The Musquodoboit Trailway on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore is a 41km wilderness loop that runs along the Musquodoboit River and over stunning granite ridges. During the winter of 2020-21, I started hiking there a few mornings a week. Cold days were best because I often saw no one. The solitude allowed me to meditate on the forest. I became enamoured by the trees and the cliffs and the way that ice hung from the landscape like jewels.
My turning around point on the trail was usually 2.5 kilometres in, at the bottom of Bayer Lake. Before the lake froze in January, I would yodel across the water most mornings. It became a kind of ritual—walk the length of the lake, yodel, head back out. But when the water turned to ice, I stopped singing and started listening. Each day the lake sounded different. Creaks, cracks, booms, blasts, shattering, silence, wind noise++. After weeks of listening, I began to notice how the weather and temperature affected the sonic qualities of the ice; I even started to roughly predict what sounds I would hear when I got down to the lake on any given day. I was tuned in.
The morning of March 8th promised a rapid rise in temperature and light wind. I knew the sounds would be dynamic. So I packed a small rig of recording gear and hiked it onto the lake as the sun began to warm the trailway. I punched a hole in the lake and sunk a mono hydrophone. And I set two omnidirectional lavalier microphones on a stereo bar for recording above the ice.
During those couple of hours on the lake, the ice sang as I’ve never heard before, and there was a breeze humming about the trees that elevated the whole affair. All in all, it was one of the more profound Deep Listening encounters that I’ve had in a long while. The bodily sensation of sound coming from below and all around me created a strange disembodied experience, and the poetry of ice melting to make way for spring filled me with a much needed feeling of optimism.
This track was recorded under the ice with a frozen hydrophone. I recommend decent speakers or headphones for playback.