24-hour Earth Day broadcast of B.C. wetland hits Canadian airwaves

24-hour Earth Day broadcast of B.C. wetland hits Canadian airwaves

In celebration of Earth Day, the mellow sounds of a British Columbia marsh will be heard on Canadian airwaves for 24 hours starting Sunday.

"I realized it was such an amazing soundscape and I'm not really truly paying attention to it," said Mark Timmings, one of the sound artists behind The Wetland Project.

The art project is described as a multidisciplinary study of an environmental soundscape, using recorded sounds that emanate from a marsh near Cliffside Road on Saturna Island, B.C. 

For a 24-hour period, Vancouver Co-operative Radio will join four other radio stations across Canada in broadcasting the sound of frogs, insects, water and birds.

Along with Timmings, The Wetland Project is headed up by Brady Marks and Stephen Morris. The trio will be holding a number of events during Earth Week, April 22-28, including an installation at the VIVO Media Arts Centre in Vancouver and performances by the choir Musica Intima.

'Like an amphitheatre'

The Saturna marsh was chosen because Timmings has lived beside the wetland and listened to its noises since 1997. In pursuit of an authentic recording, he and his team set up their audio equipment in the marsh and then left the area.

"As we were away from the site, the creatures there weren't being spooked by us," said Timmings. "They went about their activities in a completely spontaneous way."

Project co-artist and Simon Fraser University graduate Brady Marks said she was blown away when she heard the noises.

"You can hear the whole wetland generating like an amphitheatre," said Marks. "All the sound bouncing around off the water and on the trees."

Marks described the broadcast as "slow radio," an art form she encountered in Norway.

A strange clock

The broadcast is synced to local times across the country. When it's 4:30 p.m. in Toronto, listeners will hear the sound of the marsh at 4:30 p.m. PST.

"I think of the project as almost a strange kind of clock," said Marks. "I've listened to it so many times you start to get this flow. You just kind of know what time of day it is ... You always know when it is."

The VIVO Media Arts Centre will feature the 24-hour soundscape, accompanied by an abstract visual representation of the recording using different coloured lights.

At the end of Earth Week, Musica Intima will play three concerts on April 28 where they will perform music based on sounds transcribed from the wetland recording itself. 

The Wetland Projects installation at the VIVO Media Arts Centre is open until May 18.

With files from North by Northwest

Correction : A previous version of this story referred to Brady Marks as "he". This version also corrects the statement that Mark Timmings grew up beside the marsh, when in fact he has lived there since 1997. Lastly, a previous version said that Brady Marks was not present for the recording session, when in fact she was.(Apr 23, 2018 1:27 PM)