Note: This interview is from awhile back (2009) but it applies to the record I’m about to release, Polaraura (More details to come on that very soon). And I also really like this interview.
Broken Deer is the project of musician/artist Lindsay Dobbin, formerly of Halifax, now relocated in the deep, northern frontier of the Yukon. Our Small Going is a collection of beautiful songs mixed with field recordings, soundscapes, and lo-fi blips and bleeps, finding the perfect home on San Francisco’s Gandhara Recordings. Lindsay’s music is embedded with grainy sound pieces and field recordings to create a celebration of nature, ritual, life and decay. The opening track “Coming of Age Funeral” is a beautiful instrumental piece, played on a solo acoustic guitar with tape hiss and buzz, giving the music a warm maternal feeling, while also tragic, as in the passing of an era or the sadness that comes with moving on. Neither ancient nor modern, the music seems to celebrate the difficulties and conveniences of our journey in the age of technology. Her textures are always light, often just using single instruments, allowing her to explore the fabrics of her sounds. Her unique voice shines through, giving a deep sense of ecology to her music. - Zachary Fairbrother (Avant-Lard / Weird Canada)
Z.= Zachary Fairbrother (Avant-Lard // Weird Canada)
L.= Lindsay Dobbin (Broken Deer)
Z. :: Not only are you a musician but you are a visual artist as well. Is there a common thread that ties your different approaches of art all together? Even within your music you explore styles that are sonically very different from one another. How do all these different aesthetics, fit you, as one artist?
L. :: I’m a very young artist. I don’t mean “I’m only 26, and that’s younger than the majority of the population.” No. I mean that I’m still discovering what subjects and mediums interest me. It’s all still fresh. Art, and I include music in that, has always been a process of discovery for me. When I moved to the Yukon over a year ago, I didn’t bring any instruments with me, only a hand-held tape recorder. I remained open to whatever came into my life. Surprisingly, the first thing that transpired was working with the land. I spent five months on a Yukon homestead, digging potatoes, raising animals, horseback riding, eating. Afterward, I took care of a friend’s house and they owned an upright piano. I had rarely played the piano, but that’s what was there. I began playing, figuring sounds. New Broken Deer songs like “White Woman” came from that experience. I strongly feel that playing that instrument was a similar process to interacting with the land. It was a means of grounding — connecting to the unspoken stories in that particular place. So, in short, I think the aesthetic tie in my art is the process, less than a subject matter or medium. And the process is me interacting with a particular place, and all the materials it offers – whether they be a kazoo, crayons, wool or soil – with the intention of finding some truth. I really hope I have that fresh approach my whole life, and not get stuck in a routine. I think an artist can always discover different worlds, transform as a person but create work that is consistent with who they are, even if it be superficially different.
Z. :: Your music has a sense of timelessness. You have the ability to create a sound outside genres and trends while remaining very idiosyncratic. Your voice, instrumentation, and aesthetic point to a day gone by, while your recordings and compositional techniques sometimes point ahead. Do you think of Broken Deer as ancient or modern?
L. :: I don’t think of Broken Deer being exclusively ancient or modern. Like you say, the music or sound is not really associated with any particular movement. And I feel that Broken Deer is not entirely music. There are songs, of course, but I place more emphasis on the process of recording. Recording is this private way for me to not only document what I’m doing, but to find sounds that speak from my dreams, different parts of my body, the landscape. Consequently, I don’t think these sounds do well blasting through laptop speakers, on the go or during the day. I think the sounds are best represented as close as you can get them, in a dark space – but these things seem to be lacking in our mass modern culture. That is, the spiritual practice of listening and spending time in dark spaces. I really think sensory overload through sounds, visuals and artificial light is directly connected to our loss of wonderment.
Z. :: You seemed to be very influenced by nature. You came from a small town, before moving to a small city, and then further embarked into the isolation of the Yukon where you worked with sled dogs and homesteaded. How does nature emanate itself inside your art?
L. :: The emanation of nature is obvious, sure, because I often incorporate field recordings into my compositions. But the influence runs deeper than mimicking or representing. I’ve always felt strongly impacted by the natural world in a very visceral way. Yes, there are beautiful splendors to witness, but for me it’s more about a sense of always being able to take my place in the landscape. Now I could be talking about the surrounding environment, or my own inner territory. The two don’t seem separate to me. Like sound, nature is felt in its movements. Things grow. Decay. Die. But, as the Black Eyed-Peas say, “The energy never dies” (although I’m sure they got that from somewhere). I feel very connected to these things, and my sound work is a means for me to play and engage in the slow, sustained process of pulling storied threads from the land and weaving something beautiful.
Z. :: Tell us a little about the music/art scene in Whitehorse.
L. :: There’s a strong music and arts scene here in Whitehorse. It’s small, and teetering more on the traditional side, but there is space for more “alternative” ventures. I’ve found that people are really supportive of others as individuals, and are really open to whatever you have to contribute. I think that’s really important. The amount of territorial arts funding helps, too, and makes it possible for artists to focus on their practice full-time.
Z. :: How do you get the sounds that you do? Some of the music sounds as if it’s recorded through a cell phone, with blips and glitches of a lo-grade digital mic. But instead of sounding cold and thin it comes across as warm and deep. The lo-fi grain of your music is very characteristic, why do you prefer the lo-fi sound?
L. :: I play! Around! Also, I mostly record analogue, using a little hand-held tape recorder. Instead of interacting with the recorder solely as an input device, I employ its shape and physicality. For example, I recorded the drum beat for a new song, “Her Elders”, by hitting the recorder. The same goes for the tape itself. I’ve often recorded on tapes with material already present, which leads to unexpected blips, drones. I feel like I’m sculpting rather than recording, and sound is the material. I prefer the lo-fi recording process because of the interaction and element of surprise it provides. I prefer the sound itself because it’s the sound of my analogue and earthbound childhood.
Z. :: It is the year 2010, how do you see things and how do you hear the future of Broken Deer?
L. ::To celebrate this month’s new moon, three friends and I went out into the middle of a huge, snow-covered horse pasture. It was dark-dark. We decided that we’d play a game where we’d walk away from each other in the four directions. After many, many paces, we’d close our eyes, turn around, and walk our way back to the center, with no visual aids. We found each other. Then we lit a sparkler. This is how I see 2010.
After years of delving deep into my own subconscious, I now wish to aid you in the quest of interpreting your dreams. Dreams can be an incredible source of power and guidance — not only at life’s crossroads, but everyday. I’d like to offer you support in finding the answers and wisdom you are ready to receive from the imaginal realm.
I have studied Psychology and Anthropology at university, and have been researching dreams and soul-based psychology for years, namely through the works of Carl Jung, Robert Moss, Joseph Campbell, Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Sandra Ingerman, as well as through the practice of shamanic drumming/journeying, deep listening, lucid dreaming and intuition. I am an artist and musician as well, so I feel especially able to work with people engaged in the creative process.
If you have a dream that you would like to further investigate, please contact me at lindsaydobbin[at]gmail.com.
I am offering this service free of charge for the initial consultation (one hour of my time). After that point, if you wish to continue working together, I will ask for a small fee ($35 - 50 per hour) and/or barter in exchange for my services.
Like the Facebook page.
“lindsay dobbin operates within another realm and walks with a calm knowing, unlike anyone i have ever met. she is a dreamer, a believer, a magical woman & a wicked drummer. lindsay taught me the methodologies for shamanic drumming & journeying - to which i currently practice. she has always been the first person to support my obsession with dreams - & together we have traveled through such realms into an endless conversation. i truly believe in this woman. i believe she possesses the sensitivity, heart, and study which would benefit anyone who spent time with her. she knows things. it’s wild and exciting.” - lisa lipton (frankie), visual artist & musician (mostly drummer)
Please note: I am not a professional psychologist or psychoanalyst.
You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you
must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are
things to be considered… .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and
swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on
to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer
greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let
go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes
open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in
history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For
the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All
that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. — Hopi Elders’ Prophecy (Oraibi, Arizona, June 8, 2000)
Why the World Doesn't End -
Michael Meade is one of my favourite thinkers. Here’s an enlightening article just in time for all you doomsayers. Bring the light on the 21st. Don’t go underground.
Even a word that seems to announce the end of everything has to have a beginning and “apocalypse” begins with ancient Greek terms like “apocalypsis,” meaning “to reveal, to uncover; to lift the veil.” The ancient notion of apocalypsis refers to what happens when the web of life loosens, when the veils lift and the underlying tensions and oppositions of life become more evident and transparent. Apocalyptic conditions tend to involve of revelations of the underside of creation and a “return of the repressed,” as raw emotions and ancient energies erupt and can overwhelm the rational mind.
Well, ‘tis the time of year to make those year-end lists, and year-beginning lists. So I decided to make one featuring the Best Music of 2012. Now, this does not represent the general public whatsoever. Or even a comprehensive opinion. It represents me, and what music had the most gravity in my life this year. And, I must note, the music I will be featuring was not made in 2012. I came across it and lived with it in 2012.
When I moved up North, I stopped keeping on top of new music. I used to know a lot about what was going on, what was “good,” the stories behind the music, etc.. Now I am so out of the loop. But I feel okay about this. I feel as though I’ve returned to a more pure, naive place of listening. You know, the childhood sense of the world moving with you.
Which reminds me, I used to have a record and 8-track player in my bedroom when I was 5, 6, 7, 8. On it I would play recordings chosen by my great grandmother, grandparents, uncle and mother. I had no knowledge of other music. I thought that what was in front of me was it. And since I didn’t have much available to me, I listened intently and deeply to the records I did have. Over and over. Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Elvis and that orchestral disco guy informed my childhood.
I won’t get too into the fact that the world has changed. That people listen to mp3’s, playlists, a new song everyday. You know this.
These days, though, I have returned to that old approach of living life with one recording or one artist over a long period of time. And I’ve found it amazingly rewarding.
So, with that said, I have to now say that my list is not really a list. It’s a celebration of one artist that has deeply impacted me in 2012.
That artist is Huun-Huur Tu. They’re a music group from Tuva, a Russian Federation republic situated on the Mongolian border.
The most distinctive characteristic of Huun Huur Tu’s music is throat singing, in which the singers sing both the note (drone) and the drone’s overtone(s), thus producing two or three notes simultaneously. The overtone may sound like a flute, whistle or bird, but is actually solely a product of the human voice. The group primarily uses native Tuvan instruments such as the igil, khomus (Tuvan jaw harp), doshpuluur, and dünggür (shaman drum). However, in recent years, the group has begun to selectively incorporate western instruments, such as the guitar. While the thrust of Huun Huur Tu’s music is fundamentally indigenous Tuvan folk music, they also experiment with incorporating not only Western instruments, but electronic music as well.
I remember the night when I first heard them. It was late January. In Whitehorse. I was spending a lot of deep Winter time looking at the moon, going on walks with my dog, drinking chaga tea, reading and writing about my dreams. Rob Brezsny of Free Will Astrology sent out his e-newsletter this particular week in January, and attached a video of a collaboration between Huun-Huur Tu and The Bulgarian Voices - Angelite (see video below). I must of listened to the song 100 times at least in the week to follow. I remember it giving my life a mythic quality. There was a longing that I have not heard in other music. At times it felt like a celebration, but it was also filled with a deep mourning. It made me think of the natural world, and how it’s fading — how were losing something beautiful and rich. But the song still inspired me, making me feel that there was something that could be done. By singing the landscape. Telling the stories of those who cannot speak for themselves.
I didn’t listen to any of Huun-Huur Tu’s other music for awhile. Just this song. But then, one day, I decided to explore and see if they had any other collaborations with Angelite. Thankfully I discovered that there are two whole albums, Fly, Fly My Sadness (1996) and Mountain Tale (1998).
Seeing those dates, I think back to what I was doing with my time in 1996-98, and I remember that I was listening to a lot of Spice Girls, rowing, eating popcorn, getting my first period, and going to Hawai’i. It was a very transformative time! And this year, the year Huun-Huur Tu have literally been walking aside me, in my ears, has been an incredibly transformative time. I wonder if back in the 90’s I subtly felt this music being created on the other side of the world, even though I hadn’t heard it.
But, in any case, this is the joy of the recorded medium. That I can discover music created over 10 years ago, and experience it like it has been created today, in the soul of my life.
Huun-Huur Tu has soundtracked a move across the country, Whitehorse to Halifax. My morning writing routines. My late night bouts of longing. My feeling of loss for the natural world. Me, plunging into my depths, as I recover from a back injury (aka in-journey). They have, through every performance, elevated me but kept me real.
Their music is timeless, has a sense of stillness, but is always moving forward, especially when there is drumming involved. It is definitely music for the journeyer. The seeker.
Now that I’m living in Halifax, I find their music takes me back to the North. Their songs are true to that landscape. At once angelic, otherworldly, whole and wide, but grounded in the harsh and undiscerning reality of the wild world.
The fiddle sings to the heavens, but you can still hear the texture of the strings that speak to the earth from which they came. And the throat singing sounds as if it’s coming from the ground. Sometimes deep down, other times riding along the surface like a horse.
I know my life would be very different today if I hadn’t of discovered this music. I not only listen to it out of love, but it has become a tool for me to see deeper, hear deeper. Into my past, into my future.
Huun-Huur Tu make universal, connective music that balances the two spheres of life: heaven and earth. They teach that you can balance both. You can dream and practice immortality, but you can also be embedded in the rhythms, textures, and trials of life. You can feel everything feeling, and honour them in a celebration of being human.
EXPANSIVELY REAL music.
Exploring the deep, dense underbelly of the elephant,
a zen-velope, enveloping every strand —
pig gut threads,
and the gold in this dark hour.
The soul’s vessel knows too well of this longing,
this pain that turns to a devoted image
when the goddess takes a hammer to my big toe,
and I, who meets the earth,
with salted palms,
exist each and every moment, inside
the burning flesh of something
Don’t forget that you’re alive.
Don’t forget that you’re a beautiful wonder that needs to be here, every moment.
Don’t forget that you deserve the best.
Don’t forget that there is always outer space and ocean depths and, even, earth cores in you.
Halifax-based artist Heather Rappard recently posted some images from the new Broken Deer video she is creating. The video will be done early in the new year, and coincide with a new Broken Deer album release, Polaraura (finally!).
Here. Here is where I am. Elbow deep in soil. Turning it over and over. Fragments of every history, stones, bones, and roots. Here, I embrace the hunger - the longing for nothing in particular - the collaborating with the unknown. When I’m so close, and so quiet, the source reveals herself, not in the form of a larger-than-life miracle or in a near-death experience but in the letting go, and waiting patiently for something to take root. This is not perfection. This is life. Dirty, evolving, devolving life. I am here. In life. Death is here too. It’s all here. Here. Hear. Here is where my strange form of life has taken root and grown. Every moment, without fail, my heart beats, and I remember to breathe.
I was inside a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean. The house had a lot of windows, and even though it was nighttime, I could see outside clearly. I watched the waves washing to shore, converging, forming milky riffs along the beach. It felt like I was very alone, and as I sat with that feeling, a fear began to rise in me. Whatever I was afraid of I placed outside of the house, which inspired me to not leave.
But I also felt strongly that I had to leave, but didn’t know why.
I had been looking at the outside world through the windows of the beach house, which was a very specific, removed perspective. It wouldn’t be the same if I was out there. I knew that.
After some time I gathered the courage to walk out the front door and leave the house. I had no idea what to expect, as the fear rose in me.
When I opened the door, and stepped out onto the deck, I was met with very calm energy. I saw the waves coming to shore, like they always had but from inside they looked rougher than their smooth, gentle nature when I could hear and smell them. And there was hardly any wind. Everything felt so clear.
I then began to notice or feel the presence of other people around on the beach. They were all admiring the sky, which I couldn’t see from inside the house. I looked up and could see every star in our galaxy. The sky was thick with white, shining flecks. I watched, awe-stricken.
I then noticed a star moving. At first I thought it was a shooting star, but then realized it was a satellite because of it’s consistent speed orbiting nature. As soon as I thought I figured it out, the light began to move in the opposite direction. And then in circles. It was not a star. And not a satellite. It moved where it wanted to move. As I watched it and the sky, I saw other spots begin to move in a similar way. The six spots then began descending toward earth, and as they got really close, they began to converge.
When they all impacted each other, there was a bright flash that metamorphosed into a flaming phoenix. As it flew close to the Earth, and then right in front of me, I saw that amidst the flames was a bright red heart.
One of my earliest memories is sitting on the front-seat of an old truck with my grandmother. The seat was no longer in the truck, though - it now belonged to a small hill beside my grandparents’ rural home.
My grandfather was a welder and electrician and, therefore, an avid accumulator of discarded items found at yard sales and flea markets. Consequently, my childhood surroundings were a cluster-fuck of nature and indestructible, man-made objects, that were now undergoing their own process of decay. Although my grandfather’s intentions were to put everything to “good” use, this intention was oriented toward “eventually I’ll find a place for that car door or that sheet of metal or that bag of cement or that underwater suit.” To me, the land I frolicked in as a child was a graveyard, of sorts - a place where things came to go back into the earth. Here I could see how trucks and human beings and butterflies were all made up of the same stuff. Nothing was superficial.
“What are the leaves saying, Lindsay?” my grandmother asked, as the wind blew through the trees above us. “Shhhhhhh,” I replied with my index finger to my mouth, and we continued to listen.
I spent a lot of my childhood listening. Listening to the woods. Listening to my great grandmother ask for a “8” or “Ace” (I could never tell the difference) over a game of Go Fish. Listening to my grandfather’s welding torch. Listening to my Mom make paper-mâché alien masks for her friends. Listening to that weird squeaking sound the upstairs bathroom window made when it was windy. Hiding under the table when I heard it, and listening to my grandmother chat above with her friend Carol.
I even listened to music. A lot of it.
Thanks to my grandfather’s interest in accumulating objects, I had a record and 8-track player in my room when I was four, five, six. I would spend hours alone listening to albums passed down to me from as far back as my great grandmother’s collection. I had no sense that more than one of each recording I possessed existed. I just assumed that Elvis, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, the orchestral disco guy and many others created the sounds I listened to for me alone. Music was this private, magical experience that tied everything together in my small world. The in-need-of-repair aviator arcade game downstairs was included in the soundtrack by means of the clapping in “Baby Love.” Elvis’ voice was the central character in the nighttime cricket and frog orchestra. The doo-doo-doo-doo-doo’s in “Tossin’ and Turnin’” explained my uncle’s sense of humor. And the physical interaction with records through their blips, static, warbles, slowing down, speeding up was a testament to nature’s creativity and destruction.
Due to my early experiences, sound has always been my primary way of seeing, interacting with and remembering my world. It seems to me that sound is not separate from matter - sound is the creator, destroyer and voice of matter. Sound makes an impact, even unheard.
I am a gatherer of beautiful things. I am a light keeper. I am a midwife of spirit. I am a big-eyed seer. I am a joyful guider. I am a thoughtful teacher. I am vibrating flesh. I am a wide-breathed optimist. I am an earthbound motion of grace. I am a fierce animal. I am a playful spirit. I am a gentle breeze. I am a listener. I am a patient pendulum. I am movement in nature. I am a synthetic creator. I am a point of transition. I am decaying. I am growing. I am a long, sustained, arduous process. I am the universe. I am black, restful emptiness. I am a dreamer. I am an imagineer. I am a broken blues singer. I am a long-haired, wryly old woman. I am a whale. I am a polar bear with the heart of a wolf. I am a magical child. I am a time dancer. I am a trickster. I am the hero of my life. I am a keeper of antiquity. I am a visionary. I am a gentle soul. I am a myth. I am a work of art. I am a tropical island. I am an ocean. I am the sky. I am the fire that consumes. I am the unfolding. I am the refolding. I am wholeness. I am sequence. I am nature. I am culture. I am Madonna. I am my own creation. I am fate. I am freedom. I am music. I am rhythm. I am technology. I am a glass tower. I am a pond. I am a glacier. I am the carved valleys. I am every war. I am every famine. I am every depression. I am every celebration. I am every marching band. I am life. I am death. I am the source. I am unexplainable.
I was walking through a mall. It was nighttime, and I looked out the windows that made up one side of the main hallway. Up in the sky was the full moon. There was a shadow moving across it. A form. A character wearing a tall, witchy hat. It was saying something. It was about the end of the world. That it was coming. Soon.
I went into a shop in the mall that sold drums. I walked in to find drums that were all different shapes, and all had different methods of being played. One I had to sit on to play it. Another I had to spin around in a circle until I was so dizzy that I fell down and then began playing it. Another I had to slowly dance around it’s form and then play it. Each drum had a specific movement and approach to play it. The final drum I played, when I saw it at first, from a distance, it looked as if it was in the shape of a whale tail. But when I sat down to play it, lightly hitting one finger at a time onto different points, it began to take another form. It was a body of a dog. A greyhound. But also a woman. An Egyptian woman.* And as I played it, I found that each point I hit made a different, delicate but deep sound. Some spots made very low, drone-y sounds, others made higher, pure tones. And I noticed that some spots were a part of a group that resonated with one another. I realized that this was a method of healing. Sound and intention. Finding the links. Resonance. Songlines. As I played the drum, I realized a drum and a body aren’t that different. They’re both resonating chambers, full of nuances and story. Just like the landscape.
*I recalled this morning that greyhounds were bred by the Egyptians. When I was around the greyhound that I was just taking care of for a few weeks, I felt connected to the Egyptians. In his body was the intention, the world view, of an entire people. My connection to him, connected me to them.
I am creating worlds with my heart. Worlds upon worlds upon worlds. This is why I feel no need to travel the lengths of this world, looking for paradise. Looking for an idea of love. I’ve discovered it’s right here. Layers and layers and layers of it. Inter-worlds. Deep. Small. Vibrating. I breathe and I can sense them. “Where there’s breath, there’s life.” Where there’s breath, there’s also death. Each exhale a small death. No abstraction. Just simple. These days I look at the trees, and see how they’ve grown. I see their breath. They’re record keepers, every part of them reflecting the whole of their environment. In trees, I see nature’s intelligence. And I’m humbled. For so long I’ve tried to make a statement. I’ve created art from an egoic space. Now I see my place. Now I’m taken back to when I was a child, in this world like a tree. A moving tree. A node on the earth. Connecting the heavens and the soil. Telling the stories. This is my place. Now art for me is worship. A collaboration. Soulful. Heartfelt. With this realization, and the experience of love all around me, I just sing songs, subtle songs, and tell stories about the life and death of all my worlds. Growing, growing, growing. Decaying. Decaying. Gone. But in another form. This energy supports. It’s there, all around. “Listen to your heart, there’s nothing else you can do.” My heart is a nebula, fragrant and thick with dust fiercely binding, releasing, attracting matters, forming stars. The source. It’s massive. It’s small. It’s everywhere. I’m so small. Yet so big. Living from this place is stellar. Love is right here.
My heart is an ocean of slow-moving waters. When it’s open, it’s clear, still, and a receiver of the outside world. It has not only felt the incredible pain and tremendous laughter of this lifetime, but of all lifetimes. It’s a record keeper of cosmic knowledge. It’s the land - or ocean - before time. It’s timeless.
My heart is a sounding bowl to the music of the spheres. A reverb hall. Things echo through here. I let them go. I hold space. I just be.
Gentle tides. A union with the moon. Deep knowing.
There are things all around impacting me — thunder and lightning storms, earthquakes, oil spills, the orbit and spin of the Earth, the stars, matter, molecules, love, intention. No matter what these things stir up in me, I remember that I’m not the form. I’m the space. I’m water. Clear, quiet, gentle water.