I Walk Towards Myself

Testing a prototype for the iForest at The Wild Center in 2016

iFOREST logo for web use“I Walk Towards Myself” is a unique work for 3 choirs of 24 voices individually recorded and played back over numerous independent audio speakers hidden in the woodland at The Wild Center, Tupper Lake forming an ‘iForest’ (Immersive Forest Sound Installation) due to open in May 2016.  Walking through the specially designed trail essentially means walking through the music; there is no single experience of the piece, it has been written so that your experience is unique to your journey and a part of that experience will be determined by how slowly or quickly you walk, what the weather is like and so on.

The title I Walk Towards Myself refers to my hope that the work inspires a deeper personal connection to the natural world. Much of the piece is in the Mohawk language. Before the Europeans arrived this was Mohawk land and I like the idea that we hear an ‘imprint’ of their voices echoing through the woods. But I was also drawn to their world view: the Mohawks were and are ‘animists’ who see humans as a part of nature whereas the Europeans who arrived a few hundred years ago are ‘theists’ who believed God gave them dominion over nature. Science tends to agree with the Mohawks: our DNA is a detailed map that can be traced back 3.5 billion years and shows homo sapiens to be a very recent arrival in the natural history of the planet.

I feel a strong kinship with the viewpoint of the Mohawks, even if I myself am from a very different culture in England, and with the help of translator Amalli Nalli who teaches Mohawk at the Akwesasne Freedom School  I have drawn inspiration from their tradition of the Thanksgiving ceremony to create the central movement of the piece “Nya-Wah” which simply means “Thank You” in Mohawk.

Below are some of the phrases from the Thanksgiving – each items is duly identified and thanked:

1. Teach your children that the earth is our mother

  • Sewarihónia iethiien’okón:a tsi ohwentsiake ne ionkwa’nisténsera
  • Ze-wa-lee-hoon-ya yet-tea-yen-oh-goon-ah gee oh-when-gee-ya-ge ne youn-gwa-nee-sten-ze-ra

**the word “ionkwa’nisténsera” means “our mother,” but if you break the word down further it truly means “our mother who gives us strength”

2. Dirt, soil

  • O’kén:ra
  • O-gu-la

3. Wood

  • Ó:iente
  • Oh-yun-day

4. Water

  • Ohné:kanos
  • Oh-ney-ga-nos

5. Puddle, pond

  • Iohnhonwataien
  • Yo-who-wa-da-yun

6. Stream, creek

  • Kahionhatáke
  • Ga-hue-ha-da-ge

7. Seed

  • Ká:nen
  • Ga-nuh

8. The sky, heaven

  • Karonhiá:ke
  • Ga-loon-hee-ya-ge

9. Tree, sapling

  • Ó:kwire
  • Oh-gwee-le

10. Evergreen, conifer

  • Onèn:ta
  • O-nun-da

11. Rocks

  • Onenia’shon:’a
  • O-nu-ya-soon-a

12. World, ground, earth

  • Ohwentsià:ke
  • Oh-wen-gee-ya-ge

13. River, body of water

  • Kaniá:tara
  • Ga-nee-ya-da-la

14. Flowers

  • Otsi’tsia’shón:’a
  • O-gee-ja-soon-a

15. Wild plants

  • Kontatewenniio
  • Goon-da-de-wen-nee-yo

16. Deer

  • Oskenón:ton
  • Os-ken-noon-do

17. Robin

  • Tsikara’kwístak
  • Gee-ga-la-gwee-stak

18. Bluejay

  • Terí:teri
  • De-lee-de-lee

19. Owl

  • Tsistekeriiá:kon
  • Gee-ste-ga-lee-ya-goon

20. Bee

  • Otsi’nahkontahkwá:ne
  • O-gee-nah-goon-dah-gwa-ney

21. Spider

  • Takwa’áhson
  • Da-gwa-ah-su

22. Fire fly

  • Tewattsirókwas
  • De-wat-gee-low-gwas

23. Ant

  • Tsiki’nhontstókhi
  • Gee-key-new-stow-key

24. Butterfly

  • Tsiktsinón:nawen
  • Jeak-gee-new-na-wa

25. There is frost on the ground

  • Iaonhará:ien
  • Ya-ou-ha-la-yun

26. It is windy

  • Iaó:te
  • Yao-day

27. It is raining

  • Iokennó:ron
  • Yo-gen-no-loo

28. It is snowing

  • Io’keren:’en
  • Yo-ge-law-uh

29. It is sunny

  • Ioráhkote
  • Yo-lah-go-day

30. A storm is coming

  • Tekanien’kwataséhne
  • De-ga-nee-yun-gwa-da-zeh-ne

31. Love

  • Konnorónhkwa’:sera
  • Goon-no-looh-gwa-ze-la

32. I love you

  • Konnorónhkwa
  • Goon-no-loon-gwa

33. Spirit

  • Atohnhetshera
  • A-doon-het-ze-la

34. Peace, serenity

  • Skén:nen
  • Ska-na

35. Thank you

  • Niá:wen
  • Nee-ya-wun

36. Friendship

  • Atenró:sera
  • A-daw-low-ze-la

37. Sugar maple

  • Wahta
  • Wah-da

38. Hill

  • Ononta’
  • O-noon-da

39. Mountain

  • Onontá:wanen
  • O-non-da-wa-non

40.  Listen all of you, open your ears

  • Sewatahonsatàt
  • Ze-wa-da-hoon-za-da-t

41. Equality, matters of equal level

  • Tsa’tekaia’takweh:ti:io
  • Tza-de-ga-ya-da-gweh-dee-yo

42. A sense of pride, dignity, honor

  • Kaná:ieta
  • Ga-na-ye-da

43. Rights, the power of goodness

  • Kaianase
  • Ga-ya-na-se

44. May we still see, may we continue to greet

  • Tsi shé:kon ionkwátkatho
  • Gee se-goo youn-gwat-ga-toe

45. Air

  • Ó:wera
  • O-we-la

46. Trust, believe

  • Kaniehtahkwá:tshera
  • Ga-nee-yeh-da-gwa-sell-a