Intertidal Room (2020)

Intertidal zones are coastal areas where sea meets land in a ceaseless interaction of low and high tides. Those zones are characterized by highly diverse ecosystems and inhabitants who have long adapted to these ever-changing conditions. But intertidal zones are also particular kinds of borderlands. There, human activities interact, collide, compete with and often disrupt other-than-human realms. These interactions produce specific practices, sites, temporalities, affects, artifacts, and soundscapes.

Intertidal Room is a soundwalk composition originally developed for Vancouver coastline near Stanley Park, an unceded territory of Coast Salish peoples - Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lõ and Səlīlwəta?/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəýəm (Musqueam) Nations. Attending to the fugitive nature of intertidal zones, this soundwalk intends to provide room for an increased aural attention to the ways people have been cultivating, affecting but also disrupting various, also imperceptible layers of these complex environments. The soundwalk composition is intended to be listened to during a period of slack water, a moment when tide is at the lowest point and soon about to return. Respecting luni-solar forces and the way they manifest themselves around Stanley Park, the streaming of the soundwalk has been synchronized with the times of Vancouver's low tides.

With a few exceptions, all sounds featured in the piece derive from listening and field recording sessions conducted in various intertidal zones that surround Vancouver and Stanley Park in particular. They took place between March and September 2020. Besides field recordings, the piece comprises eco-responsive soundscape compositions, and two spoken narratives: one grounded in empirical, archival, and historical research and the other stemming from dreams, myths and speculative thoughts on and propositions for the further questioning of the so-called nature/culture divide.

More information about the project can be found on the project website

This soundwalk is part of my international postdoctoral artistic research funded by the Swedish Research Agency and anchored at the Department of Culture and Society at Linköping University in Sweden. The project explores the history, present and future of soundwalking and field recording practices in the context of arts, environmental humanities, and philosophy of technology. The project was developed during my research visit to the Sonic Research Studio at the Simon Fraser University's School of Communication, in spring and summer 2020. It was premiered on September 29, 2020, within the Vancouver New Music's program the Vancouver Culture Week.

Following the premiere in Vancouver, the project was presented at other events (for example, a 6-channel soundscape composition at Ars Electronica 2021, Linz) conferences (for example, a performative talk at STREAMS, International Conference for the Environmental Humanities in Stockholm, 2021) and through publications (for example, BC Studies, no 210, Summer 2021).

Script, field recordings, soundscape compositions, design, production, editing and photography by Jacek Smolicki.

Thanks to:
Barry Truax (Simon Fraser University), Candace Campo xets'emits'a (Talaysay Tours), Hildegard Westerkamp, Giorgio Magnanensi and Heather McDermid (New Music Vancouver), Coey Lunn (Institute of Ocean Sciences, BC), Brett Ascarelli (Consulting editor and narrator), Alejandro Frid (Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, University of Victoria), among multiple intertidal actors and critters encountered on the shores in and around Vancouver.

Fragment of a soundscape composition featured in the Intertidal Room soundwalk piece

Intertidal Room trailer

Images from the premiere of the soundwalk in September 2020