Voices From The Vault


The Earth Chronicles - Trees & Earth

Some radio projects change a journalist’s life. The Earth Chronicles changed mine.

Between the winter of 1992 and spring of 1994, backpack on my back and a vintage 1963 Nagra III audio device over my shoulder (reel-to-reel), I traveled across Canada twice, visiting places and interviewing people from Prince Edward Island to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and in every province in between.

Out of this adventure, thirty-two hour-length documentaries about planet Earth, global ecology and the human endeavour — The Earth Chronicles.

These were halcyon times to finance a project of this sort. Co-producer Peter Hutton and I managed to raise an astonishing $120,000 for the Earth Chronicles radio project (equivalent to about $220,000 dollars today), from a dozen Canadian federal and provincial agencies and other private groups. Greyhound and Voyageur bus lines donated travel passes.

Producing the Earth Chronicles was a task of equally epic proportions.

In my room in a student abode lovingly dubbed the Yellow Brick House, countless hours were spent listening back to all these voices, magnetically captured on dozens and dozens of reels of quarter-inch tape; wax pencil and razor blade in hand, slicing, splicing and assembling sequences; lengths of quarter-inch tape around my neck, over my shoulder and knees, and piled up neatly across the floor.

Across town, in the production studio of CFMU, McMaster University Radio, I pumped out thirty-two editions of the Earth Chronicles, focusing on a variety of Earth and environment themes, and special places across Canada – without narration (something I announce at the start of this doc, with certain insistence).

Here’s one of them — Trees & Earth. Not everyone introduces themselves. Most do, eventually.

Listen to this documentary by clicking the audio panel on top, or going right here.

Thanks to the following for their wonderful music. I need to locate all these folks, and let them know I’ve resurrected their old tunes.

Paul Haslam (hammer dulcimer); Vanessa LeBourdais (Old Tree Stump, Clearcut); Colleen and Kelt Eccleston (Carmana … or Rainforest?); Timothy Weber & Straight From the Kitchen (Big Tree Shout); Dan Weisenberger & Eliya (forest-inspired instrumental)

Richard Sommer reads his Sonnet 12, and David Inman recites Shakespeare.

So, how did The Earth Chronicles change my life? I discovered Brandon, Manitoba, the “Wheat City,” and ended up moving out there. Another story.