The Bogong Centre for Sound Culture is a remote-regional cultural initiative situated in the foothills of Victoria’s Alpine National Park. Established by Philip Samartzis and Madelynne Cornish the Centre supports projects focusing on the processes and impacts of sustainable energy production; effects of climate change in wilderness areas; ethnographic studies of remote communities; the chronicling of vanishing industrial procedures; and systems of representation used to render natural and built environments.
Additionally, the BCSC facilitates a broad cultural program comprising, festivals, exhibitions, publications, master classes and artists’ talks focusing on site-specific art practices. These programs establish a connection with place, its inhabitants, geographic space and memory. They engage a wide range of audiences, bringing together local, interstate and international artists across multiple disciplines and fields to realise ambitious works.
The BCSC is situated at the newly restored old school at Bogong Alpine Village located 350 kilometres from Melbourne in North East Victoria.
About Bogong Village
Bogong Alpine Village is 325 kilometres North-East of Melbourne situated at an altitude of 800 meters in the Alpine National Park between Mount Beauty and Falls Creek. The village was established in the late 1930s to service the first hydroelectric scheme in mainland Australia. More recently it has become a popular site for alpine sports, recreation and ecotourism. Click here for directions.
A Short History
Work on the Kiewa Scheme commenced in 1938 with the construction of a road from Tawonga to the High Plains. Previously the only access was by foot or horseback along tracks that had been forged by cattlemen of a bygone era. Bogong Village was established once the road from Junction Camp was trafficable (March 1939); this paved the way for the construction of permanent buildings. Prior to that life was tough; large canvas tents and flies were used for sleeping quarters and smaller tents were set up to house the kitchens. By 1940 Bogong Township had grown considerably with a general store, staff offices, recreational mess, police station, and a variety of accommodation such as single men’s quarters and residences for married staff and families.
Bogong State School
In 1941 the Primary School at Bogong Village enrolled its first intake of students comprising nine pupils. Initially the school consisted of a large classroom, storeroom and boys and girls toilets. Extensions were carried out in 1944, which expanded the capabilities of the school. A library, storeroom, pupil’s lunchroom and shelter shed were added and rock gardens were established. By 1947 the number of students had grown to 46 all of whom were children of local SEC workers. Over the years class sizes fluctuated and the building remained unchanged. In 1980 it ceased to operate as a school and sat idle, eventually falling into disrepair. In 2004 it was sold along with many other buildings in the village.
Madelynne Cornish and Philip Samartzis bought the Old School and set about restoring it to its former glory. The rotting weatherboards and floorboards, smashed windows and flaking paint are now a distant memory. The newly refurbished building occupies it’s original footprint and bares a strong resemblance to it’s former self. Although the internals have been modernized remnants of it’s past history remain. The Old School once played a significant role in the fabric of village life. It inspired the community and helped shape the minds of those who studied there. It is our intention as custodians that the School once again functions as a place of inspiration.
Reference: Kiewa Kids School Days at Bogong & Mount Beauty by Graham Gardner
Staying at Bogong Village, you get the currents into your blood. The current of the East Kiewa river, a white noise permeating the air. The wind in the trees is a current too. And there is electricity everywhere.
Today and three days before we visited the McKay Power Station. Huge transformers hum in cages of wire, copper spirals reach up into the air, an invisible field of energy envelops the place. The drone sounds like an organ tuned a multiple-layered standing note. As you walk past it permeates your ears but it also invades your body. Walking there, up and down… synapses start to tingle.
The other day I spoke to an old lady about her child-hood memories of growing up in the village. I heard her voice floating in the humming. I heard the birds in the trees too. I heard my feet shuffling on the gravel strewn upon the poorly paved road. Scraps of the interview floated through my head, and detached moments surfaced like islands in Technicolor. Storylines formed as I listened to the hum whilst still walking. Each time you come to the end of the line, the sounds of the surrounding forest merge with the frequencies.
Most people don’t know about the music of frequencies. They think this is boring. A single note, or more, a cluster of tones, very close, a pack, a stack of intense sounds, vibrating. The funny thing is, as you start to listen closely, other sounds appear behind it. Like when you stand behind a waterfall and can only vaguely perceive the green world behind it. Frequencies are a veil of noise, white, pink, brown, blue. I think of this old story of the painter’s contest, when the winner declared was the one who’d be able to paint the veil covering the picture not the subject it self as a living image.
I cannot say whether there really are other sounds behind the veil of the frequency sound… I know what I have heard: children’s laughter, violins, lover’s talk, an animal in flight, and voice in my head started to make up stories.