Black Beach

Chris Connolly

July 13, 2018 [2018 Season]

Black Beach was produced by Chris Connolly, from a conversation with Andrew Thomson.

Thanks to artist Lee Rosevere for permission to use his track "Illuminations" in this piece.

Chris says: 

This wasn’t the piece I went searching for as my first extended production, but it was the piece that found me. The heartache at its centre was all I could manage to focus on when I recorded it almost a year ago. It was so off-the-cuff that I forgot to record any extended ambient sound, which left me with only a 12-second loop of waves to work with. I decided to use this as a creative constraint that ended up shaping the piece in an important way.

Initially, I imagined the piece being led by the dialogue, as two men stumbled into and out of the dehumanizing language of masculinity. They seemed to be re-learning something new with the utmost of imperfections -- a way of being together in their pain and loneliness and longing. But as I worked with the tape of the waves, I began to see what I had been missing in own conflicted relationship with masculinity. By layering the waves in crescendos and decrescendos, they began to sound like the breathing of a restless and wakeful presence. I knew that this formed an important character who could bear witness to the powerful forces and voices that are left out whenever men gather -- especially to talk about their pain in relationships of difference with the women and trans* people in their lives.

I wanted to suggest how there are voices and forces that are acting on these men and holding space for something bigger -- whether or not they can see or hear it happening. As these men fall in and out of dialogue with each other, they are also falling in and out of dialogue with the spaces that hold and held them. They still have a long way to go. There is so much that they do not and cannot know. But there is something vital about the instinct to surrender: to fall into those surging waves as they move over and under and through.

Inspirations from the world of radio and sound and beyond:

I’ve been most drawn to the sonic landscapes of poetry lately, especially the book “Passage” by Annishinabe/Mètis writer Gwen Benaway, “Islands of Decolonial Love” by Michi Saagiig Nishnaabe writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and “Devotions” by American poet Mary Oliver. And something about these times has me listening to a lot of classic country albums. (Willie Nelson and EmmyLou Harris have both stopped me in my tracks during each of the last 2 days.) In different ways, each of these speak to me about the counterpoints of love and hardship beyond simple romance, and the dignity of surviving what must never be accepted.

In the sound world, there are two pieces that I returned to while making this piece: Sayre Quevedo’s ‘Espera’, and ‘The Leaves, Frost-Crisp'd, Break from the Trees’ by Jaye Kranz.

Constellations says:

When we first heard this piece, it was at an earlier stage in its development, at a gathering with a group of Toronto audio aficionados. We both were moved by rawness of the tape. This sort of vulnerable conversation about masculinity was something we'd rarely, if ever, heard before. We love the piece's intimacy, not only in the words spoken but also in its style - the stereo recording, the feeling of being able to drift alongside its narrators as they walk the shoreline. Black Beach is Chris' first foray into audio, and we're so glad to be able to share it here on Constellations.

Chris Connolly is a producer, design researcher and community organizer. This first extended production marks a career leap into the realms of documentary and sound art, following a lifetime of ephemeral passion projects in live storytelling, poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. As a producer, he orchestrates sound-rich stories from fearlessly intimate moments—when uncommon everyday people challenge and reinvent the mainstream cultures they just can’t abide. He has called his home Tkaronto/Toronto, within One Dish One Spoon treaty territory, since 2012.

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