Nick Russell was the fourth speaker for Yours Outdoors’ Speaker Series held once a month at HHOA Haliburton Fish Hatchery. /VIVIAN COLLINGS Staff

Speaker Series explores soundscapes

By Vivian Collings

The beauty of sound filled HHOA Haliburton Fish Hatchery as local guitarist and sound designer Nicholas Russell took listeners on a journey through his recent projects, the workings of sound frequencies, and how he created an art-based career in the Highlands.

Jazz & Blues to Nature Based Soundscapes was the fourth presentation of the 7th season of Yours Outdoors’ Speaker Series held once a month at the Fish Hatchery.

Russell created a dynamic presentation of slideshows, video clips, live music, and a demonstration of sound frequencies.

He started off with playing a song on the guitar composed by a Japanese composer to get the attendees “into the same headspace.”

He then moved to a slideshow of photos to illustrate Canadian music history, specifically focusing on the lineage of jazz artists in his family through his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Russell called his father, local musician Stan Russell, up to help explain each photo, and they explored the lives of his past family members to better understand his passion for music.

“The point of this is a little bit about swing/jazz/improvised music as expressed by me, but taking a look at generations going back and seeing how causes and conditions can affect and create a lifestyle and a passion or interest. In our case, it’s multiple generations, which I find very fascinating.”

Russell shared some of his most recent music projects and partnerships before moving on to teaching about how sound frequencies work.

Russell showed a video created by Brad Brown on local artist Harvey Walker, which Russell added sound to afterwards.

He then showed the same video without audio to illustrate the difference.

“Really, our brain is processing [sound frequency] all the time, we’re just not conscious of it,” he said.

He called Walker up to speak about the experience.

“The bottom line is that we spent eight hours with Brad Brown shooting video and three hours with him in my studio asking questions. Out of that, we got six minutes of my speaking to go in the video. And of course, once Nick got ahold of it, you can see the difference. It’s only through the skill of the people that worked it through to the end that made the difference,” Walker said.

“The number one problem for artists is that I’m taking a three-dimensional scene and trying to put it on a two dimensional canvas, which is the same goal as sound producing.”

The presentation concluded with a musical performance by Russell and Benton Brown, who recently released their own album.

A portion of the proceeds from each Speaker Series presentation will go towards a charitable organization. 

Russell has worked with Abbey Retreat Centre (ARC) for soundscape projects that uses nature and music as a therapy tool for those facing cancer, so a portion of the proceeds from his presentation will be donated to ARC.

The Yours Outdoors Speaker Series is held on the second Wednesday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. with an intermission part way and a Q and A period at the end.

Wednesday, Jan. 11, join Malcolm Cockwell, managing director of Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, for his presentation, Inside Haliburton Forest.

Cockwell will give insight into the history and workings of Haliburton Forest. Admission is $15 per person payable at the door. Visit for booking.