Friday, July 24, 2009

The Silence of Inukjuak

Just to start off...I'm not kidding when I say that the mosquitoes here are brutal. At first I assumes that the locals have learnt to adapt, but they hate those bugs as much as any city-slicker walking around town. But after being here for a couple of weeks now, I've realized that mosquitoes actually play quite an important role in these people's lives. Why?

Canadian composer and sound theorist R. Murray Schafer defines two important elements of any landscape in his book The Tuning of the World:

Keynote Sounds: those sounds created by its geography and climate: water, wind, birds, insects. These sounds may have imprinted themselves so deeply on the people hearing them that life without them would be sensed as a distinct impoverishment.

Soundmarks: Community sounds that are unique or possess qualities which make them specially regarded by the people living there. Once a soundmark has been detected, it deserves to be protected, for soundmarks make the acoustic life of the community unique.

One example of a keynote sound in Inukjuak would be the wind. The song of the wind shapes daily activities and culture. It's pretty simple.....when the wind is strong, the mosquitoes are gone, and everyone in the community drops what they're doing, gets into their canoes, and goes hunting or fishing. When the wind is low, and the sun is shining, everyone here stays inside. That means no delicious Arctic Char on the dinner table that night. So i've decided to just slap on the DEET and press the record button. The deafening buzzing of mosquitoes in Inukjuak definitely makes its soundscape unique. (I'll post some of my bug sounds soon)

Another common sound up here is the steady drone of ATVs whizzing by. However, the soundscape here still remains sparse. Unlike big cities in which dense sounds mask each other, here, you almost have to wait eagerly for the next sonic event to occur. You can usually hear each sound very clearly. Also, people speak very softly and nobody honks. I also noticed that you never hear music playing outside, unlike the thumping subwoofers of cars in the cities. Here, the only music you will hear comes from the one local radio station that everyone keeps on in the background at a very low level. Even the radio announcers are very quiet!

Here's an example of this sparse soundscape. You can even hear the howls of the Huskies echoing across the entire town. This was recorded on top of a hill overlooking the town and Hudson Bay:
Outside Pigiursavik School (MP3)

Here's a recording of some of the local kids chatting and singing for me on the beach
(notice my nervous laughter at certain points):
Kids on Husdon Bay (MP3)

1 comment:

  1. Get those sound clips working buddy.
    Also, what's the innuit word for mosquito...just curious.