Creating the Wiradjuri language version of Little J & Big Cuz

I have just returned from recording the Wiradjuri Language version of little J & Big Cuz in Wagga Wagga in central NSW. We recorded the cast in the recording studio at Charles Sturt University using my portable Protools Ultimate Rig and AKG212 mics. I worked closely with Producer Gillian Moodie and Wiradjuri language teacher Letetia Harris to edit the dialog on the fly to achieve a tight lip sync.

I must give a big thanks to the staff at the School of Communications and Creative industries for helping us with the facilities.


Review of Listen_UP in the latest issue of realtime

The Big Anxiety 1: listen_UP, listen deep

Keith Gallasch

On a reflective golden floor, six tree stumps for sitting. Above, six small boat-like objects crafted from paperbark float serenely. A soft, blue cloth curtain gently encloses the intimate, circular space. The floor dips deep beneath the sitter, mirroring all that is above in the contemplative space that is listen_UP, an installation in The Big Anxiety’s Empathy Clinic. The work advocates and induces deep listening with which to understand the anger and underlying grieving born of serial trauma suffered by generations of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. As a soft crackling suggests a gentle fire at listen_UP’s centre, a very present, lone female voice, pondering inherited and personally experienced suffering, is textured with heartbeat, the rumble of restless weather and a singer expressively uttering a mutating syllable sequence emotionally in tandem with the speaker’s narrative in a sound world of gently shifting perspectives.

The speaker struggles to begin—“I am… I am…”—but the words come—“I am without hope, without future”—revealing “a pain so deep, shame of what I am, what you have made me.” She is “a child unloved,” who has introjected her oppression: “I knew that I deserved not to be loved.” She briefly proffers an explanation for white listeners’ inability to empathise: “You cannot see me… because I mirror your pain.” While her plight is existential—“To be nothing would be preferable to being”—she is compassionate for children “raped in welfare, in a world where multinationals trade in weapons.” Unable to wait for revolution, she declares she will start with herself. The singer intones “reya, reya…”

Suddenly there’s particularity, the speaker revealing her profession, declaring “university a prison without walls.” As an academic, “I build walls of paper to bury my grieving soul while children are dying.” These children are close by, “crying down the street.”

However, a sense of purpose emerges with metaphor enriching the sense of passion inherent in the quietly controlled voice: “I am fire… I am stinging nettle.” “Will you accept the need for this pain?” she asks the listener. “Illy, illy,” sings the singer. Moving beyond metaphor, doubtless drawing on her spiritual heritage, the speaker declares herself owl, spider and “goanna full of healing.” Perhaps we can now travel with her: “I hear so many songs, I will wait for you.”

Finally, the speaker, no longer “I” but “we,” celebrates “the bliss of being completely a woman” through, she says, women’s shared words, dance and song. The singer’s “eeya, eeya…” becomes “eeya, eeya, num, num…” conveying a sense of both completion and eternal duration. I have no idea what these syllables (loosely transcribed here) mean, if anything literal, but the beauty of the intensifying ritual framing they offer lends choral power to the speaker’s path from anger and despair to survival through art, amid resonating wind, thunder and rain, distant bird call and the rattling of cicadas.


The speaker is much admired Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson AM, a Jiman/Bundjalung woman of also Anglo-Celtic and German heritage. She is the author of Trauma Trails—Recreating Songlines (Spinifex Press, 2003): The transgenerational effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia, and founder of We Ali-li, a Culturally Informed Trauma Integrated Healing training organisation.

The pioneering visual and media artist r e a has worked with Atkinson “to create an aural campfire—a place where stories are shared, listened to, understood and then reflected or meditated on. In culture the campfire is a creative learning and teaching space where elders pass on their knowledge and stories to listeners young and old” (program note). To focus and intensify this listening r e a has textured Atkinson’s voice with the artistry of Nardi Simpson (composer and singer with Stiff Gins), Missi Mel Pesa (audio-visual artist, musician and composer) and Andrew Belletty (self-described “vibro-tactile sound artist”).

Andrew Belletty kindly spoke with me about listen_UP’s embracingly natural sound design: the six small directional speakers encased in paperbark, keeping the technology invisible; the “grounding campfire” centre speaker; the two gently enveloping sub-bass speakers outside the circle; occasional sounds—birds, insects—including those from field trip recording in r e a’s country; and a realised desire to have the listener feel intimately and directly addressed by Atkinson, mouth to ear.

Listen_UP is a generous invitation to sense, via a contemplative space (exhibition designer Anna Tregloan) and aural magic, how Australia’s Indigenous peoples, as a young We Ali-li participant has put it, “we use our anger, we recycle it, we use it as power for us… to make beautiful things out of your anger, out of your hate, out of your sadness” (We Ali-li website).

The Big Anxiety, first staged in 2017, is a festival that “brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century” (website). Artistic and Executive Director Professor Jill Bennett (UNSW), Producer Tanja Farman, Senior Curator Bec Dean.

The Big Anxiety: r e a and Judy Atkinson: The Empathy Clinic, listen_UP, artists r e a, Nardi Simpson, Missi Mel Pesa, Andrew Belletty; UNSW Galleries, Sydney, 23 Sept-9 Nov

Top image credit: Installation, Listen_UP, r e a and Judy Atkinson, The Big Anxiety, photo Jessica Maurer

Public Redress System at Biennale of Sydney 2020 just announced!

Public Redress System (r e a, Andrew Belletty and Douglas Kahn) will create an experimental site activation across the Tunnel at Cockatoo Island, for NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020).

I recently returned from some work in Mumbai and brought these 8 magnificent Trumpet Horn Speakers back with me on the plane. The trumpets Horns will form an integral component of the work.


Making the DEEP LISTENING installation for THE BIG ANXIETY FESTIVAL 2019 from 27 September to 3 November

DSC_1865.jpgJudy Atkinson

We have just completed the voice recordings for the work with Judy Atkinson, Nardi Simpson, and REA,  in our Blue Mountains Studio, in Hazelbrook, NSW. Missi Mel Pesa made the recordings with the Soundfield Ambisonics mic setup, which will give the voices a spatial quality that will be mixed with her 8 channel sound design. I am designing speakers for the installation that will work aesthetically within the space and will provide an intimate engagement for the audience with the deep listening experience. The experimental work builds on Judy’s Deep Listening project and this is the first time her work will be exhibited with a gallery space.


DSC_1891.jpgREA, Judy Atkinson, Missi Mel Pesa and Gail Kelly (L-R)

Floating Vibrotactile floor installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia for Maria Fernanda Cardoso On the Origins of Art I-II, 2016

The MCA did an amazing job installing a huge floating floor in the gallery space for the installation so that audiences can feel the amazingly detailed vibration produced during the spider’s courtship dance. I recreated the effect using organic and synthesised sources in a way that allows the audience to experience the spiders intimate communication. The floor is fitted with 6 tactile transducers which can reproduce powerful vibrations, so that most of the sound is felt rather than heard by the audience. This is the largest sound/vibration install we have done with this work to date and I am pretty happy with the results. This design will also be used by the Tate who they exhibit the work in the near future.
Maria Fernanda Cardoso
On the Origins of Art I-II, 2016


7:00 minutes

single channel HD video, with sound, tranducers

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Tate, purchased jointly with funds provided by the Qantas Foundation, 2018


Institute of Sonology, Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Netherlands.

KC-logo_jewel-ENI was invited by Raviv Ganchrow to deliver a guest lecture at the prestigious Institute of Sonology / Royal Conservatoire, at The Hague, in April 2019 . I was lucky to have a full house with a broad spectrum of students mostly from the Masters of Sonology at the Institute, but also architects, composers, artists and musicians. I was amazed by the feedback I received from presenting my work in the three-hour session

Raviv also generously gave me the chance to meet with two Masters students and offer guidance and feedback on their projects.

“An email to say THANK YOU for arranging the lecture with Dr. Andrew Belletty on Wednesday. I am, at present, unable to articulate exactly how valuable the lecture was, but also how much it inspired a few of my own ideas…”


Sound System Outernational 5 – Sounds in the City, 4-7th April 2019, L’Orientale University of Naples.

Through a grant made available by the NSW Government through Create NSW, I was recently able to participate in the Sound System Outernational conference at L’Orientale University of Naples, which was  4 days dedicated to the Global Sound System Culture, featuring International & Local Speakers & Performers, Conference Talks, Film Screenings, Workshops, Exhibitions and Sound System sessions scattered thrughout the beautiful city of Naples, Italy. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with colleagues and meet new academics and practitioners. The talks and events were spread out amongst some the cities most beautiful locations and vibrant street culture which added to the experience. Academic participants from UK, Australia, USA, Jamaica, South America and Europe shared experiences and many touched upon the common theme that globally, Sound System Culture is being silenced through the effects of neoliberal urbanisation. Practitioners and artists demonstrated the community-building power of Sound System Culture through their various practices.


This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW




Recording Jeffrey Aniba Waia’s Story

In January 2019,  I had the privilege of spending a few days recording stories and songs with Jeffrey Aniba Waia, Artist, Dancer, Choregrapher and Senior Knowledge Custodian for his clan group of SaiBai in the Torres Strait. Jeff is a wonderful storyteller who code-switches  between English, Creole (Torres Strait base language) and Kala Kawau Ya (SaiBai Island language), as he tells his life stories.

AWA JEff CAirns Jan 2019

Jeff also creates cultural objects like this mask, which blends modern aesthetics with traditional mask-making techniques with amazing results.

IMG_3109 2.jpgA bit about Jeff:

“My name is Jeff Aniba-Waia and my clan is Ait Koedal Augadth (or Crocodile). I’ve been traditionally adopted into another clan called Deibau Augadth (or Wild Yam).

I come from an island called Saibai, in the Western Torres Strait, close to Papua-Niugini. The language I speak is Kala Kawau Ya (KKY).

At about age ten I was sent to the Boys College on Thursday Island. Then, from there, the boy’s college moved to Bamaga in 1973 when they opened the Bamaga State High School, so that’s where I did my Year 11 and 12. From there I did teaching courses in Townsville and Adelaide.

I went back and taught at Bamaga for five years and then in other islands of the Torres Strait… the outer islands, the eastern islands and the central islands. Then I spent some time in Cloncurry. I came back to Cairns in 2001 and I’ve been in teaching in Cairns West for six years.

To teach about Torres Strait Islander culture you have to be a Torres Strait Islander. And it must come from your heart to deliver that to young children. Children of all backgrounds can respect each other for who they are and through understanding and respect can be proud of their backgrounds. And be multicultural Australians.”

FAN GIRL in 360 at UTS Data Arena

clone tag: 6208357157819363508360 Sound design and Mix by Andrew Belletty

Director: Mario Faumui (Samoan)
Producer/Writer: Lanita Ririnui-Ryan (Ngati Ranginui, Ngaiterangi, Ngapuhi, Cook Islands)

Aotearoa New Zealand | 2018 | 6 min | Experimental

The University of Technology Sydney hosted a unique viewing of Fangirl in the 360 Data Arena as part of the WINDA Indigenous Film Festival on 24 November 2018.

I was commissioned to make a 360 degree soundtrack for this experimental film from New Zealand. The film features five dancers and was originally conceived as a project for VR headsets, but the Director of WINDA Indigenous Film festival, Pauline Clauge saw the potential for for the film to play in the data Arena at UTS. We needed to make a 16 channel soundtrack for the 360 space, and as the film featured a lot of movement. I needed to create quibble cues, as well as build the sonic world for he film within the space,  so that the audience could engage with the performers on screen. We did this with Foley, ambience and sound effects design and mixing across 16 speakers which followed each dancer as they moved across the screens. The film’s producers and the director were impressed by the immersive 360 experience created by the sound design, which added a strong sense of spatialisation and geography to the film, resulting in a satisfying audience experience.

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