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Harbor Park: A Spring Sound Garden

by JG Everest

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"Waiting On The Dock" pt 1 (Staci Lola Drouillard) There are four women in the photograph, huddled closely on the dock. A few of their faces are blurred with movement, as if their images were resistant to capture. We know the picture was taken at the Grand Marais harbor because of that familiar rock pile at the end of the dock, the one graced with a scrubby birch tree. And evidence of a more solid provenance is found in the graceful, sloping shapes of the Sawtooth Mountains that stretch out over the horizon. The women are Ojibwe, and they most likely walked a mile from Chippewa City, on a path that followed the shoreline of Lake Superior, over Abitazibing, Half-Way River, and down into the lowlands of the town. They are friends, or family, judging by the way they are sitting tightly knit together. And they are dressed alike, in long skirts and warm coats, with scarves made from gingham trade cloth covering their heads. It's a warm spring day, or a cool fall day, it's hard to know for sure. But all of their backs are to the water to keep their faces out of the cold wind blowing off of the surface of the lake. Today they cannot let the chill get inside their coats, because there's no telling how long they will have to wait. "The Lake" (Jeffrey Skemp) starving, there was nothing left and so the wolves evolved to eat stone and gnashed until the lake was set free, pooling into the day sparks from their smoldering mouths lit the sky and they slept curled warming and bending the shores evenly the wolves' ravenous precision unwieldy as silence converged with a million forgotten storms their floods, the uprooted, the sway, the gasp and the roar returned to the wolves' memory of things and their lungs and throat and they had a song again that bends the hills and expands reach and now the wolves seek us out their magnetic intuition pulls us into places and near precious things invisible to us, ones we break the wolves still burrowing into the shores, unsatisfied they want us to feel what they know of things and so they sing and their songs so easily burrow into our backs and spleens our sleep and breath and love make circles around us and we can feel the breeze of them as they sing on our cheeks feel it in the wave goodbye and they grow tired and perhaps some day they will tell us how to use their fur and flesh since they give us everything already and they know this and do not object even if we don’t believe in them, even if they remain invisible to us, they will give us everything including their bones of stone to build our homes and there we hold each other close "Waiting On The Dock" pt 2 (Staci Lola Drouillard) We don't know how long they have been sitting there, and we don't know their names. But we do know why they are there. They are anticipating the annual shipment of annuities from the white President in Washington. En route from Superior, Wisconsin, the cargo ship will be laden with nests of iron kettles, heavy, wooden, boxes full of hand-forged nails and stacks of wool blankets. There will also be zhoniya, a specific number of American dollars, made of paper and metal; some for each tribal member. This seemingly simple act of trade between two nations was complicated by the reality of history. It was not just the exchange of money for land. It required travel from great distances to claim one's payment, differing views on what it means to own a piece of the world, misunderstandings about the symbolic value of paper, and other dirty tricks involving debts owed to the white President for taxes, or penalties if you did not know how to write your name in English. Most importantly, one needed to know the time and place that the agent would arrive, because what these women have learned, is that kettles, blankets or zhoniya, even if owed, only belong to them if they are there in person to receive the payments due. If they arrived late, or got impatient, or sick, then their unclaimed annuities would become the property of the Indian agent sent to distribute them . And they could not wait for the next shipment, which would not arrive until next year, or might never arrive. And so they wait. "Grand Marais" pt 1 (Tim Blighton) The town leans against the vast waters of lake superior like an imminent suicide or a sailor’s wife, or a siren Foam breaks and trails away Like an ancient brides gown A thick head of clouds swirls and threatens to spill out onto the rooftops We arrive at night, after a five hour drive As we get out of our cars, fog reaches up from the street, Shrouding the sidewalk As we walk, our feet disappear, then our bodies, then whole cars. Even buildings recede Lamp posts become tiny lighthouses New bodies appear and disappear in the fog, startled, and startling We are lost in a town pretending to be a haunted house But even among these fog shadows Is there some ghostly image Projected over my brown flesh Like a mountain confused for an erupting volcano? I too am afraid of the dark I have seen friends from the neighborhood Become ghost stories Their houses vacated of light We didn’t attend the funerals Or the sentences Instead we condemned our memories of those places Until the bodies that once dwelled within them Receded into the fog of middle age My body, like Lake Superior, Is dependent on plate tectonics and past glacial movements My body, refuses to be stilled, lest it too be forgotten "Springtime Heat" (Blue Lady & The Free Range Orchestra & Choir) Cloaked all in white Her lacy icy river gowns Rumpled tumbled frozen silent Draped thick and solid over rocks and bends Hear the sound of springtime heat The drip of fraying hems Hear the sound of springtime heat The glistening softening gems Cracking melting shedding Countless layers on the way Growing urgent warming rush Give way the swoosh and sway Hear the sound of springtime heat The drip of fraying hems Hear the sound of springtime heat The glistening softening gems Can you hear her giggle? Can you hear her gurgle? Can you hear her laugh? Can you hear her laughing? Set her free! She starts to free, she starts to free; free her own extremities help her free, help her free; free her own extremities She’s giggling, she’s gurgling; freein’ her own extremities ‘Til all that’s left is clear pure flow Into the lapping lakey sea Hear the sound of springtime heat The drip of fraying hems Hear the sound of springtime heat The glistening softening gems
"Grand Marais" pt 2 (Tim Blighton) Morning, the sun docks at this port of call. Morning, artists drift from their sunlit houses and settle along their shops, like pebbles along a beach. Artists who bake on the warming stonework, who would rather sip tea or mint juleps and talk about art than sell it, but pitch their wares anyways. This morning, Grand Marais is a bride again, smiling, pink and tipsy, greeting her long line of photographers and well-wishers against an upturned beach. And that beach—by the way—is already being devoured again by fog and storm. Hard rains will pillage earth, tree and water like a plein air painter. When it all blows over, right before this tourist town turned ghost town resets its tent for the tourist revival, this lake pretending to be an ocean, and all the shadows that haunt my travels will recede with the next fog. "The Dockbuilders" (Staci Lola Drouillard) Canoes Rowboats Outboards Steamers Freighters The boats just kept getting bigger. Paddlers Trunks Fish boxes Tourists Timber The cargo just kept getting heavier. Anchors Footings Nails Steel Decking The men had no choice but to build it. Gulls Kids Officers Photographers Sailors They come from miles away just to use it. "Malley's Accordion" (Staci Lola Drouillard) Always a quiet man, Malley spoke loudest through the keys of his accordion. The rumor was that he acquired it in a card game on his way back from the war, winning it fair and square with aces over queens. He returned home with it to the North Shore, the choking air of battle still trapped inside his chest, like the dank air at the bottom of a dry well. Not knowing how to play, Malley would sit on the gravel beach outside of his family's shack on the east bay and extend the bellows this way, then that. He eventually found the notes to “Sentimental Journey,” extending the chorus into long, melancholy lines of tinny vibrato. Soon the accordion took the place of his voice, the rhythmic breathing of the bellows becoming an extension of his own lungs. Both visitors and residents grew accustomed to seeing Malley, in his military jacket and newsboy hat, perched on the edge of the break wall, the voice of his accordion carried out across the surface of the harbor, and up into the streets of town.


A stereo mix of composer JG Everest's 40-channel site-specific "Spring Sound Garden" sound installation, composed and designed for Harbor Park in Grand Marais, MN, and featuring site-specific stories by Staci Lola Drouillard, and site-specific poetry by Jeffrey Skemp and Tim Blighton. Part two of Everest's four-part Water Suite: Four Seasonal Sound Gardens. (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall).


released May 24, 2021

Composed, Performed, and Recorded by JG Everest with stories by Staci Lola Drouillard, poems by Jeffrey Skemp and Tim Blighton, and "Springtime Heat" by JG Everest & Jeanie Ockuly (aka Blue Lady) with the Free Range Orchestra & Choir: Will Moore, Tom Carlson, Jeff Nichols, Rose Arrowsmith Decoux, Erika Ternes, Karen Townsend, Emily Murphy, and Alissa Jones. Mixed by Brett Bullion. Mastered by Huntley Miller for HM Mastering. Photos by Erin Duffy.


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JG Everest Minneapolis, Minnesota

Composer / Director / Multidisciplinary Artist / Historian JG Everest creates site-specific performance installations that connect the histories, ecology, and cultures of places and communities, using spatial sound design as an integral compositional element. His projects include iNMiGRATiON, Lateduster, Catalyst Dance, Sans Le Systeme, The Grave Trio, BLACKFISH, and Roma di Luna. jgeverest.com ... more

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