Tin Can Elsa & Southern NB Charles Harding

Eastern Coast Song Swallows, New Brunswick Southern railways, gentle waves at Tin Can Beach, drips and ripples at the Irving Nature Park, the hum of a pulp mill, tropical drips from hurricane Elsa, and sounds from the family home backyard on the city of Saint John’s lower west side. The combination of these sounds might seem warmly familiar to someone from the city as they represent an integral portion of the overall soundscape. Those unfamiliar with the city may, more abstractly, find themselves immersed in a slurry of coastal nature and industry. Saint John is a mainly blue-collar port-city in the South of New Brunswick. It is home to the massive and problematic Irving oil corporation whose industries span the province with refineries, shipyards, clearcutting operations, and pulp mills. The dissonance of this corporation is highlighted with an assemblage of significant mechanical soundmarks that are starkly juxtaposed by a rolling, diverse landscape of agrestal nature, stony beaches and vast ocean space. The vision for this composition was to project the blend of nature and industry constantly at odds in the city. The composer’s nostalgia from having lived in the city is addressed with the inclusion of a droning tonal base derived from a piano recording collected from his family home.

This piece was composed using material collected from several soundwalks in Saint John NB throughout the summer of 2021. Inspiration for the piece came from primer listenings of Hildegard Westerkamp’s Kits Beach Soundwalk and Barry Truax’s Islands as well as many meditations on identifying some of the significant soundmarks of Saint John collected through field recording sessions.

  • Year of composition: 2022
  • Genre: Soundscape
  • Format: Fixed media
  • Hardware used: Zoom h2n
  • Software used: Ableton, Cecilia
  • Duration of the submitted work: 9:20
  • Premiere: June 17, 2022