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PREVIEW | Robin Dann Wants To Give You Some Quiet Time

By Michael Vincent on August 10, 2021

Robin Dann (Photo: Claire Harvie)
Robin Dann (Photo: Claire Harvie)

In an increasingly frantic world that sees busy people recognizing the growing need for moments of calm, quiet time has a gift to offer.

In comes Robin Dann, a Toronto-based songwriter and singer who has performed with Alanna Stuart, Bahamas, and Ben Gunning. She also has two albums under her belt on the on Arts & Crafts label with her band Bernice. The latter was nominated for a Polaris Prize.

Dann’s has partnered with Soundstreams to present Quiet Time, an immersive audio-visual experience that includes works by Dann, Allison Cameron and Matthew Pencer opening August 19.

We caught up with Dann to talk about the silences between the notes, her curation of Quiet Time, and a beautiful homage to the silence and majesty of the Arctic.

1. Quiet Time is a new online audiovisual experience premiering August 19, 2021 with Soundstreams. What can you tell us about it?

There’s a feeling I get sometimes when I’m out in the world, where a tree will fill with a breeze, or a dog barks in someone’s backyard several houses away — my ears open up, sharpen. I’m listening. There is a lot of sound, and there is also a lot of openness and space. The music presented for Quiet Time, I hope, will encourage active listening and tap into both instinctual “tuning in” as well as the relaxed feeling of hearing sound and music that is built around quiet and detail.

2. Who are some of the collaborators involved, and how did you become involved?

Allison Cameron and I both had the opportunity to visit the Arctic Circle in recent years, in particular an archipelago of islands called Svalbard — a place that was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit. The incredibly wild landscape, wildlife, and sonic world inspired the music written for this program.

For my part of the program, a new composition entitled “Wanny’s Song”, I asked close friend and collaborator Matthew Pencer to join me as a compositional partner. Matthew brings his technical skill as a sound designer and laptop guy, and also a sense of humour and musical freedom I wouldn’t have been able to access alone.

3. What is it about solitary listening that appeals to you?

Imagine you’re sitting by the ocean, listening to the water — nobody there but you. Or in bed, rain falling on the roof. There’s a deep comfort in listening alone, I think.

4. The online event includes aspects of ASMR, which is becoming popular. It strikes me as an important cultural phenomenon. Why do you think that is?

I believe ASMR is a beautiful hybrid of art, therapy, and pure pleasure. Why it’s become such a phenomenon is likely the same reason that millions of people like to watch people apply makeup or guide you through their skin care routine — there’s something deeply intimate about it, and also incredibly dull — I think that combination makes for a perfect antidote to our otherwise ultra-edited, constantly updating byte-sized digital experience. ASMR is slow, long, and quiet, the opposite of what one might think would “work” for today’s virtual lives. But it does!

5. If there was one key take away you’d like people to get out of Quiet Time, what would that be?

I hope they find some peace, a little bit of curiosity, and hopefully find it a little bit goofy.

6. What was your experience curating this event like?

It’s been a long and winding road!! Ultimately, I’m really happy with how it has turned out and very grateful to Blake Hannahson for filming and editing it all together — he is the MVP for Quiet Time and has created something worth watching!!

7. How can people get the most out of Quiet Time? Do they need special headphones or speakers?

Any headphones are better than no headphones — highly encouraged so that listeners can hear the sounds of icebergs crackling and burbling across the room as they watch with us. Failing that, plugging into some kind of system that has a little more range than laptop speakers will really help too. You don’t want to miss the subtleties of the walrus’ call or the details of Arctic ice coming from assorted Bluetooth speakers on a table during Allison’s piece.

8. Anything else you’d like to tell us about Quiet Time?

If you’re interested in these sounds, I encourage you to check out arcticcircle.org to learn more about Svalbard and the residency program that allowed these sounds and images to travel from way up there to our ears.

Quiet Time takes premiers online, August 19 at 9 PM ET, and runs through August 31, 2021. Admission is donate-what-you-can, with tickets available (for $5 to $25 each). Details [HERE].

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Michael Vincent
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