Transfiguring opening at FELT space last night

Images below: my new work, New Wave (2015)

More info on the piece to come.


Hills Hoist: a sonic exploration

Hills Hoist with JrF hydrophones attached, functioning as contact mics.

To the non-Antipodian visitors of this blog, an explanation: the Hills Hoist is an iconic feature of the Australian backyard, a rotary clothes line which is height adjustable. It has been manufactured in Adelaide, South Australia since 1945. It’s a striking presence in any backyard, and aside from being an invaluable drying apparatus it also can be used for entertaining purposes; such as the infamous Goon of Fortune, or more benignly as a shade screen or rain cover during the Australian summer and winter months (see images below.)

The hills hoist as rain shelter during winter - August 2009.
The hills hoist as rain shelter during winter – August 2009.
The Hills Hoist used as a sun shade in summer - February 2010.
The Hills Hoist used as a sun shade during summer – February 2010.

Over the past weekend I decided to explore the internal sonics of the Hills Hoist. My curiosity has been provoked some time ago when living in another house with a Hills Hoist in the backyard. When washing was hung from the line and the wind entered the backyard, the wind would occasionally catch something on the line (usually a bed sheet) and cause the Hills Hoist to turn. Depending on the position of the Hills Hoist, the turning motion would cause the internal shaft to rub against the outer shaft: resulting in a gentle, low metallic tone. It was – to my ears – a wonderful thing to hear occur as part of a kinetic interplay between the wind and the Hills Hoist.

I recorded the Hills Hoist in our current backyard by attaching a couple of JrF hydrophones (functioning as contact mics) with velcro straps: one to the inner shaft and outer shaft of the Hills Hoist respectively. The recordings below are the result of me ‘playing’ the Hills Hoist, since there was no wind present at the time of recording.

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.

* * *

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.)

Slinky as sound generator/mock-reverb apparatus

I obtained a Slinky over the weekend and decided to test it out as a sound generator by clamping a piezo transducer at one end and tapping my fingers at the other end as an impulse.  As you can see in the video it’s a pretty interesting result.

I also experimented with sending various signals through the Slinky using another piezo transducer clamped to the top, operating a bit like a crude spring reverb unit.  The impulses – square and sawtooth waves; recordings of voices and instruments all sounded quite reverberant with (in given cases) slight instances of frequency modulation.  (not included in the video)

Adhocracy weekend and Reclamation (Part 2: presentations, the industrial world and reflections)

Sunday artist talk.  Image: Emma Webb.
Sunday artist talk. Image: Emma Webb.

This time last week I was preparing the presentation of Reclamation for an audience on the closing night of Adhocracy 2013.  The preceding days of the residency had been busy with regular morning field trips, an artist talk in the afternoon, preparing a daily listening station and lots of thinking in between.   So by Monday afternoon I was nearing total exhaustion, but still carried with reserves of excitement and enthusiasm for the project.  My presentation was scheduled for 10pm and I had completed the work by 6pm, so there was plenty of time to (attempt to) relax and hang out with fellow artists and friends who had dropped by to check out the presentations and performances.

The Reclamation listening station following Monday’s artist talk. Image courtesy of Vitalstatistix.

The finalised version of Reclamation began above the surface of the water with the clamour of the Portside area around Gawler Reach – a crew trimming the sails of the One And All, the thunder of cars crossing the Nelson Street Bridge and the distant wail of  an angle grinder.  After a minute or so, a passage below the water’s surface is made via the vibrations of the bridge and the subterranean resonances of a nearby drain before the listener becomes immersed in the underwater environment.  An ‘industrialised water’ section is emphasised at first, dominated with the whirrs, drones and hiss of boats idling and traversing the water.  Despite the presence of these industrial sounds, evidence of the natural world is already present in the audible clicks, pops and snaps of the crustaceans  and mollusks  that occasionally emerge out of the mix.  Eventually these and other natural sounds dominate the work during the ‘reclaimed water’ section.  Reclamation then ends quietly with the hushed sounds of shifting sand substrates before gradually fading into silence.

I was delighted to have such an attentive audience for the presentation of the work, the majority of whom (from what I could see) sat focused for the duration with their eyes closed.  The Vitalstatistix Theatre was a lovely space to present the work with its acoustic properties scaling off and ‘complementing’ some parts of the mix that I thought could have used a little more work.  It’s wonderful when a space can do these sorts of things for you.

I haven’t posted a stream of Reclamation here, as I feel it is still a work in progress and requires a bit more revision and mixing before I allow it to be heard beyond last Monday night’s presentation.  In the meantime I’ll be posting some Portside recordings as part of the ongoing Field Studies edition.