If the devil would build a residency for sound, he could hardly have chosen a more appropriate location than Bogong Alpine Village. Arriving here with the intention of creating sound-based art works, the poor composer is round kicked by nature in all its picturesque and sonic glory, the moment he steps out of the car.
As mute this ecosystem is in its artistic intentions, as violently beautiful is the pure thusness of the sound world it posits. Yet the luxury of a void mind does not befall the self-proclaimed artist who has been unbearably aware of his own intentions ever since he developed a sense of self.
So while I sit here, struggling to piece together a work of relevance, I am continuously subject to an onslaught of musical grandeur that is the by-product of an natural environment whose sentient parts probably have no concept of music or sound-art.
While I am in the process of anthropomorphising my surroundings, let me just add that the spectral balance here is perfect. Aeons of evolution and adaptation have seemingly created a soundscape where each component is completely adapted to any other component, be it birdsong, rustling leaves or the sound of running water as it passes over a rocky passage in the river. One cannot help but feel that this was all staged for the exact location at which one finds themselves at any given moment, as the spatialisation seems almost intended, but of course this is just the nature of autopoeitic systems(1); to self-organise, sustain and reproduce themselves.
So, while being artistically humiliated by a trio of sulphur-crested cockatoos, Lake Guy and a plethora of gum trees, I have nonetheless decided to make the most of it.
At this point I need to mention that I play double bass and will let it be up to the reader to work out the difficulties involved in transporting such an instrument from Germany to Melbourne and then up a mountain, only saying that I have needed to ship the remainder of my luggage with post and approaching a two-week delay. Half of the gear needed to realise my initial residency proposal is therefore missing and I have had to adjust my focus to other projects. This is not bad after all, since the residency turns out to have acoustics very favourable to a double bass. Resuming work on a particular spiccato technique developed over the past five years, I have encountered a breakthrough and managed to record a passable 17-minute take. Ever since I started working on this technique, my main concern has been that it would turn out to be physically untenable to sustain the rapid bowing for more than a few minutes at a time, since near-perfect balance between force applied to the string end energy received from its rebound is needed in order to let it oscillate with maximum amplitude. The moment bowing and string vibration patterns fall out of sync, the delicate system breaks down and the desired build-up of resonance is interrupted.
Working on something as specific as a double bass spicatto technique for five years seems like a lot and I have made a life-expectancy calculation in order to illustrate it:
- Male German life expectancy: 80.64 years (I am Danish but we are just .06 years above that).
- Yoga: +1 year
- Meditation: +2 years
- Too much traveling and too little sleep: -1 years
Tendency towards anxiety and self-doubt: -2 years
Adam Pultz Melbye’s life expectancy: 80.64 years.
- Spiccato time: 5 years
- Spiccato time in percent of life expectancy: 6.25
6.25 % is too much to spend on something that only I care about. I will meditate longer and do more yoga to at least bring it below 6, preferably closer to 5 %.
(1) See Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s book Autopeisis and Cognition.