measure for a mayfly


A Measure for a Mayfly is an audience participation composition that was made for a Sound Studies course at OCAD University in the 1980’s, and used on class field trips each year. The piece was also performed by the Toronto New Music Co-operative at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Grange Park. (Original version here.)

For the Electric Eclectics Festival 2013, the composition was revisited and reworked with the help of Ido Govrin, who was mentoring with Tina Pearson in the summer of 2013 as part of a Masters of Visual Studies program at the University of Toronto, and Gayle Young, a composer and instrument designer who works with environmental sounds and microtonality. It was performed with EE participants August 3 and 4. Listen to the last 3 minutes of the August 3 version here.

Measure for a Mayfly is a piece that is concerned with human interaction with the soundscape. It offers an illustration about the way that focused listening and sounding can bring open awareness to the multidimensional nature of wilderness settings. Using listening exercises and relational games referencing animal and bird behaviour Measure for a Mayfly usually attracts interactions with crows and other birds and gives participants a glimpse into a world in times past when humans also embodied a perpetually acute, alive and nuanced awareness of sound to survive and to thrive.


The Electric Eclectics Festival takes place each year the Funny Farm in Meaford Ontario during the first weekend in August. During the two days preceding the performance, Gayle Young and Tina Pearson scouted the forested valleys to map sonic boundaries and pathways for the participants. They trimmed and cleared dead branches to assist navigation and did a lot of listening, observing the changes in the sound of the wind in the different foliage, location of birdsong, patterns of the sonic drift from the amplified drums and bass soundchecking from the Electric Eclectics stage on the hill above the valley.


Measure for a Mayfly was offered Saturday August 3 and again on Sunday August 4. The piece started inside a resonant dome, proceeded with a slow listening soundwalk up a small forest plantation hill, into a dried creek bed and into the mixed forest on the other side. Each participant used sparse utterings of their unique “call”, made on recorders, slide whistles, bells, ocarinas and other treble sounding instruments as they dispersed out of sight lines of one another through the forest, listening for each other’s changing locations. At a signal, they used the sound of the calls to find each other again and come together in a group for a final group sounding. Silent listening spontaneously followed each performance.


All photos by Ido Govrin.


2 thoughts on “measure for a mayfly

  1. Pingback: 4’33″ August 4, 2013 | A Year of 4'33"

  2. Pingback: 4’33″ June 16, 2013 | A Year of 4'33"

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