Covert Plant Book launch

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I am very proud to be have a chapter included in this fabulous book!

I spend a lot of time working on country, listening to and feeling the sounds produced by birds, trees, water and earth so it was great to have the opportunity to write about one specific tree here. Each tree has its own acoustic signature and generates energies which extend into the soil through its roots, into the air through its leaves, and into the bodies of insects that come into contact with its trunk, branches as leaves who can feel the sap as it pumps through the plant’s body.

I love recording the sounds of particular trees in a way that attempts to capture these different acoustic perspectives. A transducer microphone can be buried in the soil in the roots of a tree which responds to the energies transmitted through the earth, as the roots are gently pulled by the tree as it moves in the air above. A stereo microphone senses the sound of the leaves which produce a range of different sounds as individual leaves are moved by specific movements of the air. The sound produced by this movement of leaves and branches varies throughout the tree, and with each air movement producing different sounds.

The sound produced but the sap pumping through the tree’s body and limbs can be easily sensed by gently pressing a transducer microphone or even a doctor’s stethoscope  against the trunk. The sounds of this fluid movement, and the movement of leaves and branches, can all be hear through the trunk of a mature tree.

So listening to a dingle tree can easily take me a whole day!

Global Ear Barunga 2018

excerpt from article in The Wire – November 2018 by Marcus Boon

“I travelled to Barunga in June 2018 with Andrew Belletty. He is of South Asian descent, moved to Darwin when he was a small boy and, inspired by punk, drummed in local band The Swamp Jockeys, before joining up with some young Yolngu musicians and activists from East Arnhem Land, to become Yothu Yindi, the first nationally popular Aboriginal rock band. On their 1990 debut Homeland Movement and in early shows, anthemic rock songs were juxtaposed with short sections of traditional public song and dance performances -effectively a montage of pop and experimental traditional sounds. But what to many sounds like experiment, to Yolngu people sounds like tradition… But within the context of the Yolngu struggle for self -determination, the juxtaposition of traditional and punk sounds by Dr M Yunupingu and the other members of Yothu Yindi was a conscious attempt at creating a new kind of sonic space in which indigenous life might thrive or at least survive.  

Belletty left the band after their first LP but has since pursued a fascinating trajectory recording indigenous sounds for film and multimedia works and doing sound workshops in aboriginal communities… Belletty emphasises the importance of the vibration, and direct experience, of the land: the impact of dancing feet on sand, the land itself coming up through song, voice, yidaki and bilma (clapsticks). ‘”Listening to country’ for many Aboriginal people,” says Belletty on this theme of place, “extends beyond audibility, into sub-audible and vibrotactile energies, creating a complex and grounded notion of sound, perception and connection to the environment. “Song and dance vibrations permeate bodies within country,” he continues. “Expressing themselves physically through natural topographies, ceremony and art. Aboriginal song and dance practices make deep, intimate connections to specific ‘country’ through highly trans-sensory attention and activation of place. The performances have a physicality, they emerge out of country, are carried by custodians, and are put back into the country. These vibrational aspects of song and dance transform and heal people and country, through repeated practice over a time unimaginable in Western cultures.” To put it another way, the senses themselves have been colonised, leaving us with sound; beyond, before, j during an aboriginal bungul, a world of vibrational …, intensity, energetic flows- not as a fragment of the “‘ distant past, but as pulsating flash of the living now.”

Our trip to Barunga music festival features in The Wire – November 2018 (issue 417).

Gumat Dancer feet Barunga
 Global Ear: A festival in the deserts of Barunga in Australia’s Northern Territory resonates with music reconnecting Aboriginal performers with their land. By Marcus Boon. The Wire November 2018 (issue 417)

 

Marcus Boon and I travelled to Barunga the first stop on our road-trip, in June this year to check out the latest sounds, dances, sportsters and fashions. Having grown up in Darwin, I played at and attended Barunga many times over the years, but I didn’t realise that it has been 20 years since my last visit!  The festival was always the biggest drawcard for fans of Aboriginal music, dance and sport in the Top End of Australia and this year was as big as I could remember. The three-day festival draws crowds from all over the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Some performers and teams drive thousands of kilometres just to participate. Most people camp on site, giving the festival site a vibrancy that you would not see in most festivals of this type. I am always blown away by the fashions on display by the super styling teenagers and deadly kids. Living in Sydney, I miss seeing the colours and eclecticism that young people at these events put on display. The music and dance ranged from traditional to contemporary, the sports were dominated by Aussie rules football and basketball, and the art came from small community run centres in remote parts of the country. 

Marcus Boon is a writer, journalist and Professor of English at York University, Toronto, he is also a colleague and friend who became interested in local Aboriginal musical culture when he came to Sydney for a conference a couple of years ago. We bonded over a shared love of political and cultural vibrational energies, and he was interested in finding out more about the scene in Australia, which is why I suggested a trip from Darwin to Alice Springs, from saltwater country to freshwater country. After 4 days in Barunga we drove down to Alice Springs, stopping at as many Aboriginal owned and run art centres that we could find. We even took a quick trip to Yuendumu, a remote community in the Western desert about 400km from Alice. We discussed at length how the stories, the songs, the dances, the paintings, and all the cultural artefacts we were seeing, all came from the land, the country. We also tried to explain how the energy of the land, vibrates through all of these things, and in all of these things is the country. We looked at huge, magnificent acrylic paintings made by old people who were nearly blind, people untrained in the arts, people who were just painting their country, their story, their Jupurka-dreaming, The lines appear to vibrate and the colours jump out of the canvas, as they  are literally bursting with vitality. The stories, the singing, the painting is what keeps many of these old people alive.

The most prominent feature of the trip was the land itself, the country rolling past the windscreen of the car, expressed in songs, in words, in stories, in lines, in colours, in dance. These concepts are hard to explain, so one night on the way home from Barunga, I stopped the car on the side of the single lane dirt track and turned off the lights. We stood in the silence looking up at the pitch-black sky, the milky way looked like a hologram, a thick white fluffy cloud of white dots bursting from the sky. A shooting star would streak by every minute, and for once we could clearly see the dark emu,the black space between the stars near the southern cross. The Aboriginal reading of this sky is to see the shapes made by the blackness, rather than tracing the pattern of the shiny stars. I turned to Marcus and said “imagine what your thoughts would become if you slept under this sky each night…”

 

Maria Fernanda Cardoso: On the Origins of Art III-VIII at Siteworks, Bundanon 2018.

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Three channel HD video installation, hyperrealistic sound with tactile dimension. 32 min 24 sec. Siteworks, Bundanon 2018.

I made the vitbrotactile soundtrack for Maria Fernanda Cardoso‘s work initially for a gallery space, so it was quite a challenge transforming the idea into a format that would work as a three channel video, outdoor experience.

The spiders courtship dance is visually stunning, but it is the vibrations that they produce, which are the most spectacular aspect fo the ritual. The spiders are the size of a pin head, so the initial sound recording was done using a laser vibrometer, capable of capturing the minute vibrations made by the spiders. I used these barely audible sounds to re-create the sounds and vibrations in the studio using a variety of techniques. The resulting soundtrack was a combination of foley I recording with expert foley artist Blair Slater, and synthesised sounds designed to recreate the specific vibrational language used by the courting spiders.

Three round stages reproduce the sounds and tactile vibrations which were largely felt through the audience’s feet as they stood or sat on the floors. The audience were convinced that they were actually hearing and feeling the sounds made by the spiders, and not the hyperreal, vibrotactile soundtrack.

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The thee enormous screens in the dry riverbed at Bundanon.

Woer Wayepa at CIAF, 2018

AWA JEFF performs WOER WAYEPA at CIAF 2018
Awa Jeffrey Aniba-Waia performs at CIAF 2018, in Cairns, with dancer Ali Harvey.
Woer Wayepa -The Water is Rising- was chosen for the opening night of the Cairns Indigenous Arts Festival, in July. The interactive performance premiered at the Cairns Indigenous Art Festival 2018,  and was made in collaboration with Torres Strait Director Margaret Harvey and artist Awa Jeffrey Aniba-Waia. The performance came out of a workshop in Cairns, three weeks prior to the festival. Director Margaret Harvey led the workshop with Awa Jeffrey, a Knowledge Custodian and Choreographer of his clan group of Saibai Island and myself. The performance took a futuristic look at the effect of climate change and rising sea levels in the tiny island of Saibai, Torres Strait.

On set for feature film; Ek Ladki ko Dekha to Aisa Laga, Patiala, India.

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As the sound designer for the arthouse Indian film Ek Ladki ko Dekha to Aisa Laga, I spent 55 days shooting in Northern India over six months. The arthouse film directed by Shelley Dhar Chopra and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra was shot entirely on location. There are the usual problems when recording production dialog, but I didn’t account for it being wedding season in Punjab, which meant 24/7 parties. The sheer volume of the sound systems associated with the functions meant that our set was always being blasted by one sound system or another. Thankfully we suffered minimum disruption by having an awesome sound department, and double glazed windows!

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River Journey

“Each artist or scientist across this exhibition has created sensitive visual and sometimes aural environments. A good example is the work of Andrew Belletty, who has created a sound installation that also employs cinema with “hardcopy” water and salt as part of his two installations. These were extremely popular with viewers during my visits, turning the cavernous gallery space downstairs into a poignant contemplative zone. It’s the trying to work out – that is how he’s done it – that snares you, and upon learning what he has done, that intrigue deepens people’s fascination and they inevitably put their hands in his river bed. Sensuality is a word that all these artists and scientists have in common. Not delicate but dangerous – marking mankind’s impact on nature.”

Rating: 5 out of 5”
SUELLEN SYMONS in Arts Hub Australia

 

River Journey, multisensory installation 2017
River Journey, SALT TABLE & WATER TABLE vibro-tactile installations. Galleries UNSW, 2017
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River Journey, SALT TABLE. Galleries UNSW, 2017
River Journey;