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Instructions for Non-Human Listening

Mackenzie, Louise and Jenkins, Hayley ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8041-6764 (2023) Instructions for Non-Human Listening. 1 ed. London, PurePrint

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Introduction from artist, Louise Mackenzie.

Instructions for Non-Human Listening is a co-created publication made by and for coastal beings.

Inspired by the work of composer and deep listening pioneer, Pauline Oliveros and drawing from my own practice-led research on how we experience non-human life, this publication is one of the outcomes of the BE THE SEA project, a collaboration between myself, Hayley Jenkins, Durham Wildlife Trust and Women’s Health in South Tyneside (WHiST). We would also like to acknowledge the support and participation of Autism Able, who joined us on our most recent listening workshop.

Working with local communities to explore the coast around Sunderland and South Shields in the UK during 2022 and 2023, composer Hayley Jenkins and I ran workshops that focused on bringing our mutual interests in sound and non-human life to others. Focusing on the constantly changing environment of the intertidal zone, we developed listening-based methods that aim to shed light on lesser-known forms of coastal life; minimise our impact on the environment and encourage more sustainable ways to engage with life along the coast.

The result is this book: a co-created series of image and text-based scores, which offer simple instructions for ways to spend time immersed in the intertidal zone, using different forms of listening to connect with the many forms of life that make their home there.

We invite you to take this book with you to the coast near you and try some of the exercises within its pages. It is a way to slow down, to immerse yourself in the environment and to experience and identify with forms of life that you might not have considered before. We hope this brings you closer to the life in the intertidal zone and perhaps it might even inspire you to write some of your own ‘Instructions for Listening’.

The intertidal zone, where land meets sea, is a dynamic ecosystem that supports a diverse range of marine life. Pollution generated by human activities - from micro-plastic and toxic waste, to unprecedented levels of noise - have significant consequences for the life that inhabits the intertidal zone.

Through a focus on listening, the BE THE SEA project invites us to hear sounds rarely encountered, such as a limpet’s radula (tongue) rasping against the rock as it feasts on algae or the swoosh of the anemone’s tentacles as they open and close. Experiencing this otherwise hidden world through sound allows us to reflect upon life that is far removed from our own experience and helps us to realise our sonic impact on these intertidal species.

Sound expands in water, travelling five times faster than in the air. Our land-based lives have for centuries limited us in comprehending how the sounds we make in water impact aquatic life. Growing interest in sound studies and acoustic ecology is beginning to reveal the anthropological damage caused by sound on marine life. Whilst we already understand that noise pollution disrupts the feeding, breeding and migratory behaviours of larger marine mammals, recent research has begun to identify its impacts on other aquatic life. Studies indicate that noise pollution limits the ability of shore crabs to forage and protect themselves against predators [1]; and causes oysters to close their otherwise partially open shells, which may impact their ability to interpret tidal rhythms or disrupt feeding cycles [2].

The work of the BE THE SEA project invites us to listen to what we might not otherwise hear, to consider perspectives other than our own and above all to realise that sound is common. Sound is shared across space, through air and in water. As makers of sound, we have a duty to respect its profound impact on both humans and non-humans.

[1] Matthew A. Wale, Stephen D. Simpson, Andrew N. Radford (2013)
“Noise negatively affects foraging and antipredator behaviour in shore crabs” in
Animal Behaviour, Volume 86, Issue 1, Pages 111-118. Accessed: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347213001991

[2] Tamara Ledoux et al. (2023) “Effects of anthropogenic sounds on the behaviour and physiology of the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica)” in Frontiers in Marine Science, Vol. 10. Accessed: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2023.1104526

Item Type: Book
Status: Published
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/8652

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