Australian Sound Artist

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Field recording Vs Compositional agenda

:: Jonty Harrison, the dome room @ Birmingham ::
I consciously decided not to bring any completed material to the University of Birmingham - the idea being - to have a 'clean slate', on which to work. Having made that decision, the night before departure my cowardice got the best of me and I dragged and dropped onto my harddrive, the piece I have been working on of late - that uses the collection of recordings I gathered whilst in North Northumberland. On meeting with Dr Scott Wilson and Professor Harrison, they both asked me, 'what I had to play to them'. 

I didn't see that one coming... 
Why on earth did I not see this coming...?

So over half a day I took my 40 minute - stereo composition, broke it apart, sliced sections of it - removing chunks and re-assembling the remains - spilling it over 8 speakers + 2 subs to be presented the following morning. Little did I know, what discussions this selection of work would stimulate nor the internal debate and realisations/retaliations it would spark in my own head.

To provide context to the piece - it was created with the intent of maintaining (as much as I felt possible) the original slabs of long recordings and to honour the technical and spiritual practice of the field recordist. During my time with Chris Watson and the independent residency that followed, I found myself focussing on long engaged recordings. I say engaged to mean - the ones during which you stand there, imitating stone or trying to dissipate into air so as not to be participatory, whilst guiding a boompole and/or actively monitoring your levels. Typical recording times from this expedition were between 10 to 30 minutes. The longest was over an hour. 

In light of the understanding of the extreme sonic processing and compositional techniques exercised by those who create(control) in the electroacoustic domain - you could say that presenting such an uncontrolled (in comparison) piece was inadvertently provocative....  (another great gift of mine - yes I am being sarcastic...) While I wouldn't do the same again, the exercise rang with a resonance that was as frustrating as it was - enlightening. It was a perfect metaphor for the point I find myself at in my work development. The questions Professor Harrison asked me of my own work consisted of ones I often ask myself - the many unresolved inner conflicts I have about the ideals behind each piece - the aspects that can be considered contradictory or hypocritical - the constant debate that rages in my head - between concerns of  nature and the awe of technology.... The wish to capture and present more 'pure' field recordings and the desire to carve sound into my own making with the tools of composition and absolute control....

Does my work pertain the concerns of acoustic ecology and perhaps an awe at the natural world as is?
Is there a gentle obsession with control, the manipulation of sound and the technology that facilitates?

I believe so..

And these two polar ideals that I am trying to resolve in sonic composition, have come to loggerheads...

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