rivers has just been released on Barnyard Records! Much of this music began its life through Urbanvessel: from Slip in the Harrison Baths to Singing River beside the Wonscotnach River. If you like to hold a disc in your hand, buy it from CDBaby or SquidCo. That way you get to read the poems too.
Produced by the inimitable Jean Martin, the disc features some of Canada’s most creative and compelling vocalists: Alex Samaras, Laura Swankey, Christine Duncan, Felicity Williams, and Aki Takahashi.
Lyrics are by Emily Dickinson, as well as Canada’s own Julie Salverson (Shelter), Anna Chatterton (Singing River and Slip) and Nicholas Power (Dreaming of Trees). For many years I’ve improvised with Christine Duncan’s awesome Element Choir. I’m delighted to join some of my favourite “Elementals” in the rivers chorus.
Water and song are elemental forces which sustain both our bodies and souls. In “Narrow Banks,” subtle variations of the body’s circulatory system resonate with field recordings of Toronto’s rivers, while Emily Dickinson’s poetry maps the heart’s inner landscape. Branching blood vessels and capillaries echo tree silhouettes in “Dreaming of Trees,” reminding us that we are rooted in the same ground. Two suns mark the dawn of the nuclear age in “Dusk of Tears,” an era when the exhilaration of scientific discovery gives way to annihilation. In “Burble,” an abandoned river jolts us out of numbness and back into the flow. “Litany” is a radio signal from a post-apocalyptic future to remind us of life’s essentials. Finally, in “Simple Death” the bridge over a vertiginous canyon invites us to choose between conquering fear and succumbing to despair.