Entry #3

My original plan of exploring some of the huts on the High Plains has come around again, but then knowing it’s a completely different season…Less the acoustics of wind, rain, snowmelt and more the ubiquitous presence of walkers and sight seekers. It’s nearing Easter now and things are getting busy…After leaving a handheld recorder in Wallace’s Hut on a shelf to record, I was later shocked how quiet it was with the door closed—and about as dryer an acoustic space as I’ve heard. I realise without weather or human-induced noise it is pretty quiet on the plains for the most part, but I didn’t expect its thick snow gum slabs, woollylbutt shingles and tarbased inside wall lining would blanket-out most outside sound and leave just a dusky silence. Having said this, one then encounters, just for a few minutes or so, the almost estranged but heightened aural experience of the hut’s insides, of its now presences when walkers and sightseers do enter…

The point wasn’t about arriving at some objective sound capture of the huts (more high-end equipment might have provided more detailed sound in the “silent” bits), but a way of exploring notions of absence and presence  : the pioneer cattlemen who made and once stayed in the hut; the impacts of European settlement in the area devastating traditional Aboriginal lifestyles; present-day ‘tourist” sounds having the effect of immediately displacing links with the past…All in all, a multilayered referential listening which had hardly anything to do with listening in an abstract, musical way.

In the last week Madelynne invited Jody Blackshaw to BCSC, one of the local music teacher’s from Wodonga (having also studied a Phd in composition at Sydney Con’). Jody threw light on the need for a broader music-sound arts approach to the high school music curriculum, as well as the prospect of students coming up to the BCSC to extend their creative approaches to sound/music making. Makes me think how much we are exposed to “outside things”, or have the willingness to prioritise sound and its source first…

So after three weeks at Bogong I feel I’m left with similar themes, notions of place and its link to memory, its loss, holes of absence. Also as it relates to time and the ephemerality of things, particularly when it appears it is always present. A useful metaphor is the ever-present noise of the river flowing into Lake Guy. We are not that aware of temporality, of presence and its converse absence, of things actually passing by or away into memory/oblivion. We just hear the roaring stream as a constant now, unaware that it also just as much a part of time. Perhaps it’s only when one has gone away for a while then later returns that they notice real variance in the stream, of things missing, of how they “misremembered” the landscape.

On the way back to Hobart via Albury I took time out to see the Notes from the Field exhibition at MAMA, of past BCSC residency artists’ work. Here I noticed quite a few of the mainly sound-based work (without video elements)—through speaker arrangement, placement in the space/on wall— suggest other layers of meaning. On this I enjoyed Bridget Chappell’s work made from electromagnetic recordings of power stations at different elevations, each linked to a separate speaker exhibiting slightly different frequencies, but collectively resulting in discordance. Another was a work by Philip Samartzis where speakers were stacked on top of each other but at different angles projecting sound across the space.. .

Made me think of blocks of ice or perhaps something more anthropocentric dumped on the ice… But this is all now past… All I can say is that I’m very grateful for Madelynne and Philip for the opportunity. Also to have lots of recordings to mull over for the next while.