Australian Sound Artist

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

L'Espace du son 2013

:: Annette Vande Gorne at the Acousmonium's master desk. L'Espace du son 2013 ::
From Thursday 21st November to Sunday the 24th I attended the 20th acousmatic festival, L'Espace du son. Founded by composer Annette Vande Gorne, this event was my last stop on the work and travel funded by the Australian Council's Artstart grant. Having spent the previous three weeks focussing on field recording (including a week intensive with Chris Watson), I was incredibly eager to switch focus from the art of recording, to expressing the sounds via acousmatic diffusion. These two passions are the primary skills that I utilise in my work. They follow on - one from the other - with the designated leader in a constant state of switch. 

As an english (only) speaking, unknown artist from (far-away) Australia, I was a little anxious as to how my presence would be received at such an event. Attendees, performers and organises of this occasion include the founders of the acousmonium themselves. The calibre of work within this community is the highest to be found on the international stage and on first night of performance, I must confess it was hard to shake the feeling that I was crashing a private party. I took comfort in the fact that a quick glance around the room revealed a number of solitary individuals sitting alone, tasting their red wine, reading their program and generally observing the community with the same wide eyed look as my own. 

Despite my lack of language skills, the striking of a large gong provided me with an internationally recognised sign that now was the time to enter the theatre. Artists who presented work at this years festival included John Young, Flo Menezes, Åke Parmerud and Yves Daoust. Over a course of four evenings, attendees were privy to the world of the acousmonium and the sonic delights that reside there. My social nerves were quickly allayed by the communities friendly nature and obvious interests in connecting with artists world wide to share the mutual passion - the acousmonium.

:: Francois Bayle and Tessa Elieff, 2013 ::

The festival itself was excellent. This community of the acousmonium was one of the most accomplished, intimate and welcoming that I have experienced to date and it is hard to write about this without feeling a little sad for the absence of their company. One particular individual is Jean-François Denis. As I sit in all my awkward social glory on the first day of the conference, I am joined by a long limbed fellow whose mischievous demeanour manages to overwhelm even my most coolest reception. We sit side by side - packed into the rows of wooden chairs - unable to escape from each others company and both seeming unwanting to do so.

Me: Do you compose?
Jean-François: I did but not for some years now
Me: Do you miss it?
Jean-François: No - well - I run a label you see - that focuses on acousmatic works so I am still very much, working with my passion
Me: Do you mind if I ask what the label is?
Jean-François: No, I do not mind........ (grin)


Me: ..... Would you tell me what it is?
Jean-François: Yes - I would tell you....... (grin)


Me: Well then - what is it's name?
Jean-François: The label is empreintes DIGITALes

Cue - Tessa (does not) chokes on her pen

Me: I can see why you do not miss composing!

My years of undergraduate studies in sound was spent trawling through compositions as to be discovered on this wonderfully curated and as-yet unknown label, empreintes DIGITALes. As a source of inspiration and a guidance point for developing my own work - I have often looked to the material of artists released on this label - wondering just who the higher beings were that collected such fantastical sounds..... Now I know - it is/was this intriguing and friendly character sitting next to me - enquiring after my own work. 

On return to Australia I am still digesting the experiences and piecing together my next developments. Whilst I would love to dive straight into the sounds I collected during my time away - for a new release in 2014 - I find myself holding back and pondering a longer term plan.... 

To be continued......

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

North East England: Sonic Postcard NEE02

:: NEE02 - Barter Books, the old Alnwick train station 4th November 2013. General shop ambience and Moozak with the train set running above and over the book shelves ::


Recording Technical Specifications:
Recording device: Sound Devices 788T
Microphone: DPA 4060 (stereo pair)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Melbourne Now: 'Now Hear this' @ NGV

Curated by Thembi Soddell of the Australian experimental music label, 'Cajid Media', the electroacoustic program of 'Now Hear This' as part of the 'Melbourne Now' exhibition includes works by the artists:

Natasha Anderson            Nat Bates

Samuel Dunscombe        Tattered Kaylor

Jessica Pinney        Lizzie Pogson

Kristian Roberts        Thembi Soddell

Jacques Soddell        Polly Stanton

The exhibition's opening night is tonight - Friday November 22nd, and the exhibition will be running from November 22nd 2013 until March 23rd 2014, at the National Gallery of Victoria

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parting is such sweet sorrow....

:: Lindisfarne ::

It's always hard to leave a place that you have been getting to know via a two or three week intensive listening and recording experience. I leave Alnwick tomorrow morning and already I'm taunted by all the sounds that slipped through my net. Not - to - fear, I did manage to collect a few gems, one of the last being a recording from the local clock repairer's store. Some of these sounds will become Sonic Postcards in the days to follow and I look forward to sharing them on this blog and on Freesound. From here I travel to London for a couple of days and then to Belgium by train. I'm very excited at the thought of the train journey. I have never been to Belgium before, nor caught a train to another country (Australia is a continent remember!) so will be a little like a kid in a candy store once the experience begins. I'll keep my recording gear handy just incase.... In Brussels I will be attending the L 'Espace du son, the 20th international acousmatic festival and I must say, I (again) am pretty positively wired about the planned experience. Hopefully by attending the festival I will become enlightened to more techniques and skills in sonic diffusion using methods of the acousmonium - which - I hope to use with the sounds I have gathered under the guidance of Chris Watson and in my solo work during this trip.

:: Chris Watson and Dunstanburgh Castle ::
The focussed work I undertook with Chris was a privilege that not only taught me about recording technique and method, but  also inadvertently about himself. His generosity extended beyond knowledge, to an honest point of care and love in the work that he does - recording the sounds of our world. His humble stance on what he has done and is still doing, provided me with an affirmation in my own work and a comfort in the knowledge that my own passion for sound alone - is an invaluable reason to continue (against the odds of finance, travel, time, health etc. etc. etc.) Many thanks (again) to Chris for the sharing of his expertise. The passing on of this knowledge, from accomplished artist to emerging is indeed a noble gesture that can be hard to find.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. 

North East England: Sonic Postcard NEE01

:: NEE01 - Boulmer Stones 11th November 2013. Tide is rising. I am standing on volcanic stones while the waves come in and wash around me ::



*Please note: On streaming the sound there is noticeable dithering and high frequency artefacts. On downloading the sound itself, these artefacts should not be present.

Recording Technical Specifications:
Recording device: Sound Devices 788T
Microphone: DPA 4060 (stereo pair)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winter Sounds of North East England

:: Recording site. North East Coastline, England ::

Recording England's wildlife in Winter is quite a challenge - particularly if wildlife is not your speciality. Unlike Australia (that seems to house a constant crowd of critters all year round), come Winter time in England a number of birds disappear. Along with the Winter closure of buildings whose acoustics I'd hoped to capture, these have been the two biggest hurdles that have arisen throughout this trip. On a positive note, what these unexpected 'exclusions' have given me is a shift of gaze from the obvious splendour of local historic castles and as-yet unheard (to me) birdcall - to the turning cogs in the local community that keep it ticking along year-in and year-out. I mentioned in an earlier post - the blessing-in-disguise of missing the tourism trade times and I think I am still only just beginning to appreciate the impact this will have on my work (with only four days to go....). 

Before I leave I hope to capture the sounds of the local trade. Its butchers it's bakers, its clock makers - those who have lived and worked in this part of the world their whole lives. After chatting to a number of local tradespeople I have found that they are often 3rd or 4th generation in a family business local to the area. It's quite touching to come to this gentle realisation - with each (sometimes a bit awkward) conversation that I have. These families are a part of the past, present and future of these towns. Their names may be found on a street name as they have become inexplicably interwoven into the history of their place of living. Quite a realisation to someone who has lived in four states in the past seven years (ish?) and countless houses... 

In contrast to the sound of industry I am also gathering the sounds of the beautifully wild and wooly nature that sustains the local communities. Crashing waves, churning waters and howling winds are all a part of the soundscape. Today I went recording near Craster, at the old Bathing House on the coastline. I had looked at images of the area but didn't have much of an idea about what to expect - except that the abundant nesting community of birds would not be present (Winter!). What I discovered was beautifully sculpted volcanic stones that have been carved over thousands of years - by the waves of the ocean. Their shapes looked mechanical, artificial and completely organic - all at once. Trying not to slip I managed to clamber on top of a raised ledge and hang my microphones down into carved pools and blow holes as the tide rose. I saw only one person today - an old man who smiled at me but would not speak as we passed each other. It was a beautiful day - with sounds so perfect that even this stranger would not unsettle it with his voice... 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 5. Rock pools and hail of Embleton Bay

:: Embleton Bay ::
Sat 1st Nov. The last day of work with Chris was spent heading along Embleton Bay with the idea being to arrive at Dunstanburgh Castle. Unfortunately we only made it to the foot of the cliff walls - as the castle's grounds begin. The wind, rain and hail had become constant enough as to push us to retreat. I actually revelled in the subtle attack of the elements and if the dark hadn't been approaching (so quickly in the UK!) then I would have happily continued with the hike. I gathered some astonishing sounds of the waves crashing on the shore using Chris's DPA 8011's and attempted to gather the more dynamic sounds from the rock pools but with less success. It seems that the Sound Devices 788T model has a fatal flaw in the the limiters are not available when recording at 96k. This ultimately meant I could not record sounds from the rock pools as their quiets are too quiet and their louds are pure distortion without a limiter. It's worth mentioning that this is the first - ever - downfall that I have found from this model.

:: Recording @ Embleton Bay ::
To record the general sounds I used my old trusty Rode NT4 (stereo). Again, I was disappointed in that there was bad distortion on one channel. What I assumed was wind noise (as you can see - I did not have with me adequate wind jamming gear....) was actually a noise flaw that disappeared once I powered the microphone from the SD's phantom power AND switched the 'ON' switch to 'OFF'. I've never had this problem before and I can say that I won't be making it again but what a frustrating way to learn these beginner errors....... Safe to say - I will be heading back to the Bay and will aim for windy and wild weather when I do so. Night is falling faster and faster so I will be trying to cram my recording sessions in when the light is still present. I'm already dreading the day of 'leaving'. There's so much to record.

The last couple of weeks I will be working on my own and capturing what I can of sounds from the area. It's a strange time to be in Alnwick, the first week of the castle and some surrounding tourist attractions closing down for Winter. In a sense - you could think that I've 'missed it', that I am too late, or, you could think that my timing is perfect, to capture the personal sound signature's specific to this area, devoid of the tourist crowds.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 4. Good work habits for the field recordist

:: Home-made windshield ::
Friday 31st Oct. 
I enjoy recording sounds as an artist (no surprises there). By undertaking this work as purely a creative luxury and keeping my, 'day job', I allow myself the choice of when and where I record - to satisfy my own ego and intentions. The downfalls in working in such a manner includes the fact that if you have no one to please but yourself you may feel there is no need to set work practice to any uniform standard. As you will be the only individual working with the material - only you need to know facts, figures, dates, tech specs and you've got all that in your head anyway so no need to formally record it right...? 

Well I know this is not the case - I'm merely playing devils advocate to illustrate just how poor my own work methods can be in regards to recording crucial information and maintaining professional work standards. All of those bad habits are in the past

As      Of      Now

Chris: What do you record at? 
Me: 24/48
Chris: You don't record at 96?
Me: No - you can't hear the difference anyway
Chris: Maybe but why wouldn't you? You have enough disc space and when you consider just how fast technology is developing - the sound standard is only increasing. In future we may very well have 96k as our broadcast standard.
Me: .....
Chris: Do you indent at all?
Me: Oh.. ahh... I try to but I generally forget
Chris: You should always indent at the start of each recording. Say your name, the place, your equipment, the date and any other information you would like to add. Do you know 'Wave Agent'?
Me: ....... head shake
Chris: You should have a look at it. It embeds the required metadata into your files and it's free. You can put all your indent information in there and your sounds are ready to be archived. No information is lost. Have you timecoded your Sound Devices?
Me: Yep
Chris: Let's have a look. Furrowed brow, changing of settings
Me: Silently realise that it's still set to time-in-Australia not, time-in-UK. Cringe.
Chris: You must timecode for every place you visit.
Me: nodnodnod

- and so we continue like this for the rest of the morning. It was a bit of a wakeup call in regards to my lazy habits. When I was working as an AV tech I (like to think I) was thorough with the systems I implemented and installed for others, logic has it that I should at least do the same for myself. 

Other tips and tricks Chris enlightened me to include the making of his own windshields (see image above). I have seen this done before but not with speaker fabric (Tygan), for the exterior. This allows the sounds to pass through to the microphone with less frequency filtering. With a simple thread-through and loop of a rubber band you have basic suspension for your microphone and a lightweight shield that won't break the bank or leave you teary eyed if it gets damaged in rough terrain which, as a top paid professional - you mightn't want to use it on set but as a penny-pinching artist.... it's ideal.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 3. Sounds from the past cont'd - Brinkburn Priory and Holystone

:: Stunned Gold Crest at Brinkburn Priory ::
Thursday morning (30th) I was bitten by the recording bug - namely - the one that reminds you of just how fleeting your time is - in the area of the world you wish to record. I approach Chris in the morning and request we break our plans to spend the day in-studio - to hit the road and continue gathering sounds (along with lessons in history). Chris is out the door before I am.

"Great! Weather's good, let's go!"

I grab my pack and run to catch-up. No time to check I have everything - it's dark by 5 and daylight hours are burning. 

The first stop is at Brinkburn Priory. Luck is with us as we happen to be visiting on the last day before they close for Winter. Again - the weather is windy and a tad gloomy - perfect in that it keeps crowds of visitors away and creates a feeling of privacy and even intimacy between yourself and the environment. First recording is the wind amongst the Birch trees  - the most detailed yet. They quietly crack and whisper amongst themselves. En masse, they're louder than most to the point that I don't hear Chris when he calls for me to, 'come see!' The Priory's warden is standing at the bottom of the drive, holding a tiny bird in her hand. She's looking at it and it's looking straight back at her fearlessly - eye to eye. The bird was a, Gold Crest', the smallest bird in the UK and this little guy had flown into her reception window. She'd found him/her lying on the ground stunned - but alive. No wings were broken and after a few minutes - whereby he/she graced us with an impromptu photo shoot - he/she takes off into the trees. 

Chris points out the acoustics of the church - beautifully alive they enhance the qualities of sounds. I think of Noirlac - and ponder the question Chris poses, 'At such a time, when technology was so basic, how did they manage to design such buildings - that use highly sophisticated architecture to enhance the sounds through acoustics?' 

Good question..... No idea...... Wish I knew......

:: Trees at 'Lady's Well' ::
From Brinkburn we head North West - to Holystone and its, 'Lady's Well.' The journey from one to the other is filled with historical tales about the area - which like Lindefarne - has a lengthy and detailed past. From what I have read and what I have heard - there is a strong belief that the well was originally a pagan site and adopted by the Christian religion at a certain point in its history. On visiting the well there is an undeniable sense of 'communing with nature' that I don't associate with Christianity. The surrounding fir trees stand as pillars in a cathedral and silently command your reverence. While there are stone idols present, they were added in later centuries and consist of only two. The well as it originated - without these figures - would hold an as-sacred impression - one (even more) intrinsically connected to the nature as found there. 

I place a hydrophone pair into the well and an MS pair above ground at the head of the space, between two of the tree columns. Simultaneously they capture the world above and the world below the well's surface. Darkness falls quickly while we are there as does the volume of my voice. As I exit through the gate I am near whispering and find it hard to pull myself away. Who knows what occurs in such a space under the faceless guise of night.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 2. The wind and the tide of Lindisfarne.

:: Walking path for the Monks to come and go from the island - marked by tall poles ::
Lindisfarne is a pretty interesting community (an understatement!). It has a recorded history dating back to the 6th century that includes tales of Viking attacks and nothing less than the birth of Christianity. Personally - what I find so intriguing about its nature is the fact that at certain times of the day, when the tide rises, the island is cut-off from the rest of civilisation. To live on the island is to live by the tide and in a rhythm with the elements you have no control over. People have done-so for well over a thousand years and I am sure they will continue to do-so in the years to come. 

The day of my visit (Wed 30th Oct) was windy and overcast - well suited to imagining the past lives that have sustained such a setting. We walked along the coastline - around the island and found one particularly striking place at which to record. 

:: Recording at Lindisfarne ::

The howl of the wind was the most voice-like I have ever heard. The halyards of the nearby boats banged against their masts - sounds ricocheted off the wall to my left. Chris's ears were noticeably quick at picking the spots where sounds were sweetest. Sometimes he would silently point and I would know where to move to listen. At times the wind would be too strong and we would stand to block its full gale, allowing the microphones a chance to absorb the sounds before wind distortion. 

In the late afternoon we headed to a hide that we had scouted earlier in the day. It was close-by, on the coastline and one that Chris had not recorded at before. While it was still light we positioned our microphones and ran the cable back to the hide. By nightfall - as the tide was moving in, so too was the bird wildlife and we began the recording. Over at least an hour, I listened as the sea crept closer and the bird's chatters grew louder. It is not a process you can rush - like the people of Lindisfarne -  we were also living by the tide - at the beck and call of it's own internal clock - a spectator to it as it passed us by. In the distance I could hear the trains passing through each half hour as per their timetable, adding to the pulse of the environment. As the darkness fell so too did the general humm of daily noise. The nocturnal cycle of sounds rose together as an unseen orchestra, hiding in the dark beyond the hide. We sat in a small circle of dim light - only able to listen and imagine what this world entails.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 1. Open your ears, begin again: Recording under the expertise of Chris Watson

After over a year of planning I have finally begun the recording intensive in North East England under instruction from field recordist Chris Watson. My day of travel from London to the coastline was quite an ordeal. Nature decided to make it interesting by throwing a savage storm across my path. Sitting on a unmoving train for over 8 hours with a handful of strangers - while mild panic ensued and the discontent amassed - provided me with a somewhat surreal experience existing somewhere between 'Breakfast Club' and 'World War Z'. At midday, I did a run for supplies, leaving the quiet safety of our cabin to head into the growing mass of desperate bodies trying to leave the city.

I slipped through their numbers to quickly grab what I needed and headed back to the 'Safe zone'. On return I continued conversation with other strangers. Under the pressure of time they unfolded and told me of their relationships with family, friends, partners - more than once I heard the phrase, 'But I can't really talk about it with them.' I'd ask them why they could talk about it with me and generally, they would shrug. I became a confessional for the troubled individuals whose worrying thoughts had risen to the surface in this time of relentless waiting.
Very surreal...

Tuesday morning (29th) the work begins. I arrive at the Watson residence to find that the unconditional infatuation from their border collie (Jessie) has not waned overnight. While I know I'm not the only one (her attention is lavished on any lucky soul that walks through the front door), it does make me feel somewhat special and warrants interrupting my morning cup of tea discussion with Chris for a quick return of affection. We spend the morning pondering over maps of the areas Chris would like to visit for recordings. Each point on the map brings with it a tale of history - of its past and present inhabitants - of clans and cultures - of beasts and birds all who are connected to this physical origin. By the time the car is packed and we begin our way I am aware that tutoring has well begun.

Today we visit one of Chris's 'favourite places to record'. Heading North West we arrive at a small resting place within Kielder Forest. Visually, it is notably modest but the collections of sounds to be sourced here are diverse and like candy for the ear. An active stream borders the edge of the area, which is filled with both native and introduced trees, (pine and broad leaves, respectively). The wind has many different voices - each tuned by the leaves and trunks it wraps itself around. The coniferous trees - with their thin needled leaves create a constant steady hiss - not unlike white noise. The native Oak and Birch trees crackle in the force of the wind, their broader leaves clapping together like hands to near breaking point. 

I drop the two different hydrophones I have with me into the stream at various points. First I try deeper waters - where the current is strong moving but not so rough. The lower frequencies are more present and the general richness of the audio is a pleasure in itself. In comparison - the shallow stream appears to also shallow the frequencies of the sounds. Their lows disappear and the mid/highs become rougher and less enjoyable. Chris talks to me as I am monitoring and I jump at the direct sound of his voice. He reminds me that sounds travels faster in water than air. What I am hearing is his voice through the stream and it's immediacy is so noticeable that I feel I am hearing his voice microsecond's before his mouth forms the words.

:: Hydrophone recording. Kielder Forest ::
We pack up and leave just before dark. We must head to a nearby clearing and position our microphones for the night - running 100m cable back to the vehicle in wait for the nocturnal nightlife whose sounds we hope to capture. Time is of the essence. The setup (once positioned) must be left for at least a couple of hours before we begin recording, so as to allow the environment to settle again after our disruption. So little time, so much life and obsession to record it....

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Framework:seasonal ::: Autumn 2013


"The framework:seasonal series of fund-raising audio releases continues with issue #6, another superb compilation of previously unreleased sounds by artists working in the field recording community. this selection features new names as well as several you’ve certainly heard before, all of whom are new to framework editions‘ release series. petra kapš (OR poiesis), kim walker, mathieu ruhlmann, sawako, david velez, éric la casa, tessa elieff (tattered kaylor), chris whitehead, and artificial memory trace."

View complete track details HERE

The rather talented Patrick McGinley (AKA Framework Radio) has just released the 2013, Autumn edition (issue #6) for your listening pleasure. In the selection of sounds you will find my own composition, 'Booroomba to Borough', composed exclusively for Framework. For more details on the work please have a read of the track details. Copies of the release can be purchased via a €20 donation to the cause - and what a cause it is! 



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sombre nay Sated: Review in De:Bug issue #176

'Sombre nay Sated', has a review in De:Bug #176. Translation in english below................

"Tessa Elieff's ambisonic work, her interests in sound and effects of perception of specific spaces and rooms of resonance have led her to travel half the world in the last couple of years, notwithstanding Austria, where her debut album has finally been released on the Moozak label.  Her music, with its multi-layered dimensionality of diffusion and (re)editing (processing) always runs the risk of having these elements reduced when released on a CD. This is sometimes the case in this almost half-hour collection of three commission works. The shadow-like granular waves composed for the Melbourne event, 'Akousmatikoi' (with Jacques Soddell) one suspects only finds completion in its radiant emittance at the very location. Engaging, involving and immersive however, are the two following pieces for the ORF Kunstradio, both using the recordings of sound installations of Austrian artists Uli Kuehn and Andreas Trobollowitsch.
The mysterious and threatening low rumblings and buzzing hums are made alive through very engaged field recording processes and especially the sounds of weather and insects in, 'Taken to Booroomba' lets one eagerly await the planned collaboration work with Chris Watson." 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Article on the British Libraries Sound and Vision blog

Recently I was approached by Cheryl Tipp - Curator of Natural Sounds at the British Library, and asked to write a blog entry for her series on guest field recordists and sound artists. I was very flattered to contribute and must say - it was a little confronting writing about my work in a rather candid way. I didn't expect to be quite so open but Cheryl has a knack of making you feel comfortable enough to do so.

The article titled, 'Tessa Elieff: Witness, documentarian and provocateur.' can be read HERE

I highly recommend having a read of the other contributing artists - such as John Kannenberg's unique twist with his works of sound recordings within museum's and Simon Elliot's life work on recording (and not disrupting) the voice of the wildlife. 

Lovely weekend reading and a way to escape for a little....

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tattered Kaylor mix on The Field Reporter

I am very happy to have completed a 2013 mix of the Field Recordings I collected during the In-Habit Residency 2011, for David Valez's, 'The Field Reporter'. These sounds include a previously unreleased (in any capacity) recording of buskers at an annual festival in the small township of Bruere Allichamps.
Find more details about the sounds, have a listen and download the mix HERE
Many Thanks to Cheryl Tipp for inviting me to such an opportunity.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Sombre nay Sated: 'A Closer Listen' review

Fellow drone and field recording lover, Richard Allen reviews, 'Sombre nay Sated', for 
Have a read of Richard's complete thoughts HERE.

"When listening to Tattered Kaylor, we're not just listening to Tattered Kaylor; we're listening to other artists through her aural lens. Sombre nay Sated invites us to consider the subliminal ways in which we translate our own sonic experiences. Would Elieff be honoured if someone were to position these pieces (with attributions, of course!) as the foundations of their own re-imaginings? One suspects so. To this artist, sound interpretation is more important than sound preservation."
Richard Allen

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sombre nay Sated EP Release on Stasisfield

:: Cover design by John Kannenberg of Stasisfield ::

My first EP was released  on July 18th - World Listening Day 2013, on the UK based, Stasisfield label alongside of label founder John Kannenberg's, 'Audio Tour: The 4'33" Museum - Collection 2'. 

'Sombre nay Sated', and its linear notes are available for free digital download from the Stasisfield website HERE.

Kannenberg introduces the EP release as below:

"Australian artist and curator Tessa Elieff has combined three separate commissions into an EP of elegant coherency. With three very different original sound sources this mixture of field recordings, specially recorded sounds, voice and synthesis merge into tenebrous melancholy as fragments of organic sounds brush up against pulsing synthesis to create a stark, flowing patchwork of multifaceted solemnity."

I am very excited to include one of my older works in this release. 'Waves', was created back in 2009 using sounds from a sonic pool as generated by the contributions from myself and Jacques Soddell. The work was part of a process implemented for the final evening performance titled, 'Akousmatikoi'. At the time I was curating, directing and general 'do everything - ing' to bring the night together and never felt that I spent enough time on the piece to enable it to reach its full potential. It was a great satisfaction to hear it come to fruition - as I imagined it always to be - four years later.

Many thanks to John Kannenberg for his appreciation of my work. I highly recommend listening to his,  'Audio Tour', series.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Urban London 2013: Sonic Postcards L04-L06

:: L06 - London 7th June 2013. Protest on the steps of the High Commission of South Africa, Trafalgar Square ::


:: L05 - London 8th June 2013. Borough Markets. 3 Crown Market ::


:: L04 - London 8th June 2013. Borough Markets. Green Market ::


Recording Technical Specifications:
Recording device: Zoom H2n
Microphone: Rode NT4 (stereo)

Sounds are available for download on the Freesound website for you to access and comment on them as you wish. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Urban London 2013: Sonic postcards L01-L03

:: L03 - London 28th May 2013. Skaters @ Southbank Skatepark ::

I have started gathering sounds for the 'Urban London 2013' collection. These will be posted on Freesound for you to access/comment as you wish. I will also be adding them here as Sonic Postcards.

Recording Technical Specifications are:
Recording device: Zoom H2n
Microphone: Rode NT4 (stereo)
London, May 2013

The recordings sound best on headphones with some beautiful movements from left to right in the Skatepark recordings (above) and again, along the Regents Canal (directly below).

:: L02 - London 25th May 2013. Peering through trees to Regents Canal below ::

The recording, 'Near Festival, by the canal', and 'Festival Inner' both feature the sounds of a festival in Victoria Park that started at about 11am that day. The former, was recorded at a position along the canal whereby the distant sounds of the music from the festival would come and go, between audible and inaudible as the wind would permit. The volume fluctuations are completely natural. Recording was done at a flat input level. The latter was recorded within the festival grounds.

:: L01 - London 25th May 2013. On the way to Festival @ Victoria Park, along Regents Canal ::


I haven't consciously recorded the sounds of a city for years and I was surprised at the inner conflict I had in doing so. Just to be clear - I have recorded the sounds of markets, machinery, live improvisations at night in inner city buildings and trains passing overhead as I am tucked underneath their rolling guts - but to stand in the thick of it, in the middle of the day as traffic and sirens rise to a level that twinges your ears is quite another matter...
- and I didn't really even do that - I still subconsciously discovered pockets of the city that were not completely sonically dominated by the sounds of traffic. 

But who can ignore it? I am standing there, at the edge of the Thames surrounded by swarms of tourists and weekenders and there is not a living critter apart from us, to be seen bar one - a solitary Canada Goose with only one leg remaining, standing remarkably close (too close for his own safety) to a young family who are exploring the shoreline. It was an experience that I can't shake. It's feathers were dirty and uneven and it was obviously tired and not well fed. It wasn't scared of the people only a few meters away - perhaps it's wariness was not as strong as its reasons for watching them. It stood there unmoving, staring at them with a stubborn desperation - I assume it was hoping for food. 

Please don't think I'm particularly targeting London with these thoughts - in any big city you'll find the small critters paying the price of our developed urbanscape. It was a moment of confrontation as I stood there with my microphone, watching this quiet tragedy run its course. I put the microphone down and walked away.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Looking at London

I have been doing a lot of walking around, through and amongst London - as is my travelling ritual. My sense of direction is somewhat questionable and if possible - even worse when my body clock is realigning itself to the position of the sun. Walking puts myself as direct master of my movements and allows me to figure out just where the hell I am in relation to where I plan to be, in the time as required to do so. It's also another good jetlag tip (how to avoid it, deal with it and encourage it to disappear). I will walk or ride a bike before I catch public transport - as a type of physical and mental meditation. Taking steps seems to fall into simpatico with the sorting of my thoughts and the turning cogs of my body's own time measuring mechanism.   

and then there is the element of discovering the small details that would be otherwise missed.....

The lean of buildings, the awkward corners and 'dead' spaces that exist as offcuts of building templates. They hang off the edges of prescribed wall fronts and lurk in the backgrounds of a buildings facade.

The more they are neglected, the stronger their presence becomes.


I am already regretting the fact that I did not bring more sophisticated microphones to record sounds with. Once again, I am immersed in a city and once again, I am inspired to listen and understand how I believe it ticks - to find, gather and select my desired sounds. A small and modest collection of urban soundscapes will be my alternate project while I am in London and I am enjoying the thrill of the hunt now it has begun. I don't know why I find it so rewarding to decipher a city - haven't quite pinned that one down yet - but I do know that ultimately - when I begin to plan my recordings of a certain place/time - that is exactly how I feel I am working - by peeling back the layers of a communities outer shell and taking the time to collect what is beneath in sonic representation.

An astoundingly effective snapshop of memory and meaning behind the cities motions.

Monday, May 20, 2013

British Library Sound Archive: Exchange - waking up in London

I have been fortunate enough to be selected for a staff exchange between the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) and the British Library Sound Archive. Time lapse between the notification of selection date and departure was barely 2 months - I arrived in the UK on the Friday just gone and feel a little like Alice might've felt at the bottom of the rabbit hole. I haven't been to the UK before and this year I will be making the journey to England twice (again in late October, to work under the expertise of Chris Watson and to head to the festival, 'L'Espace du Son'). I must say that the flight was the toughest I have had to do to date - I'm not sure if I was just overly sensitive or if - infact - it is a troublesome journey - either way - I'll be getting use to the experience with three more trips still left to go in this year.

To further mix my muddled thoughts - I will be contributing to two blogs during my time here - ultimately - attempting to split my identity into two - that of the artist and that of the archivist.
For the sake of clarity and to fulfil the exchange duties, I will dedicate the blog on the NFSA website to more technical and work specific details whilst general musings, inspirations and thoughts will be compiled here, on my personal blog.

Let's see how I go shall we... Crack on!! (learned that one today).

Some travel tips for you:

Fast, affordable accommodation: Airbnb. An incredibly helpful way of finding a place to stay when a hostel or backpackers won't cut it and homely touches and appliances such as washing machines, kitchens and quiet garden areas are required/desired. My stay in London is over three weeks - long enough to send you a tad barmy in a hostel (unless you don't mind pinning towels around a bunkbed to create your own, 'personal working space'). You will find all sorts of accommodation in all parts of the world on this website. I managed to find a room in an apartment, 30 min walking time from my work place - sharing with other similar aged and working individuals.

Travel sickness: XANAX. Never tried this before but it really does help alleviate anxieties that often amplify/spark travel sickness. I took minimal doses (half a pill) and that was enough to calm my nerves, settle my stomach and allow me to doze. I also took some tic tacs - found these helped too.

Pre-booked taxi from Heathrow airport to private address: London Heathrow Cars. While they are not particularly cheap - they are not more than a normal taxi and that is for a service that includes your own personal driver waiting for you at touch down. I knew I would be a bit fragile after the flight and so booked in advance. I did find some other cheaper options such as Shuttle Direct however, they would not deliver to personal addresses - only hotels. Well worth the money if your accommodation involves a couple of connecting trains and a few blocks walk to get there....

Compact, affordable and light (stereo) recording device: H2N Zoom. I haven't tried this one before but have heard many a good thing about its capabilities. At around $230, with 24bit/96khz I am happy. It has a stereo mic input of a single 3.5mm Jack so I have taken my own Rode NT4 to make things as easy as possible. For non complex - basic audio capturing minus the worries that come when travelling with expensive audio equipment - I'm sure it will suffice. Will keep you posted.

Small carry-on bag for laptop and gear: Crumpler Yee Ross. Isn't meant to fit a 15" laptop but it does (even with a padded pocket to protect it). In addition to the laptop, this bag can also fit a small handycam, microphone(s), books and all your usual small necessities as required in travel. It's hardy, waterproof and the smallest most convenient hand-luggage bag that I have found for my needs - to date.

That's all I can put to page tonight. Jet lag is a little overwhelming so to bed I go.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Moozak Festival: Call for submissions

My good friends of the viennese label, 'Moozak' are asking for submissions from artists, to present works at their Autumn festival in Vienna.

I was fortunate enough to launch my debut album, 'Selected Realities', at the festival last year and meet the men behind Moozak - Clemens Hausch and Gerald Krist, in person.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Looking for Cowslips

:: Looking for Cowslips - live performance @ the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre ::

The final evenings performance for Mira Calix included compositions from British composers Tansy Davies, Larry Groves and Emily Hall. I was not familiar with any of their work but will be keeping my third eye and ear attuned in the future, as I enjoyed and was intrigued by their various approaches in composition. 

By far the piece that shone on the night (in my memories) was 'Wedding List' (Calix) from the contemporary opera piece, 'Dead Wedding'. During rehearsals it did not particularly register with me and yet as the night at the Salon pulled you closer, it rose to the point of becoming a modest yet ideal example of the elements that Calix brings together for her work in contemporary classical/electronic composition. 

Musicians for this piece were:

Zoe Knighton - Cello
Anna Webb - Viola
Aviva Endean - Clarinet
Lotte Betts-Dean - Soprano
Mira Calix - Electronics

Together they generated a sweetness in the air that began with a coy shyness between soprano and clarinet. Timid refrains created a melodic conversation between the two, to be joined by quieter chanting voices and delicate electronics in their sonic background. The piece builds and it's musical elements lose their inhibitions, expressing a release of the emotion 'Love'. It becomes harder to differentiate between the electronic sounds, soprano and strings. Vocals, strings and electronics swirl, layer upon layer, bonding to create a pocket of warmth that you are fortunate enough to be existing in, as they inspire and act as catalyst to the atmosphere growing around them.

At the finish of this piece I believe I became, 'stuck'.
It's lingering impression and mood was such that I could not wholeheartedly focus on those that followed, as my heart was still with, 'Wedding List'.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fables & Other Works

:: Rehearsal artefacts :: 
The first evening went well and I must admit, I was relieved once it was complete and looking for that glass of red wine. I was struck by how different the pieces sounded when removed from the comfort and somewhat casual but hectic nature of rehearsal. They seemed a lot 'harder' in observation - both in the musicians act of physically playing the pieces and in the challenges of non-conventional composition, presented to the listening audience. 

In the formality of the concert, the boundaries between the expected/accepted and the new - being tampered with in composition methods and creative content, was laid out bare on a stark background to be opposed, accepted or simply observed as one would see fit. 

Personally, I found it exciting but also a little terrifying. 'He Fell Amongst Roses' was a typical example of the above, with  it's crescendo being reached as musicians frantically bowed their instruments with heightened strength and aggression as to evoke a level of volume and intensity that left me feeling exhilarated and oddly enough - frightened. They finish in unison on a single note almost as a vocal shout of triumph (or war-cry), while Mira Calix continues playing the electronic sounds of a thumping beat typically heard through the walls of a club - to fade into a muffled sub frequency that soaks into the sonic surroundings before finally reaching silence.

Tonight is the Salon. 
See you there.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fables & Other Works: Looking for Cowslips. Rehearsals.

:: Guest performers :: 

I joined Mira Calix for her rehearsal schedule, to find developments moving quickly. I missed the first couple of rehearsals and those small voids covered an expanse of progress well beyond what I would expect to achieve in rehearsal time. She moves quickly!! While I scoop up scores with recently added pencil markings and hand written scribblings - to save them before they disappear into the flurry of actions and objects that together - bring the works to life - Mira has moved on to the next rehearsal piece and is describing moods and inspirations to the musicians.

These moments of explanation from Mira have become a bit of a favourite of mine. They are moments of quiet, whereby the musicians (and I from afar) sit and listen, to the tales of how/why/where/who - reasons of creation - intended emotional response and translation of the above through the playing of their instruments. I've always enjoyed a good story teller... Captions that I remember from her tales include, 'Egyptian basement acid trip', 'Whirling dervishes' and 'thick, dense, soupy air'. There were so many more but I've managed to forget them already.

:: Rehearsal in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall - in progress ::

Wednesday's rehearsal was in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall of the Melbourne Recital Centre and included the musicians,

Amir Farid - Piano
Josie Vains - Cello
Sarah Curro - Violin
Jo Beaumont - Violin
Aviva Endean - Clarinet
Anna Webb - Viola

The two pieces that have haunted me with their sounds since this rehearsal are 'Nunu' and the 'Made of Music' commission, 'He Fell Amongst Roses'. I'm trying not to give too much away but I will say that both are strikingly different but cover two pressure points of my own likings, them being, instruments as used to generate organic sounds (opposed to traditional musical notes) and the lure of repetitive beat - that is typically not so present in classical as it is in dance music. 

Thursdays rehearsal was considerably quieter - with more time to hear inspirations from Mira and to be inspired myself. Musicians included,

Amir Farid - Piano
Zoe Knighton - Cello
Lotte Betts-Dean - Soprano
Aviva Endean - Clarinet
Anna Webb - Viola

While Wednesday seemed to focus on 'larger' pieces (if this makes sense), Thursdays works conveyed a sense of smaller tales of the sweet, sour and disruptive. The room was the, 'Salon' which is considerably smaller and much more intimate than the large hall. Sounds are more direct - there is less need for amplification and each piece feels as if it is being told to you by a close friend, rather than a speaker announcing to a crowd. 'Narcissus' is a piece aptly named and provokative in nature - to the point that you enjoy it's discord. In contrast, 'I am Alone', leaves you internally weeping and holding your loved ones close to you in joy and sorrow - together as one....

If I had to choose one night to attend then I would chose Saturday night in the Salon. (I have always liked smaller crowds and closer friends for company). Either of the nights would give you a whirlwind of emotions as generated by the musical repertoire - collecting you from your point of beginning and delivering you at the point of end - with the feeling of having gained experiences unique to the world.

Not to be missed......

Booking details: 
Friday in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall: Fables & Other Works can be found HERE
Saturday in the Salon: Looking for Cowslips can be found HERE

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mira Calix @ Metropolis New Music Festival 2013

Image from MRC website
I am very excited to be assisting Chantal Passamonte AKA Mira Calix, during her upcoming trip to Australia as part of the Metropolis New Music Festival 2013. The works she will present include, 'Fables' and 'Looking for Cowslips', to be performed at the Melbourne Recital Centre on the 19th and 20th of April. 

I have long admired the works of Mira Calix - with her delicate but oh-so precise use of electronics, found sounds, voice and classical instrumentation. Her work has inspired and compelled me for a number of years and continues to do so with its gentle morphing. I am delighted to be able to commit my time and efforts to her visit to Australia in 2013.

Tickets can be nabbed from moshtix HERE.

If you happen to be in Melbourne on these dates I highly recommend attending. I'll be doing my best to blog as I work but my success is questionable, considering the rehearsal schedule and workload leading up to and including the evenings of final performances. 

Hope to see you there,