of pines, and also in
the sounds of the street. Only by beginning where we are, might
we find our way back to the community of life that speaks to us
in the howling teeth of a storm and the dreamsongs of caribou.
And so it is with all of the voices of the Earth: they come before
words, they make our human words seem so small, so fragmentary,
so. . . human. For in the wild, as in these recordings, are the
pieces weve been missing, the voices weve forgotten
to include in our human monologue. To meet them again is to reclaim
the chance that we might find a way to live in balance among them.
And that, in these latter days of the crazy-making century we live
in, is our greatest need.
About the Author - Jim
Cummings is founder of EarthEar, and arranger of the CD The Dreams
of Gaia. This essay is drawn from the liner notes to that disc.
Speaking in Animal Tongues
- Further reflections on the ways that humanity has distanced
itself from our relationships with our home places. [WEBPAGE]
The Big Picture - Peruse
more writings on soundscapes. [WEBPAGE]