Clearwater Soundscape

The theme of the Ear to the Earth Festival 2010 was water. The first event took place on October 7 with an evening sail on the Clearwater Sloop in the Hudson River. The Clearwater had been launched by Pete Seeger in May 1969 to promote the cleanup of the Hudson River.



clearwateratdockThe Clearwater Sloop, docked at the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River in Manhattan, crew at the ready, as the passengers arrive

Tom Beyer placed microphones throughout the boat to create an audio document of the occasion.

clearwatertombeyerTom at the sound desk

The captain welcomed the passengers.

clearwatercaptainThe passengers gather to listen to the captain before boarding.


Evening descended.



As the boat maneuvered away from the dock and moved under power towards open water, one of the crew members explained the process of raising the sail, the throat and peak of the gaff, and why the passengers' help was essential. (A plane flew overhead.)


The crew member organized the passengers into two groups in raising the sail, one group pulling the throat halyard and a second group pulling the peak halyard.


I asked Tom where he put the microphones.


And as the captain turned the boat into the wind, the passengers raised the sail.


Underway by sail, a strong breeze propelled the boat. The weather was perfect. Sounds settled down to an occasional boat passing by, a plane overhead, and passengers talking softly as we served soft drinks, wine, and hors d'oeuvres contributed by the Eno Terra Restaurant in Kingston, New Jersey.



Gradually, as the night became darker, the boat became more quiet, and the peaceful sound of moving through the water while seeing the buildings of Manhattan was not only a beautiful experience, it also reminded me that New York is a coastal city, connected to the oceans of the world, and that the Hudson is one of the world's great rivers with a great heritage.


The overall pleasure of the sail, and the tinge of disappointment I felt to see it end, made the short voyage home less then welcome. But the following excerpt from Tom's Clearwater Soundscape certainly captures well one of the pleasure dimensions of the sail as well as an explanation of how he worked his microphones.

And it might seem obvious, but given the Ear to the Earth context and given Pete Seeger's goals in the Clearwater project, it made me think again about the importance and high value of rivers. It also made me think that we should all think about it.


An excerpt from Tom Beyer's Clearwater Soundscape



Joel Chadabe