The work of Sound Matters has one simple aim – to help people remember old connections, and forge new connections, with the nonhuman world. Using sound, we evoke memories (that are becoming mere echoes) of the strong bond that existed between people and planet before the animate world was lost to the technological hubris of modern Homo sapiens. Through our work, we try to break down the artificial barriers that have been erected between people and the natural spaces that still exist in inner, and outer, worlds.
We are concerned that, in an increasingly material world, the innate love that everyone has for wild spaces is being eroded by a psychotic desire to replace reality with some virtual utopia – an artifice to win control of our emotions so we can be separated from the wild and become more efficient consumers. We all know what is happening, yet we seem powerless to break free of the intoxicating promises of connection and happiness which the advertising slogans, associated with modern gadgets, promise. Sound Matters works to restore the bond that has existed from time immemorial between people and an animate ‘other’ – the world that existed before rational minds began to kill it.
Our desire to connect people to the other – that messy, dirty, complex, vibrant, nurturing, lethal world in here, and out there – has meant we spend a great deal of time recording sounds, and creating music, that explores relationships between people, between people and place, and between people and the spiritual other. Exploring relationships and connection has meant that one instrument has become a fundamental part of the Sound Matters story. In a recent blog post for Dark Mountain, Mike talks about how the didgeridoo has helped connect him to ‘country;’ it is the instrument’s unique ability to help people forge bonds with both human and nonhuman nature that makes it so perfectly suited for the work of Sound Matters.
‘My experience of the didgeridoo was profound but very simple; the instrument, and the sound it made, connected me to what Aboriginal people term ‘country’ — landforms, the sea, the sky, water, air, plants, animals, stories and special places. Somehow, the sound connected me to the Australian environment; an environment that, as an immigrant, I had loved but had never felt truly connected to — until playing the didgeridoo, I had never been able to call Australia ‘home.’ The sound of the didgeridoo made sense of the land — it was of the land and it connected me to the land. I have since realised that this power to connect is not geographically specific. I have played didgeridoo throughout the world and every time I play I feel a deep sense of connection.’
Recently, Sound Matters spent time on the Scottish island, Eilean Shona where we used a traditional yiḏaki as a means to connect ourselves to the land we were exploring. Here, the notion of connection is not used in some esoteric, abstract way; rather, it is used to refer to a way of being – a space – that exists, in both heart and mind, when the instrument is played. A stilling of the mind, which is one effect of both creating, and listening to, the sound of the didgeridoo allows feelings of connection to materialise and manifest. It was through listening to the didgeridoo in different environmental contexts on the island that we got to know Eilean Shona.
Ironically, one of the most fascinating acoustic spaces we found was a human-made structure built of brick into a steep hillside a short distance from the magnificent Eilean Shona House. Just big enough to stand up in, with a drain to take away water, the exact use of the ‘cave’ is unknown; however, its structure and location suggest it was more than likely an ‘ice house’ used for storing ice and possibly venison. Regardless of its exact use, the cave had the most beautifully bright and clear acoustics with a perfect natural reverb. To find such an ideal performance space with such wonderful acoustic properties is a didgeridoo player’s dream. Our third Eilean Shona soundscape was recorded in this curious space; a space that despite being a human construct, facilitated a profound meditative connection to this wonderful island, and the world beyond.
 Didgeridoo is an onomatopoeic word believed to have been coined by the first white settlers who invaded the country in 1788. The instrument has different names that correspond to the languages of the regions in which it was originally played in northern Australia. In all the places where the instrument is played it has profound cultural significance, this is true of the areas it has been played for over 2000 years, in northern Australia, and in other parts of Australia where it has been played only relatively recently.
 The name for the didgeridoo commonly used by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land.