Australian Sound Artist

Monday, October 31, 2011

Letter's from Home: Travel Tips

I have made it back to Australia with gathered sounds intact. The oncoming months will be spent piecing together the works I initiated while at Noirlac - I am painfully aware of the fact that I am removed from Noirlac. If I discover I want a particular recording I can no longer walk out the door and into the environment I wish to record. I am separated from the space - and now - have to work in reflection of an experience rather than in the moment itself.

On another note - I wanted to post some general travel tips for other fellow sound artists. Small yet crucial details that I often wondered about and on speaking with others - could never find an answer to.

#1) Travel Insurance 
There was no way I was heading overseas without ensuring my recording gear was well and truly covered. Having spent years working below average jobs to put together my recording arsenal the thought of losing it in a single moment is enough to send me into foetal position. Standard travel insurance will not cover items above say $500 - $700 with the exception of a few specific items such as laptop, camera and phone. I managed to find a company who offered travel insurance for the entertainment industry - specialising in high-end production equipment. Action Insurance Brokers was their name. They weren't cheap by any means but they covered everything and anything I asked for - even making last minute changes over night with no problems at all. I found the most cost effective option was to take standard insurance (such as TID) to cover all my general gear and microphones under $700 (Laptop, camera, phone, leads, mic accessories etc), then all my high end equipment I insured with AIB.

#2) Packing: the eternal search for the perfect bag
Despite my insurance there are certain items I did not want leaving my side. Select microphones and my recording device were heading into the general luggage over my dead body - yet as you know - hand luggage is extremely limited and microphones need to be packed with care. 
Enter - the Crumpler Karachi Outpost. This badboy comes with detachable padded panels that you can pull out and change at will, as well as a laptop bag and side pockets. The image to the right is how the bag is on purchase, shots below are of how I packed my gear.


What you can't see is that under this top layer there was actually another layer of gear again, separated by the padded panels. Space was not a problem.... Weight however, was a concern. Return flight entailed frantically pulling items out of my hand luggage and shoving them into my general bag to appease an over zealous flight centre employee. Another plus is the fact that this bag only has one main zip for entry. This is positioned at the back of the bag, making it impossible for someone to access it when it's on your back. Team this with the fact that it's weather resistant, comfortable even at over 10kg and folds opens frontside down providing you with a portable work station and I was sold. Again, it was not cheap but seeing as my last bag managed to 'live' for 7 years - I think it's well worth it.

#3) Seeing the Countryside of France
:: Bike with boompole ::
- Can't say this would be viable for the wetter months of Europe but during the sunny season - highly reccommend it - particularly if you plan on heading to areas where a car cannot go (forests, private land). Bikes are a lot easier to hide under scrub and life over fences. They also allow you to listen to your environment as you travel whilst not polluting it with your own car engine. Nature is not frightened away and the locals are more lightly to greet you as you go sailing by. Team the above with my lantern, backpack carrying recording equipment and windjammer and I was prepared for anything, anywhere, anytime.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ENSA - Bourges School of Art

:: Work space in Bourges ::

I have been lucky enough to be offered a work space in the town of Bourges (closest 'Large' city near le abbaye Noirlac). The unexpected offer came after meeting with Stèphane Dorè, Director of ENSA: Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Art de Bourges, and discussing the studies and mediums that the school offers it's students - in particular - it's sound department. I was excited by their interest in sound. The school has a detailed history dating back to the first resident artisans in Bourges, (the buildings alone are from the 17th Century) and is continuing it's strength of education within the arts into the present and future with a focus on practices such as sound, radio and new media arts. I noted that the sound department alone is growing annually with the number of increasing student work studios providing an obvious indicator. 

One room that made me smile was the, 'Listening Room', A modest space with a few worn chairs scattered around on carpeted floor. Speakers were in stereo and the room seemed a little more acoustically isolated. Stèphane explained to me that this room was where once a week, a lecturer would play sounds, students would listen and then the sounds would be discussed. These sounds could be anything - from what we would call music - to musique concrete - to soundscape - to field recordings - to muzak. No student is required to attend, it is purely there for their own enjoyment. It reminded me of my own earlier study days where my tutors exercised the same teaching methods (but we had to attend). I remember that some of those discussion sessions became incredibly intimate. I would say a number of us bared our soul just a little in those sterile classrooms under the protective blanket of sounds. I am still in awe of how sound can affect us without us even consciously recognising. I miss talking about it. 

It is a welcome change to work from Bourges, away from le abbaye Noirlac. I was nervous about leaving the site so close to my day of departure - think I experienced a mild separation anxiety. I quickly realised that distance is helping me to detach from the space and commence the post recording work with fewer distractive thoughts nevertheless, I am looking forward to getting back tomorrow and fine tuning my rough drafts.

If only I had a few more days in Bourges.... 
and a few more in Noirlac.... 
then a few more to say goodbye....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bringing it together....

:: 1st Surround recording in le abbaye Noirlac ::
This weekend is the only opportunity I have within the remaining time, to gather surround recordings at le abbaye Noirlac. Last night was my first attempt and tonight will be my last. I actually enjoy the fact that time is so limited as it means my work methods, ideas and process's have no room for 'whatif's' and 'maybe's'. I am working with what I feel are my absolutes and am not questioning my instincts. 

The planning and development of the concept behind this work has been the hardest process to rush (how can you rush thought, reflection, conscious and unconscious realisation?) The trick for myself has been to not think too much rather just do and then reflect on the creation or sound gathering afterwards (making the unconscious conscious).

Using these methods the final work I hope to present to Paul Fournier, Geneviève Hollemaert and Fabienne Taranne will consist of two installations that portray the world as viewed from within Noirlac. Both pieces will be site specific with the sounds mixed specifically for the selected spaces and utilizing systems that have been configured accordingly.  The first space would be the Refectory (where I have been working) and the second, would be the Cloister - a garden at the centre of the abbey.

Thoughts and discoveries that have led me to these developments include the realisation that both the abbey and the township of Bruere Allichamps exist and have existed in the past in their own pleasant individual worlds. The two are obviously connected (the abbey is actually within Bruere Allichamps boundaries) and yet they remain as two very separate entities living peacefully side by side in comfortable silence.

When I then look at the life that the monks of the abbey use to live, it too was one contained within a bubble. In keeping with their Cistercian beliefs, the monks were not allowed to leave the abbey's boundaries and despite their surroundings of dense wilderness - well worth an adventure - they remained within the confines each and everyday and night. And so - on this thought, I decided that the work that entailed bringing the 'Outside' within the walls of Noirlac, should also include the opposite - bringing the sounds of Noirlac to the 'Outside' (hence, two installations).

The first installation would be the 'Outside In' (sounds of the outside such as bird calls, wind, markets etc) to be installed within the abbey, in the refectory. The second would be  the 'In Within' (sounds from within the abbey Noirlac) to be installed still within the abbey, but, at it's Cloister (centre garden). I like the idea that inverting these sounds is creating a breathing space for each world, within it's opposite other - allowing their presence to be felt where it has been forbidden in the past.

To be cont'd

The Sounds of le abbaye Noirlac are available for you

- nearly forgot to mention

All my recordings that I have completed are available for you to download, listen to and comment on. 

You can access them HERE on the Freesound website.

Any comments would be most appreciated and please feel free to use the sounds for your own work providing you credit me where appropriate.


:: Recording Crickets along the Cher River between le abbaye Noirlac and Bruere Allichamps ::