British Columbia

Dial M for Meditation: Artist sets up national hotline of calming sounds to soothe stresses

Choose between the sounds of laughing children or the song of northern resident orcas among others from the recently launched 1-877-2BE-CALM toll-free hotline.

Recordings are the latest project by Victoria, B.C., artist in residence, Kathryn Calder

Kathryn Calder, a musician, artist and member of the The New Pornographers, is Victoria's artist in residence. She is the brainchild behind the '2 BE CALM' hotline. (@kathryncalder/Twitter)

In the midst of a global pandemic and all its accompanying stress, a Victoria, B.C.-based artist and musician is creating an oasis of calm in the form of an old-fashioned telephone hotline. 

From now until July 2021, anyone across Canada can call the toll-free number, 1-877-2BE-CALM, and get connected to a wide variety of calming sounds including children's laughter and joyful music.

Kathryn Calder, Victoria's artist in residence and member of the band The New Pornographers, was initially inspired by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's famous mantra.

"It started, of course ... with Bonnie Henry [saying] to be calm," Calder said on CBC's All Points West. 

Calder said she was trying to figure out what a community project could look like under pandemic restrictions. A friend sent her a link to a Calgary teacher who created a hotline where her students would record jokes and people could call in and hear them.

Artist Kathryn Calder was inspired by B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's famous mantra: "Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Safe." (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Working with collaborator Emily Hamel, Calder said they came up with idea of having a hotline with different kinds of soothing sounds that callers could choose from when they call in. 

"It's challenging times out there and we wanted to do something that was uplifting and positive," she said. 

"I'm an artist and I believe in the power of art to make people feel better in times of difficulty and people turn to music and art in general. It's sort of a fundamental part of being human. I believe in this project and I hope people get something out of it and I hope it brings some joy."

Some of the sounds are particular to the West Coast, including northern resident orcas recorded by the Pacific Biological Station of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a story told by the City of Victoria's Indigenous artist in residence Dylan Thomas about the ancient Salish wool dog, and original music from Calder. 

Members of the A5 pod of northern resident killer whales. (Ho-Department of Fisheries and Oceans-Jared Towers/Canadian Press)

One of the most popular sounds so far, Calder says, is the sound of children laughing. 

"Different things appeal to different people ... but definitely the children laughing has been a big hit."

Any parents who would like to have their child's laughter included in future phone line audio can send recordings along with a release form to Calder by February 7, 2021, via the victoria.ca/becalm website.

While the project ends in July 2021, but the content will be refreshed throughout the next few months to feature works from different area artists.

The hotline is toll-free across Canada. Services are being paid for by TELUS.

Listen to the segment on CBC's All Points West here:

We've all heard Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to "be calm" during the pandemic. Sometimes that can be a difficult state of mind to achieve. So, Victoria's artist in residence has created a free phone message service to help you get there. The 1-877-2BE-CALM hotline offers a selection of soothing auditory experiences. Kathryn Calder spoke with Kathryn Marlow. 8:40

With files from All Points West

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