Constellations is a sound art and experimental narrative collective that illuminates international artists making sound works that convey meaning through evocation and abstraction. We curate and produce a podcast, live events and publish sound materials.
We feature a wide-range of audio works which unravel the distinctions between experimental documentary, sound art, soundscapes, fiction, and music. The pieces we air demand a deep listening experience, encouraging listeners to expand their conception of narrative, musicality and attention.
The pieces selected for the following playlist were all created for Constellations’ current season, which will be ongoing until December 2020. More work is available and released fortnightly at constellationsaudio.com. We’re also on twitter here and on instagram here.
Pointing at Canopus by Arif Mirbaghi
Pointing At Canopus is a meditation on the nature of home, not in the brick-and-mortar sense, but the broader idea: a place of rest. Children of immigrants often separately compartmentalize these ideas. Home is a place we live but heritage is a space we occupy. There is a daily pivot between the cadences of interaction with our family and those of our friends or co-workers. Inevitably the lines blur, and as individuals we find ourselves on different points along a gradient.
Coming to Iran reversed this pivot for me. The language of my home life suddenly spilled out in the streets, flooded my conversations, my day to day. For the first time I was utilizing Farsi beyond the comfort of my family home— I became a Farsi speaker.
At the same time, English became a place of thoughtful saudade. I would be lulled to sleep by audiobooks. The meter and ornamentation of the language felt familiar but distant like a kind of reverb— I became an English listener.
Pointing At Canopus explores the waxing and waning of home and heritage. I hope to evoke in listeners a sense of transit. A feeling neither here nor there. The idea that home is the pivot, not the point. Sounds of moving vehicles. Extra-lingual umms & ahhs while a speaker connects sentences. ‘Here’ is a space, but ‘there’ is a mythology, a fable. We orbit our fables like atoms around a nucleus. Wherever we go, there we are again.
Pointing at Canopus is also available subtitled on Radio Atlas.
Credits: Pointing At Canopus was composed and produced by Arif Mirbaghi with editorial support from Michelle Macklem and Jess Shane of Constellations. It was made with the voices of over a dozen friends. Special thanks to Michael Eckert for his pedal steel improvisation and Parva Karkhaneh for her patient guidance.
Poor Connection by Yardain Amron
they say the context is collapsing. seems true. coherence is buried under an oil slick. narrative, a zillion pieces of space trash.
why are you here? how much of you is here? where is the rest of you?what does your brain feel like while you’re scrolling? mine feels like a bowl of marbles?
what does it mean that CONtent and conTENT are the same in sound and opposite in meaning?
also: where did your body go? i am thumb. Nub.
Credits: Poor Connection was composed and produced by Yardain Amron with editorial support from Michelle Macklem of of Constellations.
POOSEUM by Sisters Acousmatika
There are hundreds of small museums around Australia, ranging from tiny one-person passion projects, to well-organized and funded community organizations, covering diverse and fascinating topics from trains to shit, and mining to local heritage. These museums often rely on tourist foot traffic and word often mouth, and have nebulous opening hours.
How to document these often fragile nodes of community interaction and herstory as a matter of public record? Pooseum is the first episode of Lonely Artefacts, a project that aims to use the RSS feed as a repository for artefacts housed in folk and community museums around Australia, which are no longer subject to visitation due to Covid19. In Pooseum, follow Bacteria, a tour guide from the Pooseum, in the plastination of a chicken called Heidi.
Credits: Sisters Akousmatica pay respect to the Palawa people as the traditional and ongoing custodians of Lutruwita and to elders past, present and future, and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.
Editorial support from Michelle Macklem and Jess Shane of Constellations.
The Land Owns Us by Nishant Singh
This piece explores the relationship of humans to the world around us by sonifying DNA sequences of ten organisms we interact with in some way in our daily lives. You will hear sounds from the DNA of human, house centipede, northern cardinal, brown marmorated stink bug, yellow sac spider, house fly, house mouse, cladosporium (a common indoor fungus), American cockroach, and rock pigeon. I use the COI (cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1) gene as it is classically used in evolutionary biology to delineate species boundaries.
The larger the degree of difference between the COI sequence of two organisms, the farther apart their relation, and vice versa. I overlay the DNA sequences on top of one another, and in their sonification, the similarities and differences in the sequence become apparent aurally.
I overlay the piece with the voices of Aboriginal elder, Bob Randall (The Global Oneness Project 1 & 2), conservationist, Rachel Carson (The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson – CBS Reports), and evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould. Bob Randall brings an indigenous perspective on human relationships to one another, to all life around us, and to the land itself through deep time to redefine western perceptions of ‘family’. Rachel Carson is credited to essentially awakening the West to problems with human industry and the impacts pollutants on natural systems. Stephen Jay Gould is hugely influential in critiquing a bias among evolutionary biologists to think of evolution as a machine of forward progress allowing life to continually adapt to its surroundings, instead of considering it as basically a ‘happy accident’ in which adaptation plays a small role. Taken together, these voices critique the dominant settler colonialist, capitalist narrative of human’s top position in the [nonexistent] hierarchy of life and land.
Database page for each sequence used:
JN034123.1 – Human FJ527882.1 – House centipede DQ434507.1 – Northern cardinal MF537239.1 – Brown marmoratedstink bug JF887130.1 – Yellow sac spider KX230684.1 – House Fly FJ660819.1 – House mouse MN661341.1 – Cladosporidium HM386405.1 – American cockroach KC576925.1 – Rock pigeon
The piece also features Northern Cardinal & Rock Pigeon calls from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Thanks to Matt Kariatsumari & Michelle Macklem of Constellations, Akash Bansal, and Margot Fabre for editorial support on this piece.
We are wrong to look for uniformity and objectivity. We have all mapped associations to what our subjective experience is like.
My experience of the colour red is different from yours. Our brains light up the same way when hearing water but our relationship to its sounds will never be the same.
Because of this, I wanted to illustrate how I’ve mapped mine using abstract terms like solitude, sunbathing, patricide etc. All as an attempt to say, “you don’t have to understand, I just want to connect and have you see (listen) how I relate to the world.”
Credits: A Sound Poem was composed and produced by Axel Kacoutié with editorial support from Matthew Kariatsumari
Necropolis 2: Cruise Control by Kamikaze Jones
My original intention was to create an immersive sonic environment that was representative of the darker, more infernal channels of the collective queer subconscious. My work as a performance artist and extended technique vocalist over the past year has been focused on explorations of queer madness, and supernatural manifestations of queer erotic identity. My objective was to create a mythological sonic territory that addressed the sublimated ghosts and demons of our shared history. I quickly realized the boundaries of my own subjectivity in the compositional process and, embracing the queer art of failure, realized that the project would undergo a kind of conceptual mitosis, splitting into two separate but distinct companion pieces, each radical interpretations of what a “Queer Necropolis” could sound like.
Necropolis 2: Cruise Control is a campy, vocally driven interpretation of this core concept, utilizing transcriptions from my Grindr dialogues, Yelp reviews of sex toys, and hold music from gay phone-sex hotlines. It imagines a queer hauntological underworld mediated by the technologies of yesteryear.
Credits: Cruise Control was composed and produced by Kamikaze Jones with editorial support from Jess Shane.
This work was created by singing with feedback, using effects pedals, playing cymbals with beadwork and some field recordings. April 30th is when I pulled “the sun, it sets on the empire” through my body by using my voice in this way. The words are from a work by Dzawada’enuxw artist, Marianne Nicholson, who has consented to me referencing her 2017 work, The Sun is Setting on the British Empire. I want to talk about the blockades that were in Vancouver this winter in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs (law and governance system that is older than what is now known as Canada). I want to talk about ongoing colonial violence, genocide and hope. About Black and Indigenous communities showing up for each other and demanding more than performative allyship from yt and POC settlers. Talk about how resource extraction always brings ripples of violence. I want to talk about how a generation of Indigenous youth called to shut Canada down and then covid struck. I want to talk about labour that is expected of Indigenous femme presenting people to educate those around them. And I will, with my communities.
In the words of Ta’kaiya Blaney, “We are the land protecting itself.”
Credits: BROOD was commissioned thanks to Constellations’ 2019 Indigenous Sound Art Fund, with editorial support from Aliya Pabani of Constellations.
FEEL THE SKY – SIDES A + B
Feel the Sky is a duo of sound works in conversation produced by Jaye Kranz (Australia) and Myra Al-Rahim (USA). Both extend from the same starting point – a recording from 1992 made by news reporter Heather Evans, who was unfamiliar with field recording, but entranced by a chance encounter with trumpeter swans on an icy lake. Originally recorded on cassette, Constellations digitized the material and commissioned Kranz and Al-Rahim to compose their own landscapes – both real and imagined – in response. Take an interior road trip in “Are We There Yet” (Kranz), a journey across interior ecologies and mountain peaks. Then venture into “The Burdened Land” (Al-Rahim), a sprawling whorl that considers borders from the perspective of migratory bodies that cannot be contained within them.
FEEL THE SKY – SIDE A: Are we there yet? By Jaye Kranz
“Are We There Yet?” is a strange, recurring road-trip towards home. A home we can never really find or retrieve; while at the same time, being a home we have already found: the one that is already ours. Like a circular roadmap for finding our way there. We hear the same driving tape over and over, but we move through different landscapes, across vast spans of time and place, in a dreamscape where the laws of separation and structure, boundary and contour, do not apply.
When Heather speaks of the landscape she captured on tape in ‘92, it’s as if that place still lives in her. This made me think about our own private landscapes, as opposed to those external geographies we share with others. There are places we carry inside us, haunted and haunting; those that once were and are no longer, but whose maps we still clutch. And those we imagine—the ones no-one else can glimpse, but that we live alongside, often intimately, all our lives.
There is bleed between our experience of external landscapes and interior states. They resemble one another. We borrow from one to furnish the other. We are instructed by both. And so here, imagined geographies of home sit alongside their physical counterparts. Sometimes they are treacherous, unpredictable. These are landscapes of mineshafts and coal-seams; grounds plundered and sundered that could split apart at any moment. These sit in sharp contrast to the immutable, forever-safe places we build ourselves: the impeccable, unswerving, untouched idylls of our imaginings. In all, there are notes of nostalgia; a sense of something that is both lost and beyond the reach of loss; both time-worn and outside of reach of time.
Credits: This work takes inspiration from field recordings by Heather Evans on the ancestral and traditional territories of the Haisla Nation. Featuring artwork by Ariana Martinez. Thanks to the Library of Congress, Mary Hufford, Garth Davis, Angeliki, and Constellations.
FEEL THE SKY SIDE B – The Burdened Land by Myra Al-Rahim
Heather’s tape appeared to me like a haunting. The crackle of snow beneath her feet as she walked across that icy plane, the distant call of trumpeter swans, the all-engulfing sky above her. The feeling of aloneness conveyed to me through the recording was immense. When I began developing “The Burdened Land”, I knew I wanted to create an environmentally-conscious piece, though not in the traditional sense of the term. I wanted the work to have a distinct feeling of space and scale. I sought to explore the thematic interconnectedness between the migratory paths of birds and the sprawling supply chains of capital. Heather’s original tape appears close to the beginning of my piece and continues throughout Act 1. I imagined she was taking a new journey through the sonic landscape I created for her to explore.
In his book Birds of the Pacific Flyway, author Robert Wilson says, “No group of animals crossed more boundaries than migratory birds. They traversed every border the modern nation-state constructed.” When I read these words, I couldn’t help but think of the arbitrariness of borders; how nation-states, like the bird refuges, are incapable of neatly containing the bodies and species within their boundaries. I think of bird migration patterns in conjunction with sprawling supply chains that are so large they lack fundamental accountability. Birds of the Pacific Flyway, as well as the work of economist, Saskia Sassen have helped me to consider humans’ inability to contain things, species, processes of capital, that are inherently uncontainable. “The Burdened Land” investigates questions around man-made borders, non-human migration patterns, and networks that are fundamentally too large to be contained. I wondered: What happens when humans/government agencies make themselves responsible for the management of massive networks, systems, and processes, both human and non-human, that are fundamentally too large and complex to manage?
Credits: This work takes inspiration from field recordings by Heather Evans on the ancestral and traditional territories of the Haisla Nation.