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Listening to Nature’s Equations in Sun and in Rain and especially in Community at PS21 Chatham

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

By Susie Ibarra

Photos by Lien Nullens

When we looked at the forecast for the weather in upstate NY during the week of Rhythm in Nature's Residency, Retreat and Performance, I saw little drawings of thunder showers scattered across the entire week. I sighed but then took another breath and remembered how consistently inconsistent and tropical the weather of NY state has become and changed into. Most likely it could very well be a myriad of climates during one day. As if Mother Nature was playing 6 different aesthetic styles of music in one concert and saying okay that's it.

Sure enough, she did not disappoint us.

With its extremities and subtleties there was sunshine and blue skies and gentle water in Rivers and Birdsongs Listening Labs. There were tornado watches and thunder/lighting storms even hail outside the dance barn doors during big Drums and Gongs Lab workshops. There were rising tides of river runs during Community morning river listening and recording.

To Learn More About Drum Labs: Rhythm in Nature sign up at and also receive the journal, Sound Health Habitat Journal

Walking along pathways between Goldenrod fields we had Monarchs and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and perhaps Eastern Tailed Blue Butterflies lead us down the paths. There were Orioles, Song Sparrows, Tufted Titmouse, and Eastern Kingbirds, Common Yellowthroats , Bluejays and the American Robins singing and calling in the fields and in the trees.

Down at the River artists entered alongside and into the water to listen and record with

hydrophones and above water microphones. Some traveled upstream following the gentle waterfall and some stood and sat in pools of moving water recording crevices and shifting tides.

And amidst this we listened and listened to earth's orchestra and to each other, in community , at meals, in presentations, in rehearsals, in performance, in workshops, in meditation and on walks.

We were entering inside the perfect equations in nature which brought us to listen to its components and left us whole and healed and in wonder of its complexities.

The landscapes of New York State can appear geologically young, with a lot of it pastoral and gentle mountains, forests, lakes and river systems. Over the last 2 million years New York has experiences several Ice Ages with warming periods. The entire state has been covered several times by glaciers which have then retreated and shifted the rivers, mountain tops and valleys. The last glacial advance in New York with the Wisconsin Ice Sheet was around 22,000 years ago. It was a moving river of ice and shaped the areas of New York State all the way to Long Island of what the geological landscape is today. It is a state that has its microclimates and in summer is humid with sun and rain and also southern state has tropical climate as well.

Amdst this ecosytem of water, trees, birds, frogs, insects and wildlife we held practice together in community of sharing and listening to each others creative work. Also amidst this we rehearsed each day at the PS21 Theatre and Dance Barn for the premiere of the multi ensemble Rhythm in Nature Orchestra performance of my composition of Four Meditations on Impermanence.

Guest Artist Experimental guitarist Tashi Dorji played unplugged acoustically and talked about improvisation and the influence of growing up in his home country Bhutan.

Guest Artist Composer, Pianist and Earth Instrumentalist Phyllis Chen brought miniature bamboo trees to perform with alongside her gong piano , toy piano and singing stones.

Drum Lab Drummer, Improviser, Composer and Yoga Teacher, Nicolas Chkifi taught us each morning Ayengar Yoga, and performed an excerpt of his new work in progress inspired by nature with his ensemble Fnussjen, sharing three pieces, titled: Lila‘s Dream, Resonance of the Heaven,


Tai Chi/ Qigong Teacher Martha Cheo led a class through Nature Qigong

before a massive storm.

Multi-Instrumentalist, Field and Sound Engineer Jake Landau and I led River and Birdsong Listening Labs along the grounds of PS21 Chatham.

Artists in Rhythm in Nature Residency performed and presented both new finished works ready for exhibition and performance as well as works in progress and cells of emerging creative ideas.

Lani Asunción (they/she/sa) Boston based interdisciplinary multimedia artist who creates socially engaged art in both private and public spaces, performed and screened their powerful new work SONG/LAND/SEA Tabi Tabi Po which has just opened and on exhibit through 2024 Spring at the Kala Art Institute exhibition show Dig and Rise of Kala Art 2023 Fellows.

Damion Frigillana, Percussionist based in Los Angeles, performed a beautiful solo piece interpreted from his field recordings of the tdial pools in La Jolla, Southern California. The piece is titled "Meditation on the Pacific”. The concept was to use the sound of the waves as a jumping off point to enter the release of the mind.

Amy Reed, an artist living in the Bay Area and working in improvised music; analog, telematic, and live performance - guitar and song, shared a new work titled:


Ongoing work with our Yaqui language, the word for the milky way, and with the light and sounds on the river

(N. Fork American - Hill Nisenan Territory).

Treya Lam, Multi-Instrumentalist and Composer, shared a new work in progress collaboration titled Otherland, a chamber-folk audio/visual album and multidisciplinary ritual that reflects on grief as a catalyst for individual and collective healing, and our relationship to a changing earth. The soulful songs they shared were titled : other land, keep the flowers growing and whole again for voice and guitar and viola.

Mario Schambon , nyc based experimentalist focusing on free improv, sound and visual art , performed and set his percussion solo to visual score titled The Window

"My first foray into "composing" for percussion and field recording that developed out of an improvising/practice session at home.

The birds endlessly chattering outside of my window and my drumming felt like a dialog, so I spent that day documenting all of it.

The score and the audio is the result of that day at home in May of 2023 "

Trey Cregan, an experimental musician currently residing in Brooklyn. He shared several electronic works. These pieces explore emotions in ones self, an awareness and acknowledgment.

The first two songs were from an EP called “It’s Hard To Know How To Be Yourself Sometimes”.

“The first song shared is titled ”Desert of Doors” and it’s about the feeling of being lost. It’s about knowing that you have to make changes and do an emotional inventory but not knowing where to start and the sense of paralysis that comes with that feeling.

The second song is called “Leaving Myself Behind”. And it’s a bit of a resolution to “Desert of Doors”. It’s about knowing what you have to leave behind in order to become who you want to be; It’s about change. It’s about making sure you have space for the good things the future has in store for you. It’s about doing the work.

The last song is titled “Ambien Logic” and that song is about the feeling of doing something you thought was completely normal and then looking around the room and realizing people are staring at you because they thought what you did was outlandish or crazy.”

Tamara Yadao, Filipinx-American musician, sound artist and composer, whose artistic

practice revolves around electroacoustic sound, free improvisation and electronic avant-pop. She performed Kulintang, Improv #1 — stating "one of my reasons for joining the residency and the Drum Labs was to begin developing a practice with the Kulintang, an instrument of my Filipino ancestry.  The critique hours and peer support were very special since I was able to perform an improvisation on Kulintang for the first time. "

Lori Landau, is an interdisciplinary artist whose work draws on her long-standing meditation and poetics praxis, recited Dear Love, Dear Loss, Dear Now:

The poem she read and handmade books shown are drawn from her current body of work that explores form and formlessness by engaging in energetic exchanges with the natural world, as a means to cope with profound loss and rebel against the forces of violence and disconnection in our current culture.

Theresa Seguritan Abalos is Filipina-American improviser and collaborative flutist with the Pittsburgh Sound Preserve. She shared her new work“another /anew”, a solo performance of improvised alto flute with pre-recorded text to express loss of language and love.

While weaving these personal and engaging artistic works in the hours of the days, we listened to each other. We listened to the changing microclimates shifting in the air, along the water, through the trees and underground to find its impermanence and continuity flow down from the clouds and soar back up to the skies.

What does a geological landscape leave us to listen to amidst its impermanence and changing climates over 2 million years?

How does one feel walking a pastoral field to know that onc a moving glacial ricer covered its entire being?

What emerges in our collective meditations in nature?

Over the days we rehearsed four movements of Four Meditations on Impermanence. 1. Upstream 2. Stone and Bamboo 3. Forest Birds 4. Waves Upon Waves

This piece arrived in a form of first solo percussion , and then large ensemble composition after a series of studies and research in my practice that focused on the inner composites and equations of these habitats : freshwater rivers and streams, ocean waves, forests and trees, birds and insects, deserts and canyons. They fractals of ecosystems, rhythms of sets of motion, melody and rhythms in interspecies communication, and listening through many natural materials such as air, water, sand, metal , wood.

I am so grateful to Jake Landau for co-producing with me this wonderful residency. I am also immensely grateful to have been in community with Rhythm in Nature artists and to hear, see and experience through each of them the magic, resilience and wonder expressed in each of their creativity, a constant and continuity existing with a surrender to natures powerful impermanence.

To Learn More About Drum Labs: Rhythm in Nature sign up at and also receive the journal, Sound Health Habitat Journal

Photos by Lien Nullens

Several photos by

Lori Landau and Susie Ibarra

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