Life Is Short and Long: Wirrabara field notes (part 2)

Read PART 1 here.

PART 2 – Wirrabara Town Hall

An early Sunday afternoon in Wirrabara. My ears, still acclimatising to the quiet of the town following the Producers Market catch whatever comes into relief (however brief): the rustle of trees lining the main street pavement, the faint rumble of a car engine or distant machinery and the occasional twitter of birds. In spite of these sounds – both tangible and hidden – the overall impression of this place is a strangely uneasy, empty quiet.

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Main street in Normanville – January 2008.

I’m accustomed to this type of quiet. My hometown of Normanville on the Fleurieu Peninsula, which in spite of being more populous and fitfully vibrant during the warmer months, is partial to the same kind of mid-to-late afternoon lull. Since I’ve spent most of my adult life living in the city, it’s occasionally surprising to become enveloped by this quiet, whilst acutely aware one’s own presence (or agency) – marked out by the sound of shoes on gravel or the rustle of clothes. This is maybe one reason why we find streets, buildings and vehicles with a perceived human absence so disconcerting. Within this environment one becomes so much more aware of their own presence.

The Wirrabara Town Hall is rarely used these days. It is split into two main spaces – the original hall, built sometime in the early 20th Century and a small recreation hall with adjoining kitchen probably constructed sometime in the 1960’s. Within the smaller hall, there are shafts of golden sunlight spreading across the floor but the expected warmth is virtually non-existent. It is incredibly cold in this space, the adjoining foyer and larger hall. Within these cold, enclosed spaces and shut off from the empty main street of Wirrabara, it feels as though as I am a little further removed from the world.

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Wirrabara Town Hall – main hall space. July 2016.

A border of gold paint frames the stage of the main hall and deep blue and black velveteen curtains drape across the stage. Florescent lights and ceiling fans are suspended from a ceiling consisting of beautiful pressed tin panels. To the rear of the hall above the main doors is an elevated projection room. Overall, the hall is in immaculate condition – giving an impression that it’s hardly been used in a very long time. There are some indications that the hall may have been used recently – such as a box of children’s toys and books to the rear of the hall, however this is certainly an anomaly. Behind the curtains of the stage is an old piano (recently retuned – another indicator of recent visitors?), upon lifting the piano’s lid I notice its prominently chipped keys suggesting plenty of use over the years.

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To the rear of the stage area is a large overhead speaker protruding from the rear wall and appearing to be fixed to a canvas petition. It’s a peculiar looking thing – a huge magnet and voice coil enclosed in a solid wooden box with a square shaped diaphragm. The wooden box has a sticker on it indicating that the speaker was purchased from ‘Benbow Amusements’ with ‘Gladstone’ written below (Gladstone is a town about 30km south of Wirrabara). It’s difficult to place the vintage of such a strange looking loudspeaker, though the 1940’s and 50’s come to mind.

I make a sound recording of the main Town Hall space, positioning the hand-held device on the lectern so as to capture the ambience of the space from the stage. The discrete buzz of fluorescent lights provide a hushed continuum as incidental sounds from the building and outer periphery materialise: the creak of the roof in the sun, a whisper of wind, the muffled trill of a magpie, a passing vehicle, an unidentifiable murmur, a rustle of trees.

It’s a quiet world out/in here.

Later this/next week: PART 3 – Wirrabara Forest and other locales.

 

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The Flexible Persona Issue 2.4: “Life On A Timetable” (featuring “Red Eyes” from The Door Into Summer)

The Flexible Persona is a bi-weekly electronic print and audio literary journal. Issues can be accessed via the publication’s website and via iTunes.

The track, Red Eyes” from The Door Into Summer is featured in their latest issue, providing musical accompaniment for Emma Rasmussen’s short story, Life On A Timetable.

Issue 2.4 – Life On A Timetable: Link

iTunes iBooks: Link

Simone Kennedy: Free Flight

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I am providing a short three-part sound composition for Adelaide artist Simone Kennedy‘s upcoming installation work, Free Flight.  The work is to be exhibited at ArtLab Australia from Friday 11 April 2014 to Friday 18 July 2014.

Free Flight exhibition details

Exhibition dates: 11 April 2014 – 18 July 2014

ArtLab Australia, 70 Kintore Avenue; Adelaide, South Australia.  Opening hours: 8.30am – 1.00pm Monday to Friday.

Fairfax In-Community workshops: Round 1

Early morning in Bendigo, with bats.
Early morning in Bendigo, with bats.

I’m currently conducting some workshops with schools in Victoria this week as part of my Fairfax Festival commitments.  I’ve just completed two days of work with Kalianna Special School (Bendigo) and I’m now enjoying a rest day in Shepparton before I commence another two days of workshops with the high school here.  It’s been an enjoyable and tiring couple of days so far – lots of travel, workshop planning and working with a small group of early/late-teen students.

Since I haven’t really had any formal experience working with this demographic, this has probably been the most challenging aspect of the workshops: keeping things interesting, getting the kids engaged and maintaining attention spans.  To their credit, the kids in Bendigo were fantastic to work with and seemed reasonably enthusiastic about what we were doing.  When attention spans began to genuinely flag we were thankfully approaching the end of the day.

With the presence and assistance of the Fairfax’s Adrian Corbett, we managed to cram a fair bit of activity into each of the days, including microphone demonstrations, focused listening, analysing and categorising sound; sound design with objects and an excursion on our second day to the Bendigo CBD where we made some hydrophone recordings of a fountain and went in search of the main park’s resident bats.  

The end product will be a collaborative audio work which will encapsulate the unique soundscape of Bendigo, with reference to some of the area’s historical precedents using sound effects and sound manipulation.  The students will be using sound recording equipment accessible to them (mobile phones, ipads, etc) to make their own recordings during the one-month period between workshops.  The free audio editing program Audacity will be available for them to use on their school computers, where they’ll be able to edit some of the sounds they’ve recorded as well as sounds created/recorded during the workshop sessions. Along with my own recordings, I’ll incorporate the student’s contributions into the final work to be presented at the Fairfax Festival in Swan Hill during September.

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The workshops at Shepparton High School should follow the same plan, but with maybe a few adjustments to suit the location (and of course the temperament of the students.)
 

Stitchsound – installment 3

Video still: performance 3, 7th August 2010

Today Ryan Sims and I did our last performance for Stitchsound at the Queens Theatre on a chilly Sunday afternoon.  It went very well, and the modest crowd appeared to enjoy it and the artist talk that followed afterwards.  I’ve spent the evening assembling some video documentation of the work from footage, images and audio of rehearsals and performances over the past week.  It can be viewed below:

Some standalone audio will be on the way shortly.

Stitchsound – Installment 2

Stitchsound performance, 5th August. Image: Edward James

On Thursday morning, Ryan Sims and I did our second performance of Stitchsound at the Queens Theatre.  I was very happy with the performance – it was audible!  Edward James took some photos on his mobile and they have been uploaded to Flickr along with the photos Lauren Playfair took on Saturday night.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/7528804@N04/sets/72157624641773214/

I also recorded some audio of the performance on my HD recorder and will be throwing something together following the last performance this Saturday afternoon.

UPCOMING:

Saturday 7th August 2010

Performance: 4pm

Artist talk: 4:30pm

Stitchsound – first installment

Stitchsound: opening performance at 2010 SALA Moving Image Festival, Queens Theatre, Adelaide. 31st July 2010. TLR (left) Ryan Sims (right) Image: Lauren Playfair.

Stitchsound, my collaboration with Ryan Sims is now up and running as part of the 2010 SALA Moving Image Festival at the Queen’s Theatre in Adelaide.  On Saturday morning Ryan and I set up in the performance/installation area near the entrance of the venue.

Our first performance consisted of Ryan starting fifteen minutes prior to me – sampling the space at his worktable with embroideries, an array of colourful threads and a rack of fabric record sleeves.   A suspended fabric ear trumpet bridges my workstation and Ryan’s, whilst 3 model turntables on thin legs (built from cardboard and powered by servo motors) spin in front of the two workstations.   Eventually I joined Ryan and started producing a variety of layered sound textures with a set-up of a briefcase turntable, laptop and a couple of contact mics.  The symbolism and positioning of the ear trumpet comes into play as the sounds I produce are picked up by the opening of the trumpet and are amplified at the other end to Ryan, who interprets and transcribes the sound into stitches.  The joint performance ended after about 15 minutes as I packed away my equipment and left my workstation, eventually Ryan left his workstation and placed a finished embroided record on one of the model turntables.

Ryan finishing his performance. Image: Lauren Playfair

The performance, unfortunately was beset with sound issues from my end as the loudspeakers which I had employed on the table were not up to the task of broadcasting my sound textures over the chatter of patrons and a rival performance occurring at the other end of the venue.  As a result, people couldn’t really hear much of what I was doing and I ended up overdriving things a bit too much in the process.  I couldn’t hear myself that well either and I was pretty annoyed about the whole situation afterwards.  Thankfully everybody seemed to enjoy the performance as a whole though.

The next two performances (this Thursday, 11am; Sunday 4pm) should fare better as the space will be much quieter and my beefing up of the loudspeaker set up with a mid-size sub should cover the low end frequencies to a greater extent.  Ryan and I will be giving an artist talk following the Thursday performance as well.

A completed embroided record of Ryan's. Image: Lauren Playfair

In between the performances the work is being exhibited as an installation with a sound composition of mine broadcast over the loudspeakers.  The sound composition is constructed from site recordings of the spinning model turntables, Ryan stitching and constructing the ear trumpet and rehearsals from my workstation.  These recordings form a five-minute sequence that is repeated twice, with each iteration diminishing slightly in fidelity – evoking the effect of a vinyl record decaying over time with each play.  I could have made the series of iterations much longer but felt that a visitor probably wouldn’t be spending more than ten minutes with the work.

Performance 2 (incl. artist talk): 11am, 5th August
Performance 3: 4pm, 7th August
Queen’s Theatre Playhouse Lane, Adelaide (access from Currie St or Morphett St)