Ode to the Salish Sea

Paolo Pietropaolo

October 26, 2018 [2018 Season]

Ode to the Salish Sea was produced and composed by audio documentary producer, writer and composer Paolo Pietropaolo. It was commissioned by CBC Radio's Outfront and the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio Arts. It premiered on Outfront across Canada on May 15, 2009 and in octophonic surround sound at the Deep Wireless Festival in Toronto, Ontario on May 30, 2009.
It features the sounds of the Salish Sea and the voices of George Harris of the Chemainus First Nation, geographer Briony Penn, and monarchist Keith Roy.

Paolo says:

In 2010, a new, collective name was made official for the inland waterways off the coasts of British Columbia and the State of Washington: the Salish Sea. These waterways are also known individually as the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound. The collective name was created to honour the area's original inhabitants, the Coast Salish peoples. 

The Ode to the Salish Sea is a composed documentary I produced prior to the official acceptance of the name by the U.S. and Canadian governments. 

As the title suggests, my aim was to compose a lyrical tribute to the unique beauty of this coastal region by capturing and recomposing the sounds and languages of the Salish Sea. I also wanted to explore the complexity of the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures that call the Salish Sea home.

There are three voices heard in two languages (the Coast Salish language Hul’qumi’num and English): George Harris of the Chemainus First Nation; Keith Roy, spokesman for the Monarchist League of Canada; and Briony Penn, a geographer and environmental activist. 

The sounds are those of the waters: creeks, waves, boats, ferries and ambient sound, and the sounds of wildlife that depend on the Salish Sea for survival. 

I like to think of the Ode as a dream-state balancing the reality of what these waterways sound like today with imagined past and future sounds of the Salish Sea.

And to this day, whenever I turn on my mics to record anything, anywhere, I always think of the pileated woodpecker that called out and swooped above me seconds after I started recording ambient sounds for the Ode in Roberts Memorial Provincial Park on Vancouver Island.

What or who is currently inspiring you both inside of the world of audio and outside of it?

In the world of radio, right now I’m most inspired by my friend Jarrett Martineau, who is opening my ears to Indigenous music from around the world on his CBC Music show Reclaimed, and also by CBC journalist Connie Walker for her investigative podcast series on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, a very difficult topic that she handles with a combination of toughness, sensitivity and journalistic integrity I don’t see enough of in the world of podcasting and radio.

Outside - it’s hard not to be inspired by Wolastoqiyik artist Jeremy Dutcher, winner of Canada’s Polaris Music Prize this year for his astounding album based on his research into old archival recordings of traditional songs of the Wolastoqiyik people.

Paolo Pietropaolo is an audio documentary producer, writer and composer who lives in Vancouver, Canada, also known as the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, by the shores of the Salish Sea.

Paolo is a two-time winner of the Prix Italia, most recently for The Signature Series, a 24-part classical music mashup series taking a whimsical look at the personalities of the key signatures of music, as though they were astrological signs (I know, weird), and previously for the 8-part documentary series The Wire: the Impact of Electricity on Music, which also won a Peabody Award.

An inveterate baseball fan as well as a musician, Paolo has spent much of his life trying to explain the intricacies of the arcane to the uninitiated. After one year of undergrad science at the University of Toronto, Paolo gave up on his marine biology dreams in favour of that most secure of career paths: music. Shockingly, this strategy somehow worked when a taiko drumming gig led to a career in radio. 

Since 2012, Paolo has also been the host of In Concert, the award-winning classical music performance program on CBC Music. In Concert can be heard worldwide on Sundays at cbcmusic.ca. @paolopp

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