What do you hope to gain from this experience?
From this experience, I hope to gain a stronger connection to the rich natural soundscape that exists on Isle Royal. Isle Royal is incredibly unique because of its lack of motorized vehicles and the conservation efforts that happened there. Being able to find areas to record that are removed from the perils of human noise is gotten increasingly difficult, and is now nearly impossible in many parts of the world. Isle Royal however is unique. As a protected space essentially devoid of motorized vehicles and with limited access by ferry and sea plane, it provides an opportunity to experience the soundscape of the biome in a relatively pristine form. It is also an amazing time to be thinking about the soundscape of Isle Royal as the wolf reintroduction program has begun.
I also hope to give back. If selected to be an artist in residence, I plan to develop what could be considered a comprehensive acoustic portrait of the Island. I’ll spend a good amount of time backpacking into different locations around the island to develop long form, high quality audio recordings utilizing professional audio recording equipment. The goal will be to capture dawn chorus and other recordings from a variety of locations along with “sound marks” or sounds unique to various places around the park. This collection of recordings will then be cataloged, tagged with meta data, and archived for potential use in future research. A great deal can be learned about a soundscape by comparing recordings made at different times. I would like to work with those running the residency to determine a way that I can share this collection for future use and analysis within the park. It could be particularly interesting to hear what changes occur to the soundscape over different years with the reintroduction of wolves to the island.
How do you expect to grow as an artist from this experience?
I expect to grow as an artist through this experience because of Isle Royal’s strong connection to conservation and research while also maintaining it’s natural state. As mentioned, I intend to spend much of my time day hiking and overnight backpacking the island with my audio recording equipment to capture recordings from different places around the island. I am particularly interested in recording the dawn chorus. The dawn chorus is the time from just before first light until after sunrise, a window of approximately 30-45 minutes depending on time of year and weather conditions, when wildlife vocalizations tend to be the most active. It is also a great time to document the soundscape when attempting to assess the acoustic health of an environment. This time in the remote areas of the park recording will be paired with time in the studio cataloging, editing, and mastering the recordings collected for use in multichannel installation based compositions as well as stereo releases to be shared online via my PodCast, Listen Right Here.
I am an Eagle Scout. I grew up camping and backpacking. I got away from it for a few years while studying and working as a professional designer. For the past decade, I have pivoted my focus to be on my work as a sound artist and the connection of my past and current passion of being outdoors intersect at the documenting and collection of nature sounds from around the world. This immersive environment with the island, the rangers, and my own process will offer a great deal of opportunity for growth and reflection both in the moment and for years to come.
Why have you applied to this specific Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence Program?
I love national parks and try to visit different parks as often as I can. As a sound artist interested in capturing nature sound and avoiding human, or anthrophonic, sound, the lack of motorized vehicles and conservation efforts of the National Park system make Isle Royal a fascinating location for my work. But I also have a strong personal connection to the island. I grew up in Michigan, was in Boy Scouts as a young man, and am an Eagle Scout. Isle Royal was a place I always wanted to go but was never able to until last year, 2018. For the past five years, my father and I have started doing an annual father-son backpacking trip as a way to reconnect after nearly a decade of growing quite distant. Our most recent trip, August 2018, was 9 days backpacking on Isle Royal and was by far our most meaningful trip to date, partially because the island is a place we have both very much wanted to visit. This is how I learned about the residency program. I have applied because not only is the island a rich, dynamic environment that is uniquely relevant to the acoustic ecology, naturesound, and sound art work I make, I also now have an incredibly intense emotional connection to the park.
Describe your ability to reside in a wilderness environment
I am an avid camper, backpacker, and spend much of my summers outdoors. I have spent 9 days on Isle Royal with one other person, carrying everything on our backs. I have been an artist in residence in Australian’s Alpine National Park where I stayed in a village with 2 permanent residents and spent my time hiking into the mountains to record sound. I am physically fit, run regularly, lift weights, and eat well. I am also an Eagle Scout and just recently completed a NOLS Wilderness First Aide Course. I am equally comfortable in large crowds and social settings as I am exploring and thriving on my own in isolation. I have traveled internationally alone many times, including three weeks recording sound solo in South Korea, China, and India all on the same trip. As part of my position as a professor, I also lead trips to urban environments in the US and in Europe where I am responsible for managing 12-18 undergraduate and graduate art and design students for anywhere form 5 days to 4 weeks. The physical and mental challenges of living and working in a wilderness environment is something that I am prepared for and confident that I will thrive in.