Ben Finley, Co-Presence


Within the spatial isolation caused by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, music has also mostly gone indoors. In this piece, “Co-presence”, Ben Finley composes, performs and improvises solo in the Westben Barn — but hardly solo! The wind, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, highway car-thrushed bends, soil alive in a handful of billions, crispy to melting leaves, ravines, fields, trees/barn timbers, a horse—even a miniature donkey—form an interspecies landscape ensemble to remind us of our co-presence!

At this time of societal isolation, separated from the felt “in-the-room” presence of our communities, how can digital music help us connect not only with each other, but perhaps with other forms and systems of life?

Here’s an interesting perspective from ecomusicologist Jeff Todd Titon where he explores the idea that sound inherently has something within it that signals our connection through the mutual experience of sensing sound itself:

“Sound connects. From a scientific viewpoint, sound consists of vibrating molecules that travel in longitudinal waves, through a medium such as water, air, and beings—including, of course, human beings. Sound signals presence and connects beings viscerally through mutual vibration... This interconnection is experienced as co-presence.” (Jeff Todd Titon in Cultural Sustainabilities: Music Media Language Advocacy)

Does this link of sound housing a direct felt presence perhaps allow us to viscerally sense community with each other and other beings? Even while distanced?

“Co-presence” plays with the relationship of human and nonhuman soundscapes around the Westben Barn in Campbellford, Ontario. It was recorded in early April 2020. Just as spring collaborated.