In the Canopy: Meditations from Paparoa and Kapiti Island (part 1 of 3) Sarah Peebles

“That which is just beyond our perception” is an English translation of a Māori concept within the Māori Ngā kete wānanga (Baskets of Knowledge) shared with me by Gary Millan in Paraparaumu, across from Kapiti Island. It reflects the essence of my experiences in Aotearoa (New Zealand) listening to birds and insects that were all around me, but seemingly invisible, and of spending long, focused periods of time on the land while recording or while simply being. Taking time. This concept also speaks to the complexity of the biosphere and of the communities of living things which sustain our planet: their lives and interconnections extend beyond our human abilities to fully perceive. In 2003-2004 I travelled through Singapore to and from Aotearoa and recorded sounds of birds, amphibians and insects. The historic and special relationship between Aotearoa’s native plants, birds (primary pollinators) and bees (a handful of native species) can be easily heard in abundant birdsong, plants rustling in breezes, the gathering and weaving of harakeke and wharariki (flax), in wingbeats of very small bees passing by. Though these sounds are a pale shadow of what once was in these unique islands — particularly before deforestation & introduced species with European settlement (and continuing with agriculture, apiculture and climate change) — they compel, inspire and inform the identity of Aotearoa’s peoples and mesmerize visitors. The forest canopy here and everywhere supports so much that we cannot perceive and do not (yet) know — some of which we hear, smell, touch, see and feel; all of which is connected. The forest canopy, the life within it, the soil beneath it, the water and weather it generates, creates this place. In the Canopy, a 40-minute work in three parts was commissioned by Radio New Zealand/Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa for the programme “RPM” (produced by Matthew Leonard), with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts. Composed at Studio Excelo in Toronto, 2003-2005. A re-mix of part 1 is published on “Delicate Paths — Music for Sho” (Unsounds 42U).

  • Year of composition: 2005
  • Duration of the submitted work: 13:40
  • Production: Studio Excelo, Toronto, 2003-2005
  • Disc publication: Part 1 appears on the 2014 CD release, Delicate Paths (unsounds.com)

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