NEW SNOW. a radio documentary composition
about the Inuit and their culture. 1996. Commissioned by Keith Horner with
grants from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Ontario Arts
Council. Winner of the Prix
Italia 1996. Special Prize, Radio Music Category. Winner of the Prix
Bohemia Radio 1998 Special Prize.
Voices of the Land
Winston White, narrator
Angela Atagootak and Pauline Kyak, throat and Ayaya singers.
Footprints in New Snow is an electroacoustic composition for tape alone based on prerecorded katajjaq, the vocal games of the Inuit. The title is borrowed from a recent policy paper by the same name issued in 1995 by the Nunavut Implementation Commission in which the character of Nunavut, the new northeast territory to be effective in 1999 is discussed. The material was recorded on location at Iqaluit and Cape Dorset at Baffin Island from June 15-26 along with interviews with throat singers, respected elders of the community and various environmental sounds of the north. This extensive material was subsequently edited and incorporated in the composition using digital sampling and digital audio technologies. In addition to the recorded and sampled sounds, synthesized sounds were used to achieve a richer and more flexible texture.
The Inuit have no single word corresponding to the word "music". Nevertheless the sound component of the vocal games, the katajjaq, is particularly evocative and fascinating. Standard writings like the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada tell us that the games are played on all manner of occasions: anytime during the day, in any season, for sheer pleasure, to put babies to sleep or upon returning from the hunt, in the form of team games and so on. In the past they fulfilled a kind of shamanistic function within the community. A lot of this continues to be true today. But, after making contact with singers in various northern communities, it's clear that other considerations also come into play. The public performance element is stronger now. There are about eight women in Cape Dorset who regularly travel as Inuit throat singers. They are viewed with respect as Elders by younger Inuit who wish to learn their skills.
The throat singers recorded in Footprints in New Snow are (for the most part) Angela Atagootak and Pauline Kyak, two highschool students from Iqaluit who learned to throat sing with the help of their grade school teacher at Pond Inlet; Elisha Kilabuk and Koomoo Noveyak, professional singers with extensive international touring etc. (used only in the opening "Welcoming Song") and four elders from Cape Dorset: Eligah Maggitak , Napachie Pootoogook, Timagiak Petautassie and Haunak Mikigak (minimally used). The voices of the interviews, fragments of which are incorporated into the piece belong (in order of appearance) to Winston White, a broadcaster with CBC north and an unofficial cultural clearing house in Iqaluit; Elisapee Davidee, the communications liaison of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, Jonah Kelly , a respected elder of the Iqaluit community and broadcaster with CBC North and Rev. Robert Williams, bishop of the Anglican church of the Northwest Territories. They speak from the heart about the north, its people, their culture and particularly about throat singing which is the connecting theme of this multi-theme work.
Footprints in New Snow is in six continuous sections:
(1) WELCOMING SONG
KOOMOK NOVEYAK: First song we're going to do is a Welcoming Song. We usually begin with a song to welcome everybody.
That's the Welcoming Song.
(2) WINDS OF CHANGE
WINSTON WHITE: One of the first things about the North that I always hear or feel is wind. It could be a slight breeze. It could be a small gust. It could be very strong, powerful. It can be even scary. It seems like the wind is in the North, everywhere.
(3) VOICES OF THE LAND
WINSTON WHITE: Other things I hear, and see, and smell, are for example, the Earth. You can smell the Land because, in the North, the air is clear and clean . . . very clear and clean. And you can smell the flowers, the mosses, all of the lichens. They all give off an aroma. And this combined aroma is a whole variety of different little scents that you pick up.
Another thing about the North is the expanse.
Look out from any vantage point, and you see expanse.
Everything is out in front of you, like on a huge horizon.
When you slowly look and scan across that, you see all these different things. You see rock formations. You wonder, "Really, how old is all this? How did it get here?"
Perhaps you focus on some particular part of that landscape...And maybe you'll see an animal, or a bird. O, or you'll see a small lake or pond. And in it is life: fish, wildlife, birds and
animals, caribou, seals, bears, all these things. In them, in their life when I look at them, I...I see more than just an animal. I see... I see something that...that I'm connected to. And I think in the North it's the Land and the elements and
everything, that I'm connected to...
Seasons come and go quickly. Days come and go quickly. Nights fly by. It's an incredible power of something. Something always moving, always alive, always steady, always there. And from all that feeling I've developed a sense of responsibility...responsible for the well-being of this. It looks after me. I look after it.
ELISAPEE DAVIDEE: Throat-singing is harmonizing between two people facing each other, and making sounds - very guttural sounds -from their lungs. Also, taking deep, fast breathing in order to bring the sounds out. So it's two people harmonizing, sometimes imitating bird sounds, sometimes doing it as a game - as a competition - to see who can chant throat-chant the longest.
JONAH KELLY: It was young girls' game. And the game is for...for you to play it as long as you can, try and outdo your partner... which have to be a girl.
ELISAPEE DAVIDEE: It can be very competitive. Certainly, in my parents' day it was...And not just the women are doing it - men do it, too.
WINSTON WHITE: When I watch them, and when I see them, and when I listen to them, I can see images of hunting parties. People years
ago, busy...just busy gathering, living, surviving, laughing, enjoying themselves.
JONAH KELLY: I always thought that when white people think about climaxing, they see fireworks...We didn't have any fireworks, or that kind of thing. It was never practised for many, many years. It now has become a great entertainment...and keeping our culture at what it is today.
I don't know, I've never really gone into the details of it. And what I heard from the Elders, who passed away years ago, you know that the...
I would be embarrassed to say exactly what they did, if I'd known...
ELISAPEE DAVIDEE: I try to listen to what kind of sounds they're doing, you know, what kind of birds they may be imitating for the sounds, Or, if I'm just at home listening to it, I [demonstrates] you know, try and follow it a little bit, too. The sounds are just fascinating.
JONAH KELLY: It's a fantastic music that comes out. It is a mating-call type of music.
WINSTON WHITE:...these images come to me through the throat-singing that I hear.The reason that I feel optimistic, now, is because, if you stop and listen to them, you will feel the energy and the power... I mean it'll put goose-bumps on my arms.
It's like a freedom I see - I see people being free.
ELISAPEE DAVIDEE:...I think throat-singing is adaptable to...to different sounds. Today's generation: you'll find people that were born inside a snow-house, and they're out there flying aircrafts. So, you know, in one lifetime, you've seen many changes. And Inuit have accepted many of these things very positively . . .
My generation were the guinea-pigs of a changing time.
If I look to the right, I see very traditional. If I turn to the left, I see technology...I see, you know, very modern things today. And I'm stuck in the middle, having to make sense of the two. And being cautious, maybe, not to lose what is, you know, at the right. And then also trying to cross over to what is on the left.
We are the guinea-pigs of the changing times.
(5) IN THE NAME OF GOD
(Church service in the Inuktitut language in the Anglican cathedral in Iqaluit.)
BISHOP CHRIS WILLIAMS: In the first years, I think the missionaries came down very strongly on anything which, um...was allied with shamanism.
They were people of their time. They saw this as...as necessary to make a complete break with the old way of life, um...I think nowadays, perhaps, we're a bit more regretful that they did this...But you can't blame them. They were Victorian gentlemen, whose ideas of the Gospel were often circumvented by their own Victorian ideas, which were largely from Britain.
That's the way it was in those days. You brought your religion, and, on its coattails, you brought much of your own culture, as well.
Perhaps the down side was that the people, um... were encouraged to...to put away those things which were a significant part of their culture And...and that then, of course, strikes at their identity.
(6) FOOTPRINTS IN NEW SNOW
JONAH KELLY: My world, to me, was a dome. My world is a dome.
Nunavut, Our Land
Nunasee, Your Land.
Nunava, My Land.
first broadcast on March 31, 1996 on Two New Hours, CBC Stereo FM.
...a great electronic masterpiece. Ethodius
...a wonderful work. I was very intrigued by the combinations of text and environmental sounds that I thought worked very well. The piece seemed to capture the remote, isolated sense of the arctic as well as the complexities of the Inuit lifestyle and community. Complexities that are both intrinsic and imposed. Not to mention the wonderful throat music (games) captured so well in the piece - both the joy and the uniqueness of the form. R. H., Kingston (CANADA)
It was a very emotional and uplifting experience. Not only did it teach me a great deal about the Inuit culture, it also gave me a feeling for how and where they live. Your use of synthesized sounds and effects on the voice had a simplicity and directness that went straight to the heart (although I am sure much complex work was involved). I was particularly touched by the quiet articulacy of the man who spoke of the wind, the earth and the open space of his homeland. His serenity and respect reminded me of some American Indians I have heard. The joy of the women chanting was also irresistible. The way you sampled and processed their words showed great respect and sensitivity. I feel that in previous works you have passed through sophisticate intellectual musical phases which have enriched this beautifully economical work. May I offer my congratulations on creating a vast and yet very human soundscape. I feel this is the best work I have heard from you so far. M. F., Tokyo (JAPAN)
In winning the Special Prize in the Radio Music Category [of the Prix Italia], Hatzisí work [Footprints in New Snow] was singled out by a distinguished international group of broadcasters as the single most important musical composition, created for the radio medium, to have been broadcast in 1996. Since that announcement last June, the work has been broadcast dozens of times in the participating countries (including Canada). Listeners in this country and around the world have responded by asking for the work on CD, even though itís not yet available in that form. We at CBC Radio Music have felt proud to see the success of Christosí (and our) work. It is a haunting, yet intimate composition, blending the elements of story-telling, native speech and throat-singing, the sounds of the Arctic environment, and music, all blended masterfully into a great, transporting, listening experience. Wendy Reid, Head of Radio Music,CBC Stereo
A highly distinctive electroacoustic composition for tape aloneóinspired by a policy paper on the new Northeast territory, Nunavutóthe six-movement suite [Footprints in New Snow] is notable primarily for sampling the sounds of the North and the throat-singing of Nunavut natives...The northern material incorporated into the piece turned out to be a fascinating combination of descriptive reminiscences (some of them similar to those found in Glenn Gouldís famous radio documentary, The Idea of North) and environmental sounds electronically manipulated by the composer. William Littler, The Toronto Star, (CANADA)
Gayle and Zinour [Iqaluit, Nunavut] sent me a copy of their video which included their performance of the Ocean Dance at Kiev Opera House. This dance, combined with your haunting music, is the most spellbinding dance performance I've ever seen! Your music held my wife, Mary, and I entranced. Gayle has told me that it is some of the music you composed during your stay in the North. Your composition seems to embody everything about the traditional life of the Arctic! I'm not sure why - but it does. K. B. Slave Lake, Alberta.
I am grateful to have been chosen to participate in this interactive experiment. Both CDs Everlasting Light and Footprints in New Snow are inspirational, to say the least....Footprints in New Snow brings the Inuit culture into the world of new music. Having heard throat singers in Yellowknife in the 80's, I have long been touched by this unique and haunting sound. The musical accompaniment Christos brings to this ancient foundation creates a perfect compliment. Thank you again for this opportunity. Most sincerely, Fred Penner, C.M. (From the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra website).
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