Designing the sound for feature length documentary Kindred was a three year journey recording the voices of people and country with directors Adrian Russell Wills on Freshwater Country and Gillian Moody on Saltwater Country.
Port of Bourke, the Baaka in full flow 2021
Adrian’s shoot moved across Freshwater Country New South Wales following Adrian’s journey West from Sydney to Dubbo, Wilcannia, Broken Hill, Weilmoringle, Bourke and the ACT. From the outset the country was unusually wet, and as time progressed much of the country was in flood. On our last schedule the Barka (Darling River) was breaking it banks at Brewarrina and reaching its peak at Bourke and Wilcannia, the red sands around Broken Hill covered with grasses and flowers. I have worked in these areas before but I realised that the wet had transformed the sound of country. Previously the arid conditions had a particular sound like a soft white noise, the lack of vegetation meant that the wind had nothing to give it a voice, the birds also gathered around small areas where they could eat and drink. During the Kindred shoot I could not believe that I was listening to the same country, it was suddenly full of life, the wind howled through the leaves and grasses, and the bountiful birds sang with full voice.
Gillian’s shoot on Saltwater Country moved between Sydney’s Northern Beaches down through Nowra, Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay. The beaches and rugged coastlines of NSW have a sound which lies in contrast to the Western interiors. The unusually wet conditions brought out an abundance of bird and animal life during daylight hours. The dramatic topography of Wreck Bay means the community sits on-top of the cliffs and hills above the beaches and rocky coastline. The community’s lush forrest backdrop was buzzing with insects and birdlife creating a beautiful surround sound effect with the ocean below. The cemetery sits on top of the cliffs at the tip of the point, making it a prime nesting site for a pair of sea eagles which hover over Summercloud Bay below. Our last trip to Wreck Bay was at the end of a long wet summer which meant the daytime cicadas and nighttime crickets were overwhelming but glorious in their song.
I collected a range of stereo and ambisonic recording of the Saltwater and Freshwater Countries we travelled on which were invaluable for creating the Sound Design in post production. Although the real privilege was the process of recording these ambiences, a process which involves spending time sitting on country and listening with all of the senses. This intimate attention to Country reveals a quietness which amplifies subtle voices from plants and animals, revealing their connections to the land, the rivers, the oceans and the sky.
The country also revealed relations between Adrian and Gillian and their respective Saltwater and freshwater Countries. These relationships gave me the signature sounds for both of them. On Saltwater Country Gillian was enveloped by the sounds of cicadas and crickets in every shoot location, and in the Cemetery overlooking Summercloud Bay the Sea Eagles kept a watchful eye on mother and daughter as they sat and watched the whales. On Freshwater Country Adrian was followed by the sound of the nighttime active Plover Birds, who tracked our journey from Sydney through to Wilcannia. The Crows and Ravens made their presence felt around the cemeteries in Wilcannia and Weilmoringle and tracked Adrian all the way to Broken Hill.
It is a real privilege to work with Gillian and Adrian but also to be supported to do this important work by producers Gillian and Tom Zubrycki. Kindred embodies the actual sounds of Country which become a historical record, and in doing so it connects Adrian and Gillian to their Countries forever.