Sound designing in rainy Pt Adelaide



Fairfax In-Community workshops: Round 2

fairfaxfestival workshop round 2 - kalianna storyboard
The storyboard for the Kalianna audio composition. My whiteboard skills have vastly improved over these workshops.

Greetings from Shepparton (north east of Victoria) on my rest day during the second round of the Fairfax In-Community artist workshops.  I’ve come off from two days with the students at Kalianna Special School in Bendigo where we finished off an audio composition documenting a journey into one of the historic Bendigo gold mines – cue: worksongs, elevators, lots of pickaxes, deadly gas explosions and cave-ins.  This particular round of workshops was great fun.  It’s a wonderful school with great staff and the students were absolutely wonderful to work with.

* * *
It’s a lovely day here in Shepp, marginally warmer than when I was here almost exactly a month ago, but there’s definitely Spring in the air this time around.  It’s good for my spirits, and really does make Shepp appear that little more hospitable.  It’s a town with a litany of problems – industrial decline, crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, crime – and in many ways resembles a rough city suburb transposed to a remote area in country Australia. 

It’s not the socio-economic basketcase that many make it out to be, but life is pretty bad for a majority of the students I was working with last month.  BUT I was really heartened on my last visit to discover personalities who were creative, imaginative, motivated and enthusiastic about art practice – especially a new and weird medium like sound art!   Furthermore, I was blown away by just how perceptive and intelligent they were when it came to discussing concepts, creative development and various techniques.  We’ve got a lot to get through over the next two days; developing an audio composition/performance drawing on themes of routine, boredom, fear and the tension between the natural and industrial environments in and around Shepparton.

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.)