Australian Sound Artist

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Liminaria; Interferenze 2014

This post is long overdue but you know the saying - 'Better late than never'.

Blog posts of Liminaria (Interferenze 2014) can be found HERE

A small example of some field recordings as gathered by myself and other participating artists for Liminaria can be found HERE

If I find the time - I will try to blog some more about the experiences - it can be hard to put such things into words......


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Interview (Part 2) on The Field Reporter

:: Tessa Elieff in residence @ Pollinaria, 2014. Image by Daniela d'Arielli ::
Part two of an interview conducted by fellow Australian field recordist, Jay-Dea Lopez
now published at the online journal, "The Field Reporter'. 
Read it HERE

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day Five at Pollinaria

:: Claudio Pentronio at one of his families barley fields near Castel del Monte ::
Friday 20th June

Today was spent visiting two local farmers and cultivators of grain and wheat. The first was custodian and farmer, Alfonso D'Alfonso. His harvests are found in the Capestrano, Abruzzo  region and include one of the most ancient grains - spelt (Farro in Italian) as well as Barley, Solina and Senatore Cappelli (a wheat). With each visit to the local farmers, I have been fortunate enough to be able ask them a few questions about themselves and their families histories in working with the land. Daniela is an excellent translator (amongst many, other things....) and has helped me gather these personal stories as we go.... The below is a rough transcript of selected questions I asked Alphonso whilst at his property, sitting by a clear stream drinking wine and eating the produce from his land including bread and fresh raspberries.

:: Alphonso with a farmhand ::
TE: Can I ask of your families history in relation to working the land in this part of Italy?

Alphonso: My family arrived in Capestrano from Naples around 1700. We have always been farmers and cultivated the land for produce but it was my father who first planted wheat. My past Grandfathers were known within the community by a nickname. The name was 'Manina' (this means, 'Little Hand'). My Grandfather worked very hard and had very big hands - so much so that friends would call him Manina, as a joke....

TE: Which are the oldest grains that you grow?

Alphonso: We grow a very ancient strain of Spelt and also Saragolla (the Americans call this Camoot). You must understand though that each grain will grow differently, depending on the nutrients of the soil it is planted in and the elements that it grows by. The Spelt that is planted in America will be very different to the same grain, planted and grown here in Italy.. But it all relates back to that ancient strain.

TE: I have heard many stories about the good memories associated with the time of harvest and they are wonderful to hear but I assume there must be the darker memories also? Can I ask what some of the darker aspects of the time of harvest are?

Alphonso: The hardest aspect for me to see at the time of both past and present harvests, is the difference in the workers. You easily differentiate those who have land and the grain and those who do not. Each year at harvest, there are a number of workers who arrive, who travel for the work and support their families by moving around - going where the harvest is in order to labour for a casual employment. It can be hard for them, their children and their partners. They can have very little and sometimes it is made obvious by small things you see, like the condition of the clothes they and their children are wearing. 

:: The last field of the day ::

The last fields we visited for the day were those of the local shepherd. We were met by his son, Claudio Petronio and taken to a couple of 'spots' the last being the image above. This photo was taken with me standing - the stalks were at that height that you see them. Out of all the places I have visited during this residency, this one, will be the one that I revisit most in my memory... The fields were positioned at the base of these huge mountains that surrounded them on three of their four sides. We reached the location at the end of the day - right as the sun was dropping - so the light was changing rapidly - its spectrum shifting from yellows to reds to blues within the timeframe of an hour. The local wildlife was settling in for its evening. Birds and insects alike were preparing for the night. A solitary duo called to each other across the valley in a gentle rhythm, with the pulse of crickets as their backdrop. There was a small wooden shack there - built by hand - out of rough wood, just for shelter. I fought the urge to go inside, drop my bags and remain there indefinitely.

Sheltered by the mountains - you felt calm and satisfied - the world beyond was no longer.........

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interview (Part 1) on The Field Reporter

:: Tessa Elieff in residence @ Pollinaria, 2014. Image by Daniela d'Arielli ::

Part One of an interview conducted by fellow Australian field recordist, Jay-Dea Lopez
now published at the online journal, "The Field Reporter'. 
Read it HERE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day Four at Pollinaria

Thursday 19th June.

Todays tasks to conquer included visiting the small, locally run flour mill - where I will have the opportunity to record the machines and chat (via Daniella's translation) to the owners/operators and - to meet the shepherd who watches over the sheep that roam over the land of Pollinaria. These two elements are some of the most key connections I have (self) discovered during this short stay and I am very lucky that A) The flour mill is active during this week as it not the typical milling time and B) that Gaetano has been able to contact the shepherd and arrange a simpatico of time and place. 

As the focus of this collaboration between Interferenze and Pollinaria is on the two areas of cultivation - Wheat and Honey - I was a little unsure as to why I was so bent on collecting the sounds and speaking with the shepherd… Perhaps I shouldn't be chasing this element? I keep asking myself 'why is it relevant' and 'why do I feel it's so important?' This would be the moment my peripheral vision opens up and the view converts from mono to stereo. After much pondering I reached the conclusion that the shepherd is a quintessential example of the work-traditions of the people of Abruzzo's parents, grand parents great-grand parents etc, being carried on over to the 'NOW'. These practices' profits are not the highest - their purpose is based on the act of participating in life and contributing to the community - not on exploiting all opportunities to make the most amount of cash possible. The rewards from this work are not always monies - sometimes it's trade or barter - for 'favours' like borrowing equipment or lending a helping hand. These trades are more often than not - not an official agreement - just a friendly conversation and subsequent agreement between  neighbours.

The role of the shepherd (as per the wheat farmers and bee keepers in Abruzzo) is - in my opinion - in the middle of transition - from a working role within a community - purely a position to be filled (so-to-speak), to an act not unlike a ritual…… Perhaps not as formal - definitely not as formal but just as revered and with similar complex worth that supersedes a  superficial currency evaluation.. Hmmm .. More thoughts to come on this I'm sure....

The visit to the flour mill was quite an eye opener… Partly owned by the World Wildlife Fund, it is found within the Natural Reserve of Lago di Penne. Sounds terrible doesn't it - a flour mill in a national park… Well it was absolutely beautiful. The 'factory' part of the mill was housed in a small cylindrical building which contained the noise of the machines remarkably well. I experienced no general 'sky drone' you usually associate with factories and the modest size of it meant it was not overbearing in its surroundings. Once again - the purpose of the mill goes well beyond the act of mass production for high profit. All of the produce they handle is organic and comes from the local farmers and cultivators. To begin to understand the people of these regions you really need to look at the efforts they make to sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle both physically and mentally - with themselves, each other and their surrounding environments.

To read more on the WWF's involvement please have a look HERE 

:: The flour mill - exterior::

:: The flour mill - interior ::

I spent about an hour recording the machines. Using contact and general room microphones I captured their various drones and mechanisms… I only wish I had more time…. I was able to exercise one favourite method of mine that rarely gets used. The process involves using microphones to capture the sounds of the machine and its various tones as heard in the room - but all in one take. The simplest way to explain it is to say that you are moving the microphone across/around/within the machines as they function - changing the resonances, tones and frequencies that are captured, live - as you are recording. Shifting the microphones as you hear the tones shift - waving them around and moving them over the body of a motor - composing live in a sense… It's a liberating way to record… Very meditative and instinctual. It encourages you to listen intently to the sounds as they shift through the changing positions of the microphone - and then react automatically, moving the mic to sculpt the recording as per a composition… It's by no means - a method used by 'the professionals' but it's one that demands you to be in tune with exactly - what you are capturing sonically...  An excellent way to hone your skills and explore a microphones capabilities...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day two at Pollinaria

:: Ground floor @ Pollinaria ::

Tuesday 17th June.

With such short time the recording has well and truly begun. The wet weather is a typical hindrance - it seems every country I have visited in the last two years - my recordings have included rain - no matter what time of the year it is. Water is a wonderful sound to record but it would be nice to have the choice - and that is a little harder than usual to master this time round. 

Last night I 'warmed-up' by recording some of the creaking doors of the farmhouse. Ground floor of the building is a fantastic space whose inner architecture is not dissimilar to a miniature representation of le abbey Noirlac and the acoustics leave you with the same sensation of 'other-worldliness'. Natural acoustics and creaks are like treats to me so it was nice to find them here and begin the sound collection with them. This time round I indulged my typical desire to go against the textbook recommendation of recording technique - close mic'ing the door extremely so, with a hyper-cardioid. I am pretty chuffed with the result - a hyper-surreal sensation of listening through a microscope to the point that the original sound - as authentic as it is, is completely unrecognisable and bizarre. Your instinct to identify the sound swings from assurity (Oh yes - that's a door) to sheer doubt and questioning as the sound's envelope progresses (what the hell is that?)

This morning was the dawn chorus with Daniella. We started a little later than usual as the sky was so overcast that even the birds were slow to get started. The nearby valley is an excellent haven for birds and shelter from the noise of nearby roads and I think the best recording will be the very first.

:: Bean recording - contact mics ::
The afternoon was spent in the closest shed where giant bags of black beans used for fertilising the soil, and wheat seed for planting are to be found. Cue, the contact mic's and we had some very textural rolling rumbles created as I moved my hands through the beans. Taking the microphones in hand, I'd plunge them deep into the bags and then pull-back - yoiking them out just as quickly. The timbrel shift linked to the speed of the hands was not unlike a doppler effect and made me think of breathing…

:: Recording Daniela making pasta ::
Night time was spent drinking vino rosso with Gaetano and further discussing the project. After a few glasses, Daniella decides we MUST record the sounds of making pasta, to then be eaten for dinner. Out with the contact mic's again and she goes to work. It is a beautiful thing to see. 'Oh no! I am not a stereotype!', she promises me as she cooks away - her hands moving deftly in movements she seems well practised in. "Not all Italians cook pasta", she promises. I understand, but as a visiting auzzie, I would like to let myself continue imagining that perhaps in some parts of Italy, they do….  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome to Pollinaria

:: Window view, first morning ::
Monday 16th June. Day one @ Pollinaria:

From Birmingham I've headed to Italy, the Abruzzo region, to begin a joint residency at Pollinaria, that will complete at the annual Interferenze festival, Fortore region. The work that I will do over the next two weeks is part of a collaboration between Pollinaria (Gaetano Carboni) and Interferenze (Leandro Pisano), whose focus is on sound as the medium and rural regeneration as the context. I have the privilege of being the first artist invited for the initiation of this joint project and I am truly honoured to do so. My understanding is that this collaboration between the two entities will continue well into the future and aid the cultural, economic and community regeneration of these specific regions in rural Italy.

The first day has been a bit of a blur. I arrived late last night in the dark and had no visual on where I might find myself…. I have come prepared for the beginning of a hot Italian summer but woke - to the sounds of rain and wind. I look out my window to see where I am and find myself surrounded by rolling hills and unbelievably picturesque Italian countryside framed by sheer dark mountains rising in the background. No this is not a dream, this is Pollinaria, a property that supports the working ideal of the 'young' landowners and cultivators such as Gaetano Carboni, to be found in growing numbers,in rural Italy.

During my stay I will be collecting recordings specific to this pocket of the world. As regions whose economy is primarily agricultural they both produce a variety of nourishments for the body. Delights such as olive oil, grapes and fresh fruit and veg all come from these inland mountainous areas. The project I will undertake will focus on two points of simpatico between Fortore and Abruzzo - these are Wheat and Honey.

My morning was spent talking at length with locally born photographer, Daniella D'Arielli. She will be my 'touchstone' (so-to-speak) to the area, helping me understand its community, lifestyle and the ethos behind Pollinaria. She will also make sure I do not get myself into trouble on early morning recording expeditions, keeping me well clear of wild boars and giant wasp looking things that scare the absolute crap out of me!

:: Found in my camera bag during first night of recording ::
Late afternoon comes and we are joined by Gaetano. We discuss the ideas that have been sparked during the morning with Daniella. While I arrived with a clear starting point for my work, after speaking with Daniella I begin to comprehend the broader ideals behind this growing movement of rural regeneration - particularly in relation to working relations with the land and the beasts and bugs to be found there. There is an intrinsic connection between human and nature, to be observed in the work of those who choose to live by the land, in these areas. The key word to this ideal is 'Choose', as in this century, with growing mass consumption and produce, these young 'farmers', have chosen - not only to continue working the land as per their relations before them, but - as importantly - to counteract the notion of mass produce - and return to farming the unique grains and region-specific produce, as per their grandparents…

It is a romantic and powerful ideal. This seems to be the essence of the purpose to the work I will undertake….


This work is made possible by the generous support of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust