LISTENING TO THE SONGS OF PLANTS

A pre-concert talk by

Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer & Dr. Asha Srinivasan

 

to honor the world premiere of

Braiding: Lessons from Braiding Sweetgrass for oboe, electronics, and natural sounds (2017)

by Asha Srinivasan

Holsclaw Hall, University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music

Tucson, AZ

February 22, 2017

 

SF: Hi everybody, thanks for coming. My name is Sara Fraker and I’m the Assistant Professor of Oboe here at the University of Arizona. It’s really my great pleasure and honor to welcome our two guests here today for a preconcert talk. And this is something that I think is kind of unique. Most oboe players don’t have an ecologist speaking before their recital. But, in this case, I think you’re going to see why it all kind of makes sense.

 

So I want to introduce Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a Professor of Plant Ecology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and you can read her full bio in the program. A lot of her energy these days is put into being the founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, upon which the first work you’ll hear tonight is based. And our other guest today is Dr. Asha Srinivasan. She is a professor of composition at Lawrence University, and she is the composer of the work that you will hear. I wanted to bring these two women into dialogue to talk about their work, talk about this project, and I’m actually going to scoot offstage and get ready to perform. But I leave them to talk about this project, and I hope you enjoy it. So thanks.

 

RWK: Bozho! Our traditional greeting in the Potawatomi language. Shaabidaske giizhgokwe nedezhnekas.  Bodwewadmikwe ndaw. Migize ndoodem minwa mko ndoodem. My name is Robin Kimmerer, Light Shining Through Sky Woman. I’m a member of the Potawotomi Anishinaabe peoples. I’m a member of the Bear Clan, and of the Eagles. I’m so grateful to be here.

I wanted to begin, as we always do, with our first responsibility, which is for gratitude. And so, if we can remember that this morning when we woke up, and the sun was there, and we put our feet on Mother Earth, that she was there to support us. How we are showered with gifts, with water to drink and air to breathe, and birds singing around us. At home, I always think of the companionship of clouds, but I’m from Syracuse. I don’t think I saw a single one today! And also to give great gratitude to the original peoples of this place, on whose homelands we meet today – the Tohono O’odham people – and much gratitude for their work and caretaking for this beautiful place. Also, gratitude for the inspiration of artists. I feel so blessed to be in the presence of these wonderful artists, these women who have made this wonderful creation, which I haven’t heard yet. I’m so excited to hear your work embodied, all the care and compassion that has gone into this work called Braiding.

 

And I thought I might begin — how could I do otherwise — by introducing you to sweetgrass, and this braid of sweetgrass. In our language, this plant is called wiingaashk. When I ask my language teacher what that means, it refers to the wonderful vanilla fragrance of this sweet, sweet grass. It also refers to the open, wet, sunny meadows where it lives. And another inference from that word, wiingaashk, is a call to ceremony and a call to prayer. Because wiingaashk is one of our four sacred plants. It’s really understood as a medicine, as a healing plant, and the healing goes in a couple of ways. I’m a plant ecologist, so I think about its material way of healing. Because this is a plant that colonizes broken ground, disturbed land. It’s a rhizomatous perennial. And so it comes into those places and knits them back together. But it is also a spiritual healer, a plant that helps to restore balance and beauty in the world. So many thanks also to wiingaashk.

 

When you see wiingaashk, very often you see it as a braid, right? I’d like to share with you in the context of our conversation here today just a small bit of the teachings of why we braid the sweetgrass. Anybody know? You almost never see this unbraided. Remember, as I said, this is a healer of land, it comes in on open ground. In our creation story, it’s actually said that sweetgrass is one of the first plants to come onto Mother Earth. It’s so long and beautiful and shining that we think of it as the hair of Mother Earth. And so I ask you to think about the last time you braided someone’s hair, or someone braided your hair. I see these smiles pass over your faces, because of the tenderness of that relationship, right? When someone braids your hair, or you braid theirs, it’s that sign of a visible regard, of care, for the wellbeing of the one whose hair you are braiding. And that’s why we braid sweetgrass, because we are braiding the hair of Mother Earth. It is that tangible sign of the regard that we have for her, in reciprocity for all of the gifts that she shares with us.

 

And in the book Braiding Sweetgrass, these three strands are also metaphorically strands of knowledge. Of indigenous knowledge, wisdom, philosophy. Also the tools and approaches of Western science, scientific ecological knowledge. But you know, both of those kinds of knowledge are human knowledge. And the third strand is the knowledge of the plants themselves, honoring their wisdom and their particular ways. And when we were chatting with Sara about our talk together this evening, we thought, Well what should we call it? And we played around with a bunch of ideas. But we thought of this as an opportunity to engage the notion of “Listening to the Songs of Plants.”

 

I wanted to share just a small story that was shared with me by a mentor of mine, Holly YoungBear-Tibbits. Holly tells this story of being in the tropics. I think it was tropical Ecuador, in the rain forest. She was observing an expedition of botanists and other ecologists who were together in the forest. And there was a man with a large personality, shall we say, in the expedition. He was a notable botanical authority on taxonomy and the tropics, and he was there collecting specimens. And so he enlisted a young indigenous man to help in this regard. The young man was leading him from ecosystem to ecosystem, pointing out all of the hidden plants, and where to go to find them. And he was giving their names, in both his indigenous language and in Spanish. And to hear Holly tell it, with quite a bit of puffed up condescension, the scientist said to the young man, Well, young man, you really seem to know something about your plants. You really know a lot of plant names. And she reports that the young man then said to him, Yes sir, I have learned their names. But I have yet to learn their songs.

 

[At this moment, a vocalist outside the concert hall sings a meandering, high-pitched warm-up phrase; the audience cracks up with laughter.]

 

AS: You couldn’t do better than that.

 

RWK: [laughing] So this notion of Western science looking at plants for their names, for their properties — plants as objects. And the embrace of this young man who knew certainly that element as well, but fully understood that the plants had their own things to say, their own things to sing. And he had the humility to know that he had not yet plumbed all of those mysteries. It is that listening for the songs of plants which certainly propels my own work, because I want so deeply to understand living ways in addition to scientific ways of understanding. I want to be part of that third strand in the braid, of the plant knowledge itself, so that as a botanist — having spent my life on my knees before plants, listening to them — that I could then tell their stories, in reciprocity for everything that they have taught me. And that’s really what I hope to do.

 

In thinking about the songs of plants, I thought it would be important to just remember that what we used to think about plants as being primitive, lower, other-than, not behaving, not intelligent, not sentient beings. In traditional knowledge, it’s always understood that plants are persons, teachers with their own intelligence, their own story. That had been very much dismissed by Western science as a kind of crude anthropomorphism. But of course, now that we study plant neurobiology in depth, we are learning something in a biomechanical way about their songs.

 

Did you know that plants can hear? There’s wonderful new evidence that plants can hear. There’s an experiment that I would share with you, which blew my mind when I heard about it. You probably know that plants under attack from certain insects will turn on chemical defenses for those attacks; they build up their defenses when they know that those animals are coming for them. But they recently did experiments that said if you play the sound of that chewing caterpillar to the plants, they turn on their chemical defenses against it. [1] They hear and respond. In these same acoustic studies with plants, thinking of their songs, people have now recorded the songs, the sounds of roots: little roots in the ground that are moving toward water, and they make a very particular sound. Other roots in the same neighborhood hear that sound, and grow toward it. [2] So this notion of the songs of plants, which is so deeply embedded in indigenous ways of knowing, is now being understood in a biomechanical way by scientists as well. So this notion of the songs of plants, and how we come to hear them, appreciate them, and think, What are they telling us? What are the lessons of plants? What are the teachings that these beings, who have been here so much longer than we have, have to share with us?

 

Because in indigenous ways of knowing, these plants like wiingaashk, are understood not only as beings — as intelligent, sentient beings who carry gifts for all the rest of the world — but they’re understood as teachers as well, our oldest teachers. Unlike in Western science where, you know, when you learn the biological hierarchy in Biology 101, plants were way down at the bottom, as if they had very little going on. But our people really put them at the top, as these really esteemed individuals, because they teach us about creation and creativity, which is such a perfect theme for this evening, that act of creation. When you think about the fact that plants build themselves — they create themselves — out of light and air and water. That’s amazing. That’s one of the reasons, of course, they were viewed as these very spiritual beings, important teachers of how to create and imagine life into being.

 

And of course one of the other reasons that they are viewed with such high respect is — what do they do with what they create, with their food, with leaves, with their flowers, with their roots? They embody generosity because they give it away. They give it away to all the other beings, and that notion of the giveaway from plants is another reason that we view them as our teachers. Medicine says, Well, these are great healers. The plants are great biochemical factories making all sorts of medicines that, again, they give away for free. These are some of the reasons that plants are viewed as our greatest teachers.

 

And so it is in this regard that I wish that the plants could hear the music tonight, just as we listen to the songs of the plants, I would hope that they could listen to your songs as well. Because it is that give and take, isn’t it, that reciprocity between human beings and the rest of the world, that we have forgotten. And it leaves us lonely in the world: we lonely for them, they lonely for us. And it seems to me that art is a way to reknit that relationship, that we come to know each other again, the living world and ourselves as part of that living world.

 

In having a tiny little window into the act of creation that you and Sara have been engaged in… it speaks to me of the confluence of art and science, that they are both powerful and beautiful ways of paying attention. And I love that we call it paying attention. Because it is something that we give, isn’t it? It costs us to pay attention, and we are rewarded by paying attention. And we can pay attention to the living world by learning their names, by coming into respect for them, and certainly by engaging in reciprocity with them. Thinking back to our gratitude for all the plants and the living world gives to us, to ask ourselves, What is it that we have to give back? And certainly art and music is a wonderful, human gift that we can give back in reciprocity for all that we have been given. And so we’d like to engage in a dialogue, a conversation about this act of creation.

 

AS: Thank you Robin. How could you not be inspired by that, am I right? So this project. we’ve been talking about this moment being a culmination of a sort, but also a new beginning. It started in 2014, when Sara emailed me. She had never met me, but she knew one of my colleagues at Lawrence, she was college friends with her. And she was looking for a composer who would engage with her and write a piece that somehow depicted or worked with the idea of sustainability and the environment. And she started talking about this book. I happened to have heard Robin do a podcast with NPR that we both had heard separately. [3] Sara and I had both heard this. So we really connected, and I believe that was when you were talking about the chapter of The Grammar of Animacy in Braiding Sweetgrass[4] We both were really taken by this idea of language being so different in perspective, and what that meant. The idea that struck me (you would say it better) — is a river being not a noun, but a verb, because a river is living, it’s animate. So that was one of the first things we really connected on. So we decided to use Robin’s book as a source for inspiration. We didn’t really know what that meant. I have never done that before, this is quite different for me. You know, you might take a text or a story, a narrative and write an opera or something like that, but to write this oboe piece with electronics, a 10-minute piece, to use this big book with so many big ideas — that was one of the main challenges. So Sara and I kept talking about the book. We both went back and read it, and took notes, and we shared the moments that really caught our attention, especially with our ears to music.

 

So thinking about sound and music, the idea came to me… you were talking about reciprocity. One of the things I started thinking about — and I thank you for having us think about this — the oboe is usually made of wood. The professional oboe is made of wood. We have so much plant materials in the instruments that we use. And so I started thinking about the actual instrument. I’d never done that before either, really, when I composed a piece. I did some research on what kind of wood it is — Sara and I talked about this — and it’s a certain kind of wood that we only get from Africa. It is endangered; there have been a lot of conservation efforts to try to preserve this wood. It’s a very durable and very resonant wood, so it works beautifully for something like the oboe and clarinet. The tree is called mpingo, and the wood is called grenadilla. [5] So this is where I started, thinking about wood: How can I make an offering, or how can I reflect this idea of the gift we get from this wood, the gift of music, the gift of art? So the piece opens with an homage to this wood, actually. And we, Sara and I, offer this piece of music to the Mpingo Nation of trees. [6] And we receive those lessons from you, Robin, this idea of giving something back, whatever you can give back.

 

We also resonated with you on listening, as you described, listening to the soundscape of our beautiful nature. There’s a beautiful chapter in the book called Witness to the Rain. [7] Both Sara and I were thinking musically about that one: How can we depict this, what can we draw from this? We both have had experiences — and I’m sure you have, especially in beautiful Tucson — you go hiking, and it’s quiet, but for the birds and the wind, and maybe some flies buzzing, and the water. And this is another aspect of the piece that you will hear. It moves from a very abstract place to a very concrete soundscape, where I try to put you in some sort of a mindset of listening to the woods.

 

This idea of animacy was probably one of the hardest to figure out how to weave into the music. It was something we were both really taken by. And I kept thinking about everything being animate. And I was thinking about wind chimes. In a way, wind chimes are activated by the wind. They’re sort of like an embodiment of this idea of the animacy of the wind, do you know what I mean? It’s an example of this animacy. And so this last part of the piece is all about the glory of the wind, and the wind chimes, as you’ll hear. That was my way of depicting in sound and imagery this movement of nature. So that’s a little bit of how I wove some of Robin’s ideas into the piece.

 

RWK: Amazing. And you know, when you were just talking about wind — I’m so glad you said that, Asha. Because when I try to listen to plants, sometimes I’m doing intuitive listening, that doesn’t mean ears at all. But I love that listening to different voices of plants, how a white pine sounds so different than a hemlock, than tall grass, than dead grass. It’s so rich, isn’t it?

 

AS: And your description of the rain falling on all those different plants… I actually was originally thinking of doing a section of the piece — I might even still do this in a different piece — you can depict all those, the different characters, the different types of sound you hear, the different types of drops. It’s very evocative for me, as a sonic-oriented person.

 

RWK: Well, I would love to sit in the woods and listen with you, and hear what you hear. Whether it’s wind or water, in many cases the voices that we hear from the plants are not the leaf voice, are they? They’re that interaction between wind and the plants, between rain and the plants, between snow and the plants. And I love that, because what that means is that it’s a conversation, that we only come to hear one another in relationship. So I’m eager to hear your animation of the wind in relationship.

 

AS: And it’s a very tactile thing that you’re talking about, right? The wind has to touch the plants, the rain has to touch the plants. And actually we don’t often think about sound being… We think of sound as the sense of hearing, but it’s also the sense of touch. Because when you hear a sound there are actually physical waves, the air is being pushed. And so your ear is actually moving from that air that I am pushing towards you. You can really experience this, if you’ve ever heard a subwoofer or you stood really close to a subwoofer, a really bass-y sound. You can physically see the air being moved with the speaker. And don’t you think you can absolutely feel that? So that is also interesting for me, this sense of communication through all these different waves.

 

RWK: Mm-hmm, oh my gosh, to think that the plants are listening to us as we are listening to them, it’s amazing. Especially when we say, Well, they don’t have ears, but increasingly what we’re understanding is that their entire bodies are ears, their entire bodies are listening. So when we think about trying to emulate this intimacy with the world of which we are a part, plants again are wonderful teachers of that.

 

AS: As we were talking about at lunch — and I’d be curious to know more about this from you, Robin — is how your book has touched people of all backgrounds and experience. You know, how someone like myself who doesn’t have a science background, other than what I remember from high school, and come from music — and I’m not an indigenous person from the Americas — I think that it’s still so moving, your writing and your ideas. Have you found that to be true? I know you said you’re continuously talking about this book everywhere. What’s your experience been in terms of the audiences for the book?

 

RWK: One of things that has been so heartening about the response to the book is that it really does feel that the stories are seeds, and that they’re falling on fertile ground of all sorts. The notion of gift and reciprocity I think is very much alive in the world. And we think of how often we say to ourselves, especially perhaps now… What can I do? How do I respond to what I see in the world? And that notion of the call to reciprocity, in return to everything that we’ve been given, is I think potent in all of us. And so in a way, Braiding Sweetgrass has ignited that for people, for saying, What is my gift? What can I give back? And I’ve heard remarkable stories of people beginning education programs and gardens and artwork.

 

AS: That’s fantastic. I remember very clearly, after reading The Gift of Strawberries, [8] I had recently acquired a garden that someone had already planted for me, and it had raspberry bushes. And I remember plucking the raspberries and saying thank you to the plants. I’ve always loved trees. I’m a tree-hugger, I’m ok with that. But your book made me look at our plant neighbors… I love your idea of the democracy of species, [9] this idea that we are really all Earth dwellers, we live together. I look at them differently. I really look at them as persons.

 

RWK: That’s wonderful, and that’s really what I hoped to achieve, is to reveal plants as beings — gifted beings that have so much to share with us, and so many gifts for us. Asha, I’m really glad that you invoked gratitude as well. Because that is of course one of the most important ways that we show reciprocity. And we think about gratitude, I think, way too superficially: Well, it’s good manners to say thank you. Well, of course it is, but what does gratitude really mean in the world? I think about a great mentor of mine, Freida Jacques, [10] who is a clan mother at Onondaga Nation. She talks about when you give gratitude, not in an unfocused way, but in a focused way to those raspberries in your garden, to that apple tree, to that tree you are sitting under, to that river for that drink of water. That very directed gratitude, as she says, it makes you feel so wealthy, and it makes you feel connected and cared for because these other beings are sharing with you, and it makes you feel like you belong. And this idea of gratitude as an activist stance is I think really interesting. Because in a consumer-driven society, where we’re even referred to as consumers, not as citizens even — we have been sold this notion of ourselves as consumers alone. And indigenous philosophy is filled with these recipes and protocols by which we are givers as well. We humbly have to take from the world, but how do we then reciprocate it? And so gratitude is really a radical act in a materialist society. And when we think of ourselves as hanging on the cusp of climate chaos, in the Age of the Sixth Extinction, we know that many of those ills are driven by our over-consumption. And there have been a number of eco-psychology studies which have shown that people who practice gratitude in that very directed way consume much less that people who don’t engage in gratitude. So this emotion, what we almost dismiss as empty good manners, is actually a really powerful transformative force in the world. When we say that we give gratitude back in reciprocity, that gratitude is doing work, or has the potential to do work, in the world.

 

AS:That’s beautiful. I think it’s time to open things up for questions. We have plenty of time, but I’m thinking that you might have more interesting questions than I have.

Audience member: I’m just curious, with the electronics in the piece, what’s the tie-in to biology and nature, is there symbolism?

 

AS: Well, I hope you’ll hear it, but since we’re at a pre-concert talk I feel like I can give away some things. The beginning starts with this idea of the trees, and it actually starts with our taking of the trees, with a kind of dramatic, electronically manipulated saw gesture. You should hopefully hear a cross-cut saw, and the tree cracking and falling. So it’s not necessarily a commentary on the violence, but it’s a sort of starting place of what we do as humans. And then, we move through a very abstract section, which is not really biologically related. I’m thinking about music as a way of abstractly communicating emotional ideas and thoughts. But then it makes way for — and when I say it, it is really the electronics — that makes way for listening to our nature. So you’ll start to hear some crickets, insect sounds. And the whole texture transforms. These are bird sounds, bird recordings that my husband and I have taken in different locations in the world. So it’s kind of a hyper-real imagination of a world of natural sounds. Then you’ll start to hear wind, so that was what I was talking about the animacy of the wind, and the wind chimes being activated by the wind. And those recordings were actually made by me basically blowing on them. And sometimes the wind, but it’s hard to capture the wind chimes when the wind is going. So that’s what you hear in the third part. That’s how I tried to use the sound materials and the electronics to depict some of these ideas. I hope that answers the question.

 

RWK: So, if I’m hearing that right, the electronics are a way to invite the other beings, the birds and the wind, to play with you.

 

AS: Exactly.

 

RWK: Oh, I love it.

 

Audience member: I was wondering how you thought about this particular instrument, the oboe, and how the qualities of that instrument shaped some of your ideas.

 

AS: That’s a great question. I was the given the instrument, in the sense that Sara is an oboist, and she asked me to write a piece. So I started with the premise of the oboe as the instrument that I’m writing for. The oboe is… you know what it’s good at doing? It’s really good at singing melodies. It’s really good at that. It’s good at lots of other things too, but if you think about the oboe traditionally in the orchestra, it’s given those featured solos. It’s very, very lyrical. So I was thinking about that kind of emotional, lyrical aspect of the oboe very much. So hopefully you’ll hear some of that, almost like someone is calling out, or singing. And I did actually do instrumental research, looking at YouTube videos and so on, of how the oboe is built, how the sound is made, through that wood… what is it about that wood? People talk very eloquently, much more than I can, about that. And so I guess I was thinking about Sara’s breath going through this wood that has been shaped by people’s hands, and so all of that kind of connectivity was going on in my mind.

 

RWK: I love that notion of the breath interacting with the plant material, because one of my great delights is to think about — I know it’s botanically geeky — to think about photosynthesis. I can’t help it. We have a poet in the audience. To me, one of the best poems is photosynthesis. That notion of the exchange of breath between the plants and people; of that wonderful literal exchange of breath, which is also spiritual. And what you just said makes me hear that sound as an exchange of breath between the musician and the plant.

 

AS: Well, if you haven’t read Robin’s Braiding Sweetgrass yet, I highly recommend it. And the thing that I really loved about your book is the geeky stuff. But you didn’t write it in a geeky way that I couldn’t understand. You wrote it in a poetic way. You write with artistry about science. And I just love the way you characterize the processes, the gifted aspects of these plants and what they do. This was always mesmerizing to me and I was always looking forward to those sections in the book.

 

RWK: Oh good, because I mostly go, Oh no one really wants to read about this, but boy I want to tell you about it, because it’s so fascinating. You know, oftentimes you hear people say that scientific understanding takes the mystery and the beauty away, reduces natural beings to objects. I find it just the opposite, it just magnifies it and celebrates their animacy and their beauty.

 

AS: Now that you’re sitting here with me, I think I understand why it did that. Because your own excitement is so infectious, your own enthusiasm comes through.

 

RWK: Well you know, if people say, What was your intention with the book? Well, I don’t know that I had an intention, but I think my intention always is to help people fall in love with the world. And if that combination of science and art can help people fall in love with the world, and therefore take care of her better, then that’s a good thing.

 

Audience member:This is a question for Robin. And I also just want to thank you for your work. It’s been really influential in my work as an artist, particularly this idea that we can learn not just about a plant, but from a plant, which guided an entire project that I just completed. But I wanted to ask — I don’t know how many times you’ve visited the Sonoran Desert — but I would just love to hear you share any insight that you have felt or received just in your visit to the Sonoran Desert. Listening to you speak and all of your knowledge, I just wonder how you receive this place. [11]

 

RWK: It’s a place I know so little. I come from very wet, green places. And I haven’t spent much time here, but I would love to spend more. One of the things that I love about this landscape is that, it seems to me, the stories that the wind and the water and the plants are writing in this landscape are very clearly written, in terms of their relationships to water and to one another. I love the clarity of the script that seems written in the desert. And I will reflect… as soon as you asked your good question… like I say I haven’t spent much time here at all. But the first time that I walked among the saguaros, the person that I was hiking with said, Just listen. And to hear the voice of the saguaros, and to recognize that each one of those different beings had a different voice, depending on its shape and the way it interacted with the wind. So for me, that was a moment of enchantment, to really see these beings who I don’t know at all, but to recognize their different voices. And it certainly made me want to know more.

 

Audience member: I’d like to know if you’re working on any other writing projects, any books that might follow Braiding Sweetgrass.

 

RWK: Yes. As I’ve been joking to people, mostly what I’ve been writing these days are letters. But I have also been working on a book that was really inspired by reader response to Braiding Sweetgrass, and these notions of reciprocity that I was referencing. In order to really grasp this idea of gift exchange between people and the world, there first needs to be the awareness of the world as gift, or plant gifts. So the collection of essays that I’m working on now is revealing and telling the stories of the gifts of plants, not strictly in the cultural frame of medicines and baskets, but those things coupled with their teachings for us as well. That’s something I’m actively working on

 

Audience member: One thing that struck me as I read the book is that it would be wonderful to see some of this in books for children. Children’s literature can convey so much because it is usually a combination of art and word, and I think it would be very powerful to see some of the same stories that you tell in the form of children’s literature.

 

RWK: It’s a great idea. And actually I’m working with a graphic artist who is in love with mosses. My earlier book is Gathering Moss, [12] and we’re trying to create a moss book for children.

Audience member: If you don’t already know the books of Byrd Baylor — she’s local, and a lot of these concepts are completely imbued in the poetry. Highly, highly recommended. Beautiful children’s books, and she’s local. [13]

 

RWK: Thank you.

 

AS: Any other questions? Well it’s fifteen minutes until the concert, so I think that might be a good time to break… I want to thank Robin for joining me here and I want to thank heartily Sara Fraker for her amazing initiative, enterprising nature; for reaching out to us; applying for funding, which is so very difficult to do; and making connections all across the university, and of course the country, to bring us here. So I really appreciate Sara’s work. I hope you enjoy the recital, and feel free to come up afterwards and chat with us if you have any other questions. Thank you.

 

RWK: All gratitude. Thank you all for coming.

 

 

Used with permission and edited for clarity.

 

[1] Appel, H.M and R.B. Cocroft. 2014. Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insect herbivore chewing. Oecologia. 175:1257-1266.

[2] Gagliano, Monica. 2017. Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water. Oecologia. 184(1):151-160.

[3] “The Grammar of Animacy.” To the Best of Our Knowledge. Wisconsin Public Radio, 11 May, 2014. http://archive.ttbook.org/book/grammar-animacy

[4] See “Learning the Grammar of Animacy.” Braiding Sweetgrass, pp.48-59.

[5] Oboes are made from a variety of species in the Dalbergia genus, including mpingo (Dalbergia melanoxylon, Africa), cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa, Central America), and kingwood (Dalbergia cearensis, Brazil), also known as violetwood or rosewood.

[6] See “Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide.” Braiding Sweetgrass, pp.167-174.

[7] See “Witness to the Rain.” Braiding Sweetgrass, pp.293-300.

[8] See “The Gift of Strawberries.” Braiding Sweetgrass, pp.22-32.

[9] See “Allegiance to Gratitude.” Braiding Sweetgrass, p.105-117.

[10] See an interview with Freida Jacques, “Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swJs2cGNwIU

[11] To learn more about the Standing with Saguaros project, visit standingwithsaguaros.org. Created and directed by Kimi Eisele; presented by Borderlands Theatre and Saguaro National Park.

[12] Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State University Press, 2003. Winner of the 2005 John Burroughs Medal Award for Natural History Writing.

[13] See Byrd Baylor’s author page and a recent interview with Arizona Public Media.

"I wanted to begin, as we always do, with our first responsibility, which is for gratitude."
"this is a plant that colonizes broken ground, disturbed land"
"I see these smiles pass over your faces, because of the tenderness of that relationship, right? When someone braids your hair, or you braid theirs, it’s that sign of a visible regard, of care, for the wellbeing of the one whose hair you are braiding."
"Did you know that plants can hear?"
"And it seems to me that art is a way to reknit that relationship, that we come to know each other again, the living world and ourselves as part of that living world."
 
"it speaks to me of the confluence of art and science, that they are both powerful and beautiful ways of paying attention."
"Wind chimes are activated by the wind. They’re sort of like an embodiment of this idea of the animacy of the wind."
"We think of sound as the sense of hearing, but it’s also the sense of touch."
"the stories are seeds, and they’re falling on fertile ground of all sorts."
"gratitude is really a radical act in a materialist society." 
So it’s kind of a hyper-real imagination of a world of natural sounds.
"if that combination of science and art can help people fall in love with the world, and therefore take care of her better, then that’s a good thing.
"I love the clarity of the script that seems written in the desert."
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