Attunements to Weathering 

At Santana, we, a group of students, educators and a pedagogical coordinator, were searching for ways to notice liveliness in the wind. We initially set out thinking about wind as a language that we wanted to make visible. As we are located in a school deep in the Andes, we thought about how mountainous landscapes, and in particular the mountainous landscape in and around Cuenca, invited an attunement to the strong gusts that we often felt during stormy weather. There was a contextualized relationship here that was specific to Andean relation. In the classroom, we started to pay attention to the actions of the wind, for example, in  the leaves crackling, and the sounds of moving paper when the windows were open. We were trying to think closely with the work of wind on different types of mediums . 

We noticed how wind usually manifests itself through something, and thought about it’s relationship with our bodies. In our search for wind relations we thought with Tonya Rooney (2019) who works with the term “weathering” as an approach to temporality (past, presents, futures) that allows one to slow down and witness changes in the climate.  Rooney (2019) describes encounters with weather as a type of bodily affect, one in which we are negotiating our bodies in weather, and attuning to it’s temporalities.  As we wanted to approach the language of wind through a careful noticing, we explored ways in which our bodies were entangled with it. We paid close attention to the corporeal ways in which we could slow down touch, and hear wind, while taking seriously that these senses were very much entangled. Everything is connected at some point, the components of  sensation (sound, touch, the visual) do not work individually but  in unison. When we stopped and slowed down, we would see how the wind moved  the forests around us. When we closed our eyes we could hear the strength of the wind. We started to attempt to attune ourselves with the varieties of breezes and drafts and found ways to animate it in our conversation. When it was quiet, we would describe the wind as “sleepy”, when it was stormy we’d comment on the way it moves water. Wind does not exist on it’s own. It is tied to other elements such as water in the rain. We were wondering how we could deepen our sensitivities and how could we dissolve the imaginary boundaries of wind and the cultures that surround it. How could we trace and situate these winds in context with Cuenca’s landscapes? 

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 Encounters with the Gallery  

We were inspired to learn from ancient histories in Ceunca from the Museo de las Culturas  Aborigenes. Together, a group of teachers, directors and pedagogical coordinators met together to witness and engage in tracing wind as a way to undo our separations with the idea of nature. The Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes is a museum located in Cuenca Ecuador that occupies an old inn of muleteers in a street called Calle Larga – the longest artery in the city in Colonial times.  It has a collection of 8000 archaeological pieces from different cultures (Las Vegas, Valdivia, Machalilla, La Tolita, Jama-Coaque, Manteña, Narrío and Panzaleo, among others). These range from the Paleolithic and Neolithic times to the time of Inca reign. Of particular interest to our group were the earlier instruments that use wind as an actor in facilitating musical relations. As we entered the museum, we noticed how these instruments engaged with wind in different ways. Some instruments knocked materials together (such as rocks and wood) as wind passed by, while others manipulated and created air tunnels that created anthropomorphic sounds. Our intention was to learn from these instruments and how they can inform our inquiry. 

As we stepped into the gallery, we noticed varieties of clay instruments in different shapes that were meant to use wind to anthropomorphize the sounds within the Cuenca forest.   For example, there were instruments that made the sounds of  frogs and monkeys. We were particularly struck by an instrument called a Botellas Silbato that attempted to manipulate air to give the illusion of wind-like  sounds. This particular version that we saw was one of the oldest versions created by the Chorrera Culture around 3000 years ago. 

After our initial walk around the museum, we sat in a table discussion with Carlos Freire, musicologist and researcher, who has spent many years researching music and sounds in the world, mainly of the Andean people. We learned that Botellas Silbato, and it’s attempt to anthropomorphize wind,  depended on a relationality between wind(air), water, earth (clay) and fire to make the instruments. As Carlos added water to the instrument, he mentioned that the Chorrera made instruments with the intention of creating connections between each other and with the wind and clay. We thought about this intimate focus on anthropomorphisms, that moves beyond representation. Seeing anthropomorphisms as a set of relations, changes our gaze to move beyond simple mimicking to learning with the complexity of it’s relational existence. At Santana, we were hoping to puncture some of the categorical and fragmented ways in which we saw elements such as eucalyptus, wind and water (the river). Using sound (and our movements with it) as a medium allowed us to experiment with embodied ways in which we can relate to these elements. 

“Your first instrument is your body”

 Carlos Freire described the origins of music among the different cultures  of the regions in Ecuador. He explained that the origins of all music started with the body. The water, wind in the lungs and percussive properties of tapping are our first sensations of music and sound. Carlos described this as “the acoustics of the womb”. As a mother carries her child, the motions of the body introduce a different kind of sound relationship. At this point, we are not relying on distinguishing touch, sound, rhythm. Instead we are together with the motion, in the doing of sound and its complexities with earthly relations. 

Carlos moves and breathes into the Botellas Silbato and elevates the sound.

Alicja Frankowski thinking and writing with Estefania Crusellas, María Cecilia Cañizares & Rocio Brito