The voices of an orca pod helped Leah Abramson process grief for her lost family — in song

Musician Leah Abramson talks about how her concern for orcas, and the environment, led her to reflect on loss in her own family.

'The project for me was actually very healing'

(CBC Arts)

It's safe to say that orcas have been on our collective mind lately, as stories of a Southern resident mother carrying her dead calf for 17 days has broken so many hearts. And it was the particular story of the Northern resident orca pod off the coast of Vancouver that resonated with musician Leah Abramson. She'd been at Malcolm Island in British Columbia to tape the sounds of the whales breathing and rubbing their bodies on stones — all research for a new series of songs.

Songs for a Lost Pod, both an album and a graphic novel that tells the tale of the orcas and a narrative of separation, is the result of Abramson's work recording and then using the sounds to write songs told from a whale's perspective. In this video, she opens up about how a pod of whales helped her reflect and heal.

Watch the video:

Leah Abramson's Songs for a Lost Pod

5 years ago
Duration 3:27
Vancouver musician Leah Abramson takes you through how a pod of orcas brought her to reflect on her own family's history. Filmmaker: Ulla Laidlaw

Learning the history of the pod, Abramson was struck by the amount of loss over the years — orcas have been vulnerable to both human poaching and climate change. The grief she felt for the whales reminded her of the history of trauma in her own family: after her grandparents survived the Holocaust, they were both the only remaining members of their respective families.


Now, Abramson has taken her learnings to her experience performing with her band. You can follow her here and find out more about the album here; the album and the graphic novel are both available through Headless Owl Records.

(CBC Arts)

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Ulla Laidlaw is a Toronto-bred and Vancouver-based artist whose work explores poetic representations of loss and its interaction with the ethereal, pursuits of truth, and investigations of the artistic spirit.  Practicing in multiple forms, her theatre direction, video, dramaturgy, installation and performance work has been presented by CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, Dawson City International Short Film Festival, Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week, SummerWorks Performance Festival, Arta Gallery (Toronto), the MT Space, Vines Festival and Jasper Short Film Festival. Trained at the University of Guelph (ON) in Drama and Psychology (BAH), Ulla has furthered her education through work positions with Native Earth Performing Arts, An Indi(e)n Rights Reserve, Cahoots Theatre, Obsidian Theatre, Uncanny House, Playwrites Theatre Centre, Pacific Theatre and Raven Spirit Dance. She has served as a Dory Jury Member (Toronto) and a Jessie Jury Member (Vancouver) and is currently a member of the Board for Creative Dominion.  She is currently developing Sanctuary, an immersive-participatory installation on peace with climate change.