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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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Photos: The Hu/YouTube
The Mongolian heavy metal band the Hu, which combines traditional instruments with Western sounds, has attracted a following on YouTube. “If lions come, we’ll fight until the end … If elephants come, we’ll fight in a rage … If you come as snakes, we’ll become Garuda birds and fly over you.”

I don’t know the first thing about heavy metal, although I have always supposed it was a rebellion thing, like punk. But as I’m always interested in cultures that are foreign to my own, I was intrigued by a National Public Radio [NPR] story about how a band in Mongolia has adapted heavy metal iconography and sounds for its own purposes.

Katya Cengel wrote, “A band from Mongolia that blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing has picked up 7 million views for its two videos.

“Leather jackets, skull rings and bandannas alongside intricately carved Mongolian horsehead fiddles are just some of the images in the first two music videos the Mongolian band The Hu released on YouTube this fall. Excited listeners from around the globe have posted comments like: ‘This makes me want to ride a horse and shoot people with a bow’ and ‘This sounds like ancient mongol rock of 1000 b.c.’ …

“As the Soviet Union crumbled and Western influence flooded in during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mongolian musicians chose to preserve Mongolian culture while also adapting new influences, explains University of Chicago ethnomusicology doctoral student Thalea Stokes. …

” ‘Mongolians are not just taking elements from Western music and just copying and pasting,’ says Stokes. Instead, they’re using some of these elements and making their own authentic music. ‘So it’s not rock music performed by Mongolians. It’s Mongolian rock music,’ she says.

 

“Mongolian rock combines traditional Mongolian instruments … It also involves singing in a guttural way known as throat singing while throwing heads back and forth reminiscent of the headbanging of ’80s heavy metal bands.  …

“The Hu call their style ‘hunnu rock’ — from the Mongolian root word for human being: ‘hu.’ The band spent seven years putting together its first album, which it expects to release this spring. They plan to call it Gereg, the name for a diplomatic passport used during the time of Genghis Khan. [The] idea was to find, study and incorporate as much of Mongolia’s musical culture as they could into a rock style, says the band’s 52-year-old producer and songwriter, B. Dashdondog, who goes by ‘Dashka.’ …

” ‘We wanted to come up with our own thing that we can offer to this big music family. Make something new,’ says Dashka, who spoke through a translator via Skype.

“It is not just their instruments that incorporate traditional elements. In the band’s first song, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ (What’s going on?), they mention Genghis Khan and how he was fated to bring nations together. The video begins with images of people inside playing video games, watching television and looking at their phones. A door is opened and the band’s four members step into different natural settings: cliffs, desert, forest and lake. The message they hope to convey through their lyrics and imagery is that people need to pay attention to nature and their history and culture, explains lead singer TS. Galbadrakh, known as ‘Gala,’ 29.”

More at NPR, here.

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I finally got to this year’s Art Ramble in Concord’s Hapgood Wright Town Forest — site-specific creations from the Umbrella artists planted among fallen logs and leaves.

There were quite a few other visitors on the cold, sunny day. One couple shared a laugh about their madly yapping dog, who had been spooked by the recumbent figure of Thoreau in the woods. Another couple discussed with me the best way to avoid a shadow on the chicken-and-egg-sculpture. And a friendly woman who was a United Church of Christ minister and artist herself joined me for half the walk. We helped each other spot pieces that blended in so much with the surroundings that at first, when you saw a descriptive sign but no art, you would think the work had already been removed.

I particularly liked the tiny people — one hermit in contemplation under a root, others peeking out of the bark or cavorting on a dead log.

A man with a top hat and frog face was standing next to the pond — a Slavic water spirit and trickster that I am happy to know about.

My favorite this year was the spirit emerging from the earth at the base of a tree. At first I thought, Caliban, but then looked at his gentle face.

My report on the 2016 Art Ramble is here, and the one on the 2017 Art Ramble is here.

If you live in Massachusetts or are visiting Walden Pond, which is nearby, the Art Ramble is up until Nov. 30 this year. It will make you feel like creating some art yourself — especially with leaves and sticks and mud.

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Photos: Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry
Children on the island of Bangka in Indonesia receive free goggles in a bid by the maritime affairs minister to engage them early in caring for endangered reefs.

It’s never too early to get children interested in nature. And anyone who has contact with young children can help provide experiences that will one day make them want to protect the environment. I’m sure reader Will McM. does that in his Making Music Together classes, and I know my kids and their spouses do that.

Meanwhile across the world, a maritime affairs minister sees hope in her country’s very youngest. Kate Lamb reports for the Guardian, “Indonesia’s maritime affairs minister has come up with an unconventional way to help preserve precious reefs from marine pollution: distribute boatloads of free goggles to children in the archipelago’s remote coastal regions.

“An avid snorkeler who is known for blowing up illegal fishing boats, minister Susi Pudijastuti said she wanted to give the next generation of Indonesians ‘the eyes’ to fully appreciate their marine environment.

“During visits to Indonesia’s remote eastern areas, home to the ‘Coral Triangle’ and some of the most diverse marine life in the world, the minister said she noticed Indonesian children watching tourists snorkelling for hours, not fully understanding what they were doing.

“ ‘I just realised in one moment: how can we ask them, how can we push them to take care of the beauty of the underwater world if they don’t even see how beautiful it is,’ she said, ‘I realised, what we see, they don’t see.’ … Visiting Banggai Laut in Sulawesi, one area where goggles had been distributed, the minister said children were swimming and jumping around, amazed by their reefs. …

“In a country suffering from chronic maritime waste, the minister hopes the initiative will encourage young Indonesians to appreciate their reefs, and in turn inspire them to protect their marine environment. Indonesia is the world’s biggest marine polluter after China, discarding 3.22m metric tons of waste annually. …

“Susi said she was angered when she saw plastic ‘at the beach, on the shore, on the reef, everywhere,’ and took measures to reduce usage in her own ministry. Single-use plastic is banned at Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries ministry, and at all its ministerial events.

“Susi told the Guardian she looked forward to the day when Indonesia could ban single-use plastic altogether.” More at the Guardian, here.

Speaking of single-use plastic, I have recently learned that straws are dangerous to sea turtles and intend to stop using them. But recently at an earthy-crunchy juice bar, plastic straws were all they had. Disappointing. Everyone needs to do their bit.

Indonesian students on the island of Belitung receive free goggles.

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Photo: Bethesda Magazine
New research finds some children are more attentive after experiencing a class taught on the lawn.

As the fourth snow event of March 2018 decorates my yard, I’m finding it hard to visualize academic lessons on a lawn, but I know they do happen.

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard, “A carefully designed 10-week study found outdoor lessons ‘boost subsequent classroom engagement, and boost it a great deal,’ writes a research team led by Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign. ‘After a lesson in nature, teachers were able to teach for almost twice as long without having to interrupt instruction to redirect students’ attention.’

“In the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Kuo and her colleagues note that, while many European nations have incorporated classes in nature into children’s education, the idea has not been embraced in the United States. This may reflect ‘concern on the part of teachers that outdoor lessons will leave students keyed up and unable to concentrate,’ they write. Their findings debunk that notion.

“The study featured third-graders (ages nine and 10) at an environment-oriented magnet school in the Midwest. The kids were predominantly African American, and 87 percent qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch.

“Two teachers — one keen on the idea of teaching in nature, the other somewhat skeptical — each ‘delivered 10 pairs of lessons over 10 different weeks.’ On five of the 10 weeks, the first lesson of the pair was taught at a grassy spot just outside the school, adjacent to some woods.

” ‘For any given pair of lessons, both the treatment lesson (in nature) and its indoor counterpart were delivered by the same teacher to the same students, on the same topic, in the same week of the semester,’ the researchers write.

“The students’ engagement in the lesson taught immediately afterwards—which was always indoors—was measured in a variety of ways, including the teacher’s perception; the judgment of an independent observer who examined photographs of the classroom; and how often the teacher needed to stop teaching to attend to a student’s inappropriate behavior.

” ‘Classroom engagement was significantly better after lessons in nature,’ the researchers report. … Most striking was the reduction in ‘redirects,’ which are defined as ‘instances where a teacher interrupted the flow of instruction to redirect students’ attention.’

” ‘Normally, these occur roughly once every 3.5 minutes of instruction’ in a third-grade classroom, the researchers write. But after a lesson in nature, ‘teachers were able to teach for 6.5 minutes, on average, without interruption.’ …

“The five-minute-long walks to and from the outdoor learning area may have played a positive role. It’s also possible the kids were responding to rejuvenated instructors.” More here.

In college, I found the occasional springtime lesson on the lawn distracting, but there is no doubt it could perk up a teacher. And I know that both kids and adults benefit from just getting up and moving.

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You probably don’t need to be told this, but bathing yourself in nature can help you calm down, reduce stress. When I was a child, I lived near forest and could take a walk in the woods almost anytime. Not everyone can do that, which is why it’s so important to bring nature into cities and towns as much as possible. Even listening to recordings of nature can be soothing.

Anjali Nayar at Motherboard writes, “When Cale Holmes moved from Virginia to New York City for grad school, he started to have trouble sleeping. All night long the trains thundered past his building, garbage trucks groaned, and police sirens wailed. …

“One night, Holmes recalled how calm he used to feel whenever he visited a beach. He went to YouTube and ran a search for ocean sounds. Innumerable recordings of ocean waves popped up, some as long as 12 or 14 hours. He selected a nighttime version and let his room fill with the sound of the crashing of waves. …

“The next thing he knew, warm sunlight was filtering in through the curtains. When he checked his laptop, he saw that the recording had paused at just after four minutes when the laptop had powered off. … How had the recording helped him so much? …

“Jake Benfield, soundscape researcher and professor of Environmental Psychology at Penn State University, has been studying nature sounds for over a decade. … In 2014, Benfield led a research study to examine whether natural sounds had any impact on participants’ moods. The researchers first evaluated the volunteers’ moods and then deliberately spoiled their moods by showing them disturbing medical videos of hand surgeries. ‘As we would expect,’ Benfield said, ‘watching medical videos makes people disgusted, negative, and generally in a bad mood.’

“The researchers then randomly assigned the volunteers to three groups and made them listen to different soundscapes. One group was made to listen to city sounds and traffic. Members of this group reported that their moods became worse. Another group listened to mixed environments containing nature and city sounds, and this group reported no significant mood changes.

“The third group, however, listened to purely natural sounds — like the sound of the wind rustling through trees or the chirping of birds. Participants in this group reported a complete mood recovery.”

In another study, Benfield told Motherboard, “Researchers at University of Gavle, Sweden [designed] an ambiguous, fuzzy sound, which wasn’t entirely discernible, and hence open to interpretation. The researchers then enlisted participants and told half of them that the sound was that of a waterfall while telling the others that it was from an industrial source.

“What they discovered was that the first group, the one that had thought that the sound was that of running water, showed remarkable mood recovery. On the other hand, the second group that had assumed the sound was unnatural, reported no mood recovery.”

Several related studies are described at Motherboard, here. Enjoy!

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Photo: Ginny Fordham
Berklee professor Steve Wilkes gathers sound at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. A recent project also captures Cape Cod.

Berklee professor Steve Wilkes and his collaborator David Masher have created some amazing soundscapes that capture the music of the natural world. Their work is described at the Hear the Forest website:

“Hear The Forest is an effort to initiate the process of building an aural-map – essentially, an audio time capsule – of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.  Supported by the National Forest Service and the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, this work will be performed by Berklee College of Music Professor, Steve Wilkes, as part of the 2017 Artist-in-residence program. …

“In addition to his field ecology and sound recording work, Wilkes will offer several public programs, including workshops that will provide residents and visitors with information on contributing to the ongoing sound file collection on the White Mountain National Forest. …

“ ‘I hope to be able to express and communicate to others this profound sense of inspiration – and to help everyone slow down a bit, and really listen,’ ” Wilkes says. More here.

You might also like hear an interesting interview with Wilkes that was broadcast at WGBH. The station provides this intro: “Nature is rich with dynamic sounds, like the roaring of waterfalls or the sweetness of birdsong.

“Berklee professor Steve Wilkes … captured the still whispers of buzzing bugs, the martian-like atmosphere at the summit of Mount Washington and the laughter of children enjoying the park — all essential sounds to create a ‘digital aural map’ of the forest, which he calls Hear The Forest. Callie Crossley speaks with Wilkes about his project.” More here.

I like the idea of encouraging others to contribute their own nature recordings to the White Mountains project. It feels like something anyone could do if they just paid attention — and paying attention is the whole idea.

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When we lived in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, we would tell friends back in Massachusetts that we thought the Twin Cities theater scene was the best anywhere. They would say, “You mean the Guthrie?”

No, actually. We meant the many small, more-experimental theater groups that popped up everywhere.

Friday we were introduced to new one, TigerLion, which performed an outdoor “walking” play about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Manse. Above you see one of several stages and the warm-up team performing before the show. (Note also that the audience’s path to the next stage set is lined with apples.)

The highly physical acting style kept everyone from toddlers to adults entertained as did the whacky sound effects, wild locomotive and cabin-in-the-woods creations, and energetic choruses.

When the Royal Shakespeare Theater decided in the late 1970s that the best way to convey the uniqueness of Dickens was to recite chunks of his narration (as in their production of Nicholas Nickleby), I think they changed theater forever. The inventive TigerLion expands on the use of a chorus, at one point having it speak the conversation of the pantomiming protagonists — even the crunching of the apples they eat. (Really funny.)

The troupe wants audiences to delight in nature and save the planet from unchecked exploitation. From the website: “We celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. …

TigerLion Arts presents Nature, the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.  …

“A professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the experience. …

“This original work is collaboratively created with writer/actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“In today’s world, we are so estranged from our natural environment, and at TigerLion Arts, we feel that humankind must reconnect with nature in order to survive.  As oil spills into our oceans, as we race through our lives, as we look further and further outside ourselves for the answers, it is our hope that Nature can be a catalyst for our collective healing.”

More.

Photo: TigerLion
Energetic Minneapolis theater group recreating the interactions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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