Another bright and sunny morning in Cootamundra. Prior to heading up to the farm we’d been advised that the wires had been ‘singing’ in the gully earlier and that conditions were very favourable for this trend to continue. However, by the time we’d walked up to the gully the wind had dropped to a peaceful calm prevailing over the valley with just the sound of distant birds and buzzing flies. As most the group had silenced themselves on the prospect of hearing something coming from the wires, it was a good opportunity to do some attentive listening. David had set of one of the monitoring/recording stations close to where some of us were sitting and we took some time listening in on the wire. Though (I am reasonably certain) I heard some very brief ‘singing’, all one heard through the headphones was a beautiful spacious drone with the occasional click and crackle of a nearby electric fence.
After lunch we spent the rest of the workshop discussing more ideas and strategies relating to the arranging and mixing of wire compositions. I was particularly interested in the idea of concepts in wire composition and asked David and Alan whether a conceptual approach factored into the process of planning, recording and composing with the wires. Whilst not ruling out this approach entirely, David and Alan’s mutual consensus was that a logical progression (i.e. following the music) was a preferred approach to conceptual frameworks. Alan suggested that his composition for film was an appropriate example of using a conceptual framework (as well as following an existing narrative and structure.)
Towards the end of the day we tested out a loudspeaker/polystyrene combo that functioned as a customised driver for the wires. On the Test Wire (which is located near the farmhouse) we put the driver and the wire to work – playing instruments through the driver, thus exciting the wire and generating an effect similar to a huge spring reverb and harmoniser. As I’d hoped, someone suggested that a feedback system be set up so that wire would essentially, feedback into itself. It was bloody marvelous…the richness and variation of the tone when it fell in and out of phase made a number of us rapturous and egged Dave on to take the amplifier and loudspeaker to their physical limit. The final pouring of feedback and its subsequent decay will last for awhile in my memory. Beautiful. If the heat generated by the loudspeaker and amplifier post-performance were any indication, you can imagine how loud things got. A perfect way to finish up the three-day workshop!
Saturday will bring a close to proceedings with the Wired Lab Open Day.
A very sunny day in Cootamundra! By the time we drove out to the farm the wind was considerably weaker to that of the day before, which boded well for the wires, myself and my fellow participants. (I woke up in the morning with a face feeling like it had been sandblasted, and a tube of moisteriser was promptly purchased from the local chemist down the road.)
We spent the first half of the workshop interacting with the wires and split into two groups – one group exploring the various pickups used to receive the wires’ vibrations and signals and the other group playing the wires by positioning polystyrene boxes along points of the gully wire (as basic transducers/loudspeakers) and using the nylon bow, voices and customised instruments to generate sounds conditioned by the physicality of the wire as well as the wires’ own sympathetic vibrations and harmonics. Some of us had our personal recording devices on hand and at one point I trekked over to the other side of the gully wire and captured some incredible distant voices and resonances from the polystyrene box positioned there. Unfortunately, as favourable as the conditions were at times, the actual ‘singing’ of the wires still eluded us.
The second half of the workshop consisted of listening to recordings that had been made from the specially positioned pickups on the three wires. David and Alan discussed some strategies and techniques that are important to composing and mixing with the wires. I found this session particularly interesting, and a (slight) diversion later in the day dealing with the difference between randomness and chaos was most welcome!
Today we drove out to the WIRED LAB farm for the first day of the masterclass and intensive workshop. After a round of introductions we headed up the road to the gully to see three of the installed wires. The wind was particularly fierce in the afternoon, and this was felt as we stood at the top of the gully with a stunning panorama of the distant Snowy Mountains and Mount Kosciuszko.
David Burruston and Alan Lamb went over the specifics of each of the wires and we spent some time at each of them, interacting, listening and recording. Alan pointed out that the weather conditions (lots of wind) weren’t conducive to the wires ‘singing’ and that we would have to see how the wind fares tomorrow (i.e. less turbulent and strong, more consistent.) Still, it was fascinating to observe some of the wires potential in action – especially the bowing of the wire, which resulted in some incredible overtones and phasing effects.
A six hour train ride from Melbourne on the Country Link service will bring you to the town of Cootamundra. I arrived with a few of the other WIRED EARS participants in the early afternoon and we made our way to a B&B where we’ll be staying for the next four days. I’ve got a nice spacious room with a little semi circle balcony that looks onto one of the main roads. Later in the afternoon I had an opportunity to do a little sightseeing on foot, taking in the buildings (a blend of colonial and art-deco) and spotted a few parrots that are unique to the Riverina district. Later on, I joined some of the group for some more wandering and we eventually ended up in one of the local pubs with some drinks and games of pool.
This morning we’ll be making our way out to the WIRED LAB farm and making a start of our workshop/masterclass activities.