A Few Misfires on Complexity and Communication (or Why Saltland Rules) by Joel Cuthbert (2017)
This has been a particularly difficult year for you. I read the Facebook, I skim the Twitter, I like your photos on the Instagram – though I do not understand them. If anything, this last year has been a thousand attempts at capturing the disparate complexities of our times. Politics is a mess. Whether you’re left or right, you’re frustrated. Film cycles through various interpretations of the end; chaos from nature, political corruption, an endless barrage of cinematic action-fests featuring humans who are more than humans, super humans, saving human kind from the great destruction that always looms in the next tomorrow.
We live in complex times. I’ve been thinking in this difficult season that maybe the old adage is true, maybe beauty will be the only thing that can save the world. If there’s truth in the plea that these times call for our artists to aid in that difficult task of articulation, here’s one artist who I find some solace in. Montreal’s Beckie Foon is as subtle and sweet a person as you are likely to meet. But her music is no timid creature. There are dense layers in the looping strings, her soft crooning voice forms sound, into words, into protest. She’s charting the destruction of the land, mourning the poisoning of our waters, giving articulation to the silent earth as it is worked for human gain with no regard to its sacred preservation. There is a stubborn pulse at its centre.
There is geography to her music and it is the dense layering of shifting plates. There are moments of vast landscape, there is the tear and the triumph of earth disrupted. There is heat and the pummel of summer sun and there is the cold brutal beat of winter winds. In the midst of these layers, there is a cry for justice, to tell an untold story, to awaken ourselves to the world forgotten around us. Her work for social justice and awareness is inseparable from her music both in Saltland and as one of the primary musical forces in the chamber ensemble, Esmerine.
Her tools are familiar, the classical cello, the human voice. But they are uniquely tooled and controlled through form and effect into a wholly unexpected creature and, yet, something that feels as close as your skin.
Whenever Saltland or Esmerine are expected to play, I make every attempt to be near so as to sway to their strings, to dance to their rhythms, to be struck by their beauty. If there is something we can unify around, something that trembles in our chests, maybe our future’s looking just a bit brighter.
See you at the show.
Joel Cuthbert, most frequently known as your neighbour, is also the host of CFRU 93.3 FM‘s the Stillness and the Dancing (“the best show to stay in bed for”) and, professionally, as Manager at the Beat Goes On.