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.
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.
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.
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.
Stranger is a response to research and discussions concerning the impact of climate change in the Port District, and its likely effect on local ecosystems, inhabitants and man-made infrastructure. This work presents the listener with an auditory landscape from a hypothesised future, whereby a single entity remains with its lonely utterance; projecting its transmuted voice (derived from a now disappeared organism) into an empty field.
Stairwell and landing of Weiman Room, South Australian Maritime Museum, 122 Lipson Street, Port Adelaide.
November 11, 6-8pm
November 12 – December 13
12-8pm Thursdays and 12-5pm Friday to Sunday.
November 26, 5-7pm
December 3, 5-7pm
Back in June 2013, I participated in Adhocracy 2013 with a project called Reclamation. Over a three-day period, waterways surrounding Port Adelaide were sonically surveyed with standard, contact and underwater microphones, with the intention of capturing the industrial and natural sonic environments of the area. The concept behind the field work was to examine these contrasting sonic environments and speculate the role of the natural world (present and future) in a predominantly post-industrial environment.
On the final night of Adhocracy, I presented a composition incorporating recordings made over the three-day period. I was pleased with the outcome (especially given the tight timeframe!) but thought it would be good to go back and redevelop the material at some point.
* * *
Shoot forward to January 2015: There’s a new album in the works! I’ve been approached for a new release on the 3LEAVES imprint and I thought this would be a great opportunity to revisit this project and build upon the previous work using existing recordings and well as some additional material.
More to follow in the coming months.