Australian Sound Artist

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Discovering Bruere Allichamps and workingworkingworking (9 days left)

:: One of the characterful houses of Bruere Allichamps ::
I've fallen in love with the houses of Bruere Allichamps. The above, is one of my favourites to date but there are so many more...... Majority (perhaps even all?) of the buildings within the town are of the same age. Some have been restored and/or maintained in their authenticity whereas others (like the one above) are yet to be tended to. The day I stumbled across this home the washing had just been done and an old radio was playing music not unlike Edith Piaf. From the street I could faintly hear a voice joining in for the chorus - was a little overcome with how perfect the world was then and there.

Fences and towering walls down alleyways bend and curve in towards you then out again seemingly defying physics and architecture by remaining standing and strong. Lamp posts are exactly that, and on route to the local bakery in the morning (two blocks) you will pass a number grandpa like figures in their day to day cap and well-worn shirt with a baguette or bannette under their arm. 

Sunday past was a great day. The town shutdown it's side roads and opened up as one big flea market (with a few food and carny stalls scattered around). I managed to gather a few sound recordings and was interested at peoples response. Some were understandably wary of me and would ask what I was doing. It was actually a perfect way to start conversations with others without feeling like you are imposing on their day. I had no negative response - most were happy to hear of my interest in the town and what I hope to use the sounds for. 

Night times are spent within the walls of le abbaye Noirlac. Light's are shut down at night so I bring in my own lantern and wander around in the dark a lot. The atmosphere is quite charged to say the least with bats keeping me company and following me as I move room to room. At this stage I have just begun introducing the field recordings to the refectory and listening. I plan to start tailoring the speaker configuration tonight to create a site specific system as well as begin working compositionally.

There is so little time.....

  :: Night time work in le abbaye Noirlac :: 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Finding sounds and space

  :: Temporary sound studio at Noirlac ::

I have never had a studio quite like this to work in.... The space which has been assigned to me is the refectory - the sound in this space is quite unique in that the arched ceiling in twice the height of usual cistercian architecture. In the past, it was used for communal meals (in silence) and now, for a brief period I am able to work within it's bubble (not so silent). The space is incredibly live. One word echoes, bounces, reverberates and delays - to the point that I am reconsidering how I will work with such acoustics. At this stage I have six speakers setup in a standard circular configuration. The pillars are an obvious distraction but not a large problem sonically. Because of the nature of the space I am more inspired to place speakers unconventionally. Sounds move with a mind of their own within the refectory and I would like to explore this moreso than the perfect 360˚ representation.

The struggles I have been having finding outdoor sonic environments less prone to traffic and machine noise have not abated (please see image + details below), leading me to the proposition of recording moreso within the abbey and yet - I was working with the intent of bringing the outside within it's walls, allowing those sounds to become part of it's immersive environment. In contrast, if I now record the sounds of the abbey and re-release them into their original environment to react with the space yet again, I will be causing a type of feedback loop - folding the room in on itself (as well as initiating the first step of Alvin Luciers piece, 'Sitting in A Room'). This would greatly change the intent of my work........

decisions, decisions, decisions.........

 :: Recording alonside the Cher in the morning in Bruere Allichamps::

I have managed to somewhat decipher the numerous industrial sounds that surround Noirlac.

#1 is the obvious - Traffic. Noirlac is beside a freeway
#2 is the trainline. This carries remarkably far - right into the forrest.
#3 would be the local porcelain factory that emits a general humm not unlike a large airconditioner
#4 Is the hors d'oeuvre factory (i'm pretty sure that's what it is) next to the porcelain factory. This too emits it's own constant drone 
#5 Lucky last would be the planes that pass overhead - it appears we are relatively close to a flight path.

The biggest struggle is that the underlying drone the permeates the air does not stop. It carries on through the night into the morning. At times it is louder but it will never cease. The field recordings I have gathered so far have this drone but can used if they are not at a loud volume, and with some severe filtering. I was imagining gathering pristine outdoor recordings but this will not be the case. Within the walls of Noirlac however, the drone is somewhat held at bay...
I hope to start uploading sounds to Freesound soon  and am a little worried about how they will be received - never the less - the show must go on...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hunting for 'The Quiet'

I will never cease to be amazed by just how far traffic sounds can carry. You may walk for hours - direction - away from the roads and engines only to find that the sound is infact somewhat amplified by terrain that has unravelled between yourself and the offending noise. Yesterday I began the search for those perfect recording spots. My instinct was to head into the nearby forestry that is an arms throw away from Noirlac. What I found (as many other field recordists have discovered before me) was that the deeper I went into the woods, the more the sounds of the traffic seemed to resonate in the air. While it's detail may have been lost, it's thrumm became more prominent, destroying the fragile sonic ecosystem nature had already provided. 


I will be using tried and true (ish) methods such as high pass filters, recording extremely early in the morning/through the night as well as continuing to hunt for a sheltered area. This morning I managed to gather some birdcalls by the Cher River. There was undoubtedly traffic noise present but I am wondering if I am able to work with them regardless. The last minute pinch to purchase a DPA 4017 shotgun mic definitely helped to no end. It's hyper cardioid capsule blocking out excess side and rear drone but also the beautiful reverb and echo moving up and down the river, I don't think the recordings would have been even possibly useful otherwise.

Seeing the countryside by bike and on foot has helped pick up on sound environments that I would miss from the enclosure of a car. I also notice pretty quickly if the humm of traffic dissipates. The downside to this is the fact that finding these 'safe' areas will take time. I had expected to be well on my way with sounds by this point in my residency and am feeling the pressure of falling behind....

The plus side is that I have the perfect excuse to discover critters such as wild deer, giant orange sluggs and thoroughly acquaint myself with French countryside! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who is le abbaye Noirlac?

:: The work of Zur at le abbaye Noirlac ::

The past days have been spent acquainting myself with the abbey, it's surroundings and fellow Inhabit International residency artist Tara Gilbee. It is interesting entering a space that you have been fixating on for the past months - like meeting a character from a book. I was taken aback to find that I had already become attached to Noirlac and on experiencing it's delicate nature firsthand - was embarrassed by the flood of emotions that en slewed. 

If anything I was expecting to be disappointed after building up such expectations in my mind and on first sighting - I was. As we drove alongside the abbey, glancing out the car window my first thought was, 'Small?' Where are the towering watchtowers and grand arches I had assumed would astound me? Where is the size and sheer magnitude I have come to expect from 12th century cathedrals?'

And so I entered the abbey and began to realise why Noirlac is an experience in itself.

"It is small from the outside but large from the inside"
Paul Fournier: Noirlac director

If the abbey were a sound it would be an untouched field recording - one that is understated in it's nature yet so perfect that it need not be processed. The architecture makes use of the natural light. Windows are found where the best days sun passes through, walls and ceilings are neutral to the eye and invite the observer to feel a peace attached to their simplicity and the sounds!

On arrival the artist group Zur were presenting their research of Noirlac on a daily basis and we were lucky enough to catch to catch one of their performances. It was an exceptional introduction to Noirlac and one that acted as a major catalyst in my understanding of the space. Throught the sensory explorations of Zur, le abbaye Noirlac presents itself as an unanswered intrigue - one that stimulates pleasure for the observer via the curiosity that it evokes.

The beauty in it's space is uncomplicated

Light :: Air :: Sound :: Space :: Time :: Observation

Zur use these elements to create their own reiteration of Noirlac and I hope that through my work, with the use of my own choice of mediums and elements, I will be able to do the same.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bonjour Paris

I arrived in Paris a few days ago and have been trying to cram in as much of the city's priceless culture and the arts as possible (within three days). My backpackers is a half hour walking distance from the louvre and say an hour from centre Paris so I'm travelling on foot - the best way to begin learning about a city! 

You will find me quietly watching foot traffic from a laneway cafe, or standing on a street corner with my small map in hand figuring out my next move. The city itself - it's infrastructure, buildings, developed lifestyles is nothing like what we are have in Australia. The general height of buildings is greater - often creating the feeling of narrower roads and meandering labyrinth's. 
Their use of height gives me a feeling of more space. It opens up the world around me. The signs of life positioned high in the sky (trees on balconies, overgrown vines and flower pots, beautiful ornate outdoor parisian chairs) creates a feeling of being surrounded by humanity as opposed to the stark walls of Melbourne's inner city high rises. The French seemed to have mastered the art of combining hectic inner city living without compromising the joys of everyday pleasures.

Just because there are limitations - does not mean that it must be stripped of the signs of humanity and of life's small luxuries.

Other points of interest include: The butter patties are MUCH bigger, French women really are thin and beautiful (generally speaking), junk and cheap inner city antiquities are relatively common, 'Sound Artist' is not a term that leads to confusion - it is common knowledge and taken with all due seriousness.

Je'aime Paris