sonic sketchbooks

sonic sketchbooks

sonic sketchbooks is a podcast series about sound art, art music and field recording hosted by sydney-based artist gary warner

All Episodes

release date: 30 november 2021 Forced Audience, The Dialectic Process of Change, Another Transport to Sleep, Lament of the LionKillers, Today the World, Pace of Erosion… titles of cassette recorded sound works I made in the 1970s and 80s. This episode is an ethereal visitation from that time, airing a small selection of sonic explorations I made then using cassette tape recorders, working alone in share-house bedrooms and with collaborators in lounge rooms, practice rooms, galleries, abandoned buildings and the street. We begin with a recording made in 1981 with artist John Nixon, after-hours in Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art. John was the new director, up from Melbourne where he’d established his legendary Art Projects gallery. He invited me to work as a gallery assistant, as technical assistant for his various film, tape and photography projects, and as one of many collaborators in his utopian AntiMusic project. The track is titled ‘Across a Distance’. John sings his lyrics adapted from Russian Futurist poetry, I play the saxophone and other instruments are by John and percussionist Clare Mackenna. For these night sessions, John would bring prepared cassette tapes he’d recorded sounds onto, we’d set them playing, then play live along with the playback, recording the maelstrom of sound with another cassette recorder, live in one take. We named our group The Black Spots and John published this track in his AntiMusic Sampler on London-based Bill Furlonger’s Audio Arts series of cassette releases. They can be listened to online at the Tate London’s website. Following this are excerpts from my one-off cassette tape sound works. Someone I spent time exploring sound with was Brisbane digital media wiz Adam Wolter. We started using cassette recording while in high school together in the mid-70s - track two is a sample of this youthful anarchy. Having studied computer programming at the University of Queensland he became adept at coaxing unusual creative possibilities from Amiga computers. Various tracks here include samples of Adam’s early computer music experiments overlaid with my early play with text-to-speech synthesis. Another longtime collaborator heard on various tracks is Brisbane artist Eugene Carchesio, a fellow sonic explorer who continues to make and release beautifully enigmatic offerings of minimal means. There is plenty to say about each of these tracks but it’s perhaps better to offer them up without too much prefiguring, other than to note, on re-listening to the recordings after many decades it strikes me that the kinds of sounds I found of interest then remain much the same 40 years on, as listeners to this podcast may also recognise…

Nov 30

38 min 10 sec

This week, in my teaching at the National Art School, I’m lecturing and assigning a project on drawing and the palimpsest. In 1845, English writer Thomas De Quincey wondered “What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? Such a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, oh reader! is yours. Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet, in reality, not one has been extinguished… … I mention a case communicated to me by a lady… still living, though now of unusually great age; and I may mention that amongst her faults never was numbered any levity of principle, or carelessness of the most scrupulous veracity… … She had completed her ninth year, when, playing by the side of a solitary brook, she fell into one of its deepest pools. Eventually, but after what lapse of time nobody ever knew, she was saved from death by a farmer, who, riding in some distant lane, had seen her rise to the surface; but not until she had descended within the abyss of death, and looked into its secrets, as far, perhaps, as ever human eye can have looked that had permission to return. At a certain stage of this descent, a blow seemed to strike her, phosphoric radiance sprang forth from her eyeballs; and immediately a mighty theatre expanded within her brain. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, every act, every design of her past life, lived again, arraying themselves not in succession, but as parts of a coexistence. …Such a light fell upon the whole path of her life backwards into the shades of infancy, … poured celestial vision upon her brain, so that her consciousness became omnipresent at one moment to every feature in the infinite review. A pall, deep as oblivion, had been thrown by life over every trace of these experiences; and yet suddenly, at a silent command, at the signal of a blazing rocket sent up from the brain, the pall draws up, and the whole depths of the theatre are exposed.” paraphrased from “The Palimpsest of the Human Brain” Thomas De Quincey 1845

Nov 23

23 min 54 sec

This week’s episode continues my ongoing investigations of the sonic potentials of the MakeNoise Morphagene modular synthesis module, previously featured in episodes 41 and 44. This new composition incorporates Morphagene-ic manipulations of original captured sounds made with some of my one-off studio-built sound art instruments, occasionally punctuated with unprocessed field recordings made around inner city Sydney. I’m interested in exploring the suggestive spaces and ways in which perceptual processing of unfamiliar sonic information - sounds for which its difficult to attach a known source, such as the frequently unpredictable sonic artifice generated by the Morphagene - is challenged or disrupted when familiar real world sounds in the form of field recordings bubble through their cryptic sonic fabric. You can explore the podcast series in the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net

Nov 16

25 min 17 sec

During the most recent 3-month COVID lockdown here in Sydney Australia, to maintain creative engagement I did a small project for a while titled 'digital dusk', a series of daily one minute abstract digital video works posted to my Instagram account. Each video was made by setting up a kinetic event that I videoed with my iphone and used as source material for extreme filter manipulation in final cut pro. Sounds were generated from combinations of my micro-electronics digital sound gear including the Koma FieldKit FX, a LittleBits Korg synthesiser kit, the Bastl Kastle and a few portable speakers, often with sound-generating attachments, placed in boxes and other containers to weird their sound output. Sounds were captured live in the space, usually the bedroom. After playing around with both sound and vision, the day’s outputs were paired, in a Cageian fashion, and posted. The whole process was intended to be relatively immediate and generative - each day’s output leading to progressive experiments the following day. Of course, much more media was generated than was used. This podcast revisits a selection of the digital dusk source audio - repurposed, re-effected, layered and sequenced to create this new composition put together on a rainy Sunday.

Nov 9

25 min 33 sec

Of late I’ve been getting to know the MakeNoise Morphagene modular synthesis device. The User Manual describes it as being “informed by the worlds of Musique Concrete and Microsound”, “a set of tools for creative synthesis” “ for the creation of new musical form and content, previously unimagined.” It enables extreme manipulation of recorded sound using a syncretic paradigm of delimited analogue tape splicing exaggerated by the granular control capabilities of digital software. That is, infinitely variable fragmentation and reassembly of sonic units discretised down to improbable fractions of seconds duration, organised and disorganised in complex systems activated by tiny variations in voltage control signals. Unscripted, possibly unscriptable combinations and sequences of sonic fragments drifting into basins of attraction, pattern teasing and spilling into unpredictably chaotic cascades. As source material for this most aleatoric composition, I prepared a small set of recordings using five empty aluminium beer cans. I teased a variety of sounds from them on the kitchen bench, beginning with the objects intact and gradually reducing them by stages to tiny pieces, coaxing sounds from each stage of their disintegration by tapping, dropping, rolling, shaking, etc. Once ingested into the Morphagenes random access memory, combinations of cables carrying tiny voltage variations were experimented with to derive the dereeve you’re about to hear. The resulting composition paradoxically synthesises interruption as flow, using fragment as method to simultaneously generate and disrupt an unusual listening experience - its a kind of aural synechdoche or fractal in which any part effectively represents the whole. Back in the 20th century, French essayist and semiotician Roland Barthes explored and expounded the fragment as technique, content and political strategy. For Barthes, fragments held the potential to manifest escape from the tyranny of mundane meaning imposed by so-called ‘common sense’ and received wisdom. He characterised his writing, and intellectual works as ‘a circle of fragments’. A quote from 1977 exemplifies : “To write by fragments: the fragments are then so many stones on the perimeter of a circle: I spread myself around: my whole little universe in crumbs; at the center, what?”

Nov 2

28 min 21 sec

With three companions I travelled to Japan in May 2018. One of the reasons for this trip was to finally visit Hiroshima, to be present and pay my respects at the site of one of the principal atrocities of the 20th century. This episode of Sonic Sketchbooks comprises excerpts from recordings I made over the three days we spent staying on the rural outskirts of the city, journeying to visit Hiroshima’s Museum of Contemporary Art, A-Bomb Museum, Peace Park and the skeletal Genbaku Dome remains that, along with the mushroom cloud, have become the enduring symbols of that awful moment at 8:15am on the 6th of August 1945 when over 70,000 Japanese people were instantly extinguished from life on earth and as many again were terribly wounded and traumatised. Of course, 70 years on from that moment, the Hiroshima we visited was like any other well-known Japanese city - bustling, teeming with tourists, brimming with a peculiar mixture of greenery and concrete, peppered with temples and shrines, little restaurants and bars, department stores, the unique scents and sounds of Japanese daily life in the air. It’s difficult to access any sense of that time-distant horror - which is why the museum, the peace park and the memorial exist - to enshrine and ensure remembrance. Everywhere around the city are plaques and information panels with bi-lingual texts and archival photos - many taken by US Army personnel - explaining the narratives of places transformed by war and post-war change. A surprising encounter was with trees that survived the bomb blast and live on to shade inner city streets today. Each is considered a living treasure - a green legacy - known as the Hibakujumoku - one of which is an eastern Australian gum tree - Eucalyptus melliodora or yellowbox - that survived in the grounds of the completely destroyed 16th century Hiroshima Castle. This sound wander begins and ends with birdcall around the air-b&b we stayed in, a farm house surrounded by rice paddies about to be planted out. Our hosts were a lively elderly couple who greeted us with hibachi grill, beer and sake. Just before leaving two days later Kazuhiro-san drove us up to his local shinto shrine atop the adjacent forested hill, to instruct us in the etiquette of shrine visiting. We took a local train into Hiroshima - you’ll hear a Shinkansen bullet train shoot through the station at well in excess of 200km per hour - it really is blink and you miss it! - and spent the day walking from site to site contemplating the dreadful recurrent reality of destructive warfare, the human ability for renewal, and the enduring hope and work for peace despite and because of the persistent pernicious presence of military madness. The bell you will hear is the Peace Bell funded by a survivor’s group and forged in 1964. Installed in a small domed concrete structure within the Peace Park it can be sounded by anyone to signal their desire for peace. A moat surrounding the structure is planted with the progeny of 2000 year old lotus seeds germinated by Japanese scientist Professor Ichiro Oga. They reference that survivors wrapped their savagely blistered burnt bodies with lotus leaves in attempt to alleviate their pain.

Oct 25

37 min 9 sec

This weeks offering is an exploration of the sonic drone. Many musicians of many cultures and times have explored and exploited the mesmeric nature of persistent sonic presence to evoke saintly states of grace and excite stoner states of mind. Here, rather than working with instruments, I’ve repurposed three brief field recordings - a vintage Roland pen plotter I recorded in Professor Jon McCormacks office at Monash University in 2012 - Jon had written software to control the device to reproduce drawings in his Niche Constructions generative art series; - the Man O’War Steps floating pontoon near the Sydney Opera House, a series of recordings that have been used in different ways in the two previous sonic sketchbooks episodes; - a new recording I made a few days ago during wet weather with two different contact mics attached to a metal brace securing a metal downpipe draining rainwater from the galvanised iron roof of an early 20th-century electricity substation building directly adjacent to the late 20th-century residential apartment building where I live in Redfern, Australia, on Gadigal country. I slowed the pen plotter recording to different percentage values - 20, 30, 40, 50 etc - and overlaid them to build the bed drone, the longitudinal warp of this composition. Weft sounds drawing into and through the warp, are stochastic drips and flows of rainwater in the downpipe 'interpreted' via my MakeNoise Morphagene and the creaking and grinding of the pontoon moving in response to other watery energy transfers. These three elements are combined, with little intervention, to perform a slow aleatoric drift and shift in homage to the drone that I dedicate to the extraordinary avant-garde works of French composer Eliane Radigue. eliane radigue interview with composer paul shutze 2011 https://www.frieze.com/article/surround-sound

Oct 19

31 min 16 sec

release date: 12 october 2021

F requent or perhaps even occasional listeners will by now be familiar with my sonic interests - unusual combinations of slow, strange and stochastic sounds.

T his weeks episode presents a series of sketches made with the small Eurorack modular synthesiser I’ve put together and have been experimenting with over the past few months.
The system is intentionally oriented to manipulation of files from my samples library - recordings of the art instruments I make, found sonic generators such as the floating pontoon from episode 40 and sonic events performed for the recorder made with repurposed found objects. 

Modular systems are attractive to me for their generative, unpredictable and exploratory qualities combining control and chaos, order and randomness.
 The core of my tiny system is a MakeNoise Morphagene which is fed multiple Control Voltage signals from a chain beginning with a Bastl LFO generator feeding into a Mutable Instruments Branches then a TipTop Audio MISO. The series provides order from the LFO, randomised CV pathing through Branches, fine-grain signal control at MISO and extremely variable CV and manual audio sample manipulation at the Morphagene.

 Working with this system is pure experimentation - each module has multiple variable controls, the tiniest twiddle of any dial can dramatically alter the sonic endpoint and it can be next to impossible to recover a state of interest once even a couple of dials have been tweaked, buttons pushed or cables re-patched. I like this - it keeps me creatively in the moment of making with all its pleasures, frustrations, intrigue and addictive hold. And like any instrument, it requires hours of attentive engagement to develop any useful level of skill or sense of knowing.

Oct 12

27 min 46 sec

release date: 05 october 2021 This weeks episode is titled ‘Below’. I’ve always been captivated by the eery-strange chaotic sounds made by floating pontoons moving in response to watery energies. In mid-winter this year, I went down to a favourite pontoon that floats alongside the Sydney Opera House at a place named the Man O’War Steps. From the early 1800s, this convict-constructed sandstone infrastructure project provided a vital access point between sea and land for the British colonisers - after months of ocean going travel on wooden sailing ships, naval men and female convicts alike here put their feet on the earth again, to walk onto and occupy this land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. At this boundary between water and earth, floating pontoons offer a sonic index of energies natural, artificial and historical. The everywhere apparent flows of change, the global energy of waves, the planetary energy of tides, the surface displacement of passing ferries, ships and boats, the arrival and departure of water taxis - all push, tug and displace the pontoon to sing its mournful song of screeches, wails, thuds and splashes. I went to the Man O’War pontoon with a contact microphone to attach to the structure and a hydrophone to listen underwater. After an hour immersed under headphones listening to the aching song of the pontoon, I wandered into the adjacent botanic gardens where I encountered families fascinated by huge eels and nesting cormorants of a large pond. So many connections…

Oct 5

25 min 11 sec

release date - 28 september 2021 This week’s composition is titled ‘To Higher Ground’. I constructed it over the past week, returning to strategies of using spoken word appropriated from diverse sources that I began with in the 1970’s when I’d cassette record voices from broadcast television and shortwave radio to use in cutups for performances, installations and super 8 film soundtracks. The tools have changed but the strategy remains one I continue to explore and experiment with. The semantic demand of the spoken word activates only for those languages we, as individuals, can comprehend. For those we do not, the rhythms, cadences and inferences of heard disembodied language carry cultural and humanist emotional references that vary depending on our prior interests, exposures, curiosities, capacity for empathy and so on. In ’To Higher Ground’, fields of sound created with tools like the MakeNoise Morphagene, EMF detectors, and apps such as RadioGarden and Natural Readers, are combined with my field recordings to form aural spaces populated with borrowed de-contextualised words, phrases and statements from various recognisable and anonymous speakers. Sonic Sketchbooks is an art project of slow listening and poetic intent, offered to our ‘interesting’ times of incoherent abundance, accelerated attentions and generalised anxieties.

Sep 28

23 min 33 sec

This weeks composition is another generative foray into the archive, built from a selection of my field and studio recordings. The field recordings include water dripping from the gutters of a remote farmhouse outbuilding after a passing storm at 3am; heavy rain drumming the metal skin of my car, pulled up on a bush track; hydrophone recordings of a hill creek rushing with stormwater; and the conversations and song of dozens of birds on bidjigal country, just north-west of sydney, on a warm afternoon, the native avian music thats been sounded there for thousands of millenia, long before any human presence - and which, almost miraculously, can still be experienced there today. The studio recordings are of ad-hoc sonic-kinetic assemblages of tins, bottles, and boxes with seeds, balls and objects inside, all tied together with rubberbands and fixed to modified turntables - my aleatoric ensembles. And a couple of outputs from various of my small electronic generators… These diverse sources have been shaped into a slowly evolving exploration of sonic atmospheres and suggestion, wandering the spaces of imaginative provocation that connect writer to reader, artist to spectator, composer to listener… You can explore the podcast series in the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net

Sep 21

33 min 12 sec

release date: 14 september 2021 I've been collecting more Electromagnetic Frequencies or EMF from the local environment - this time scavenging sounds from various sources in the small apartment I live in. Every electronic device, source or connection will generate some form of EMF, which remains mostly inaudible to the naked ear though sometimes you might hear a hum or a buzzing. There’s a kind of electrosonic diversity to these found sounds - there’s an anima there, a life-likeness; the EMF flutters, whistles, tones and crackling like the cryptic calls and cries of insects, birds and animals in an environment. This time I’ve used a different EMF detector, one built by Sorte Muld Instruments, a project of Martin Kofoed a visual artist and illustrator living in Amsterdam. Sorte Muld, meaning perhaps black soil or black mold, is an important Danish archaeological site of an iron age-early viking settlement that was populated for a millenium into the common era. Significant finds there include hundreds of tiny stamped gold foil squares of diverse figurative symbolism. No-one really knows what the funtion or use-value of these tiny gold squares was - somewhat like my sonic sketchbooks podcast... This composition is another sonic derivé, drifting the listener across and through curious scene-settings for an audio theatre of the mind, built with fragments of recordings made in the past few days of this third month of a COVID lockdown here in Sydney Australia. You can find out more about the Sorte Muld EMF detector and explore the podcast series in the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net

Sep 14

25 min 27 sec

This weeks episode is a new composition titled ‘a lot of unidentified sounds…’. I’ve assembled it over the past few days from recordings and generations, mostly new but a few old. It’s another of my sonic constructions or sound sculptures built to occupy, or reside in, time rather than space - but a form of sculpture nonetheless. And a form of drawing also - bringing disparate elements together on the blank field of time by combining strategies of chance and selection, foregrounding, erasure, filtering, positioning and repositioning, to create a singular artwork. As I’ve mentioned before, I imagine these compositions to be of interest for the listener working in their studio, doing the housework, in the interstitial spaces of travel, out walking or having trouble sleeping. [It may be presumptuous of me to suggest that these pieces are worth listening to more than once.] You can find out more about the podcast in the episode guide at sonicskechbooks.net

Sep 7

21 min 14 sec

This week’s episode is a quiet, contemplative piece that arose from re-listening to recordings I made on the 25 May 2017 during a day of wandering in Kanazawa, an important cultural town on the west coast of Honshu Japan, about equidistant from Tokyo and Kyoto. I went there to visit two museums and a garden - the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art designed by Japanese architects SANAA, the DT Suzuki Museum, and the famous Kenrokuen Garden, its name reflecting the six characteristics of this centuries-in-the-making stroll garden - spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water-courses and panoramas. The SANAA-designed museum contains a permanent open-roofed interior room-space by James Turrell - an empty space to quietly sit and observe the changing light, air, sound and visitor responses punctuated by the opening and closing of glass sliding doors. The DT Suzuki Museum celebrates this critical figure in the transmission of Buddhist, particularly Zen, philosophy, thought and practice from the east to the west in the 20th century. Situated at the base of a forested hill, the museum features a contemplation pavilion situated as an architectural island in a large shallow reflection pool. The triple height room is empty but for a square arrangement of cushioned benches where visitors can sit and gaze on the water through open rectangular apertures in the huge walls. Both these extraordinary spaces are constructed to promote, or allow, a sense of quiet immersion in the ordinary, to quiet the mind and open up the unpredictable offering of every moment to new consideration. Making field recordings is a form of meditative practice - listening attentively to whatever arises and passes. So this week’s composition explores a strategy of suspending field recordings within a durational musical drone created with grains of the recordings stretched beyond recognition, pulled into a signifying realm of sonic solemnity. Its a kind of homage to Suzuki and Turrell for gifting us their proposals - in thought, place and practice - that quietude is important. You can find out more at sonicsketchbooks.net

Aug 31

35 min

Some time ago I bought a curious device from SOMA the electronic sound laboratory of Ukrainian-born sonic innovator Vlad Kreimer. The device is called Ether and Vlad designed it for hearing the invisible electromagnetic frequencies that surround us but which we don’t consciously sense - we can’t see, feel, touch, taste or hear them. Ether is a handheld object, a little black box, that contains a magnetic antenna and an integrated electronic antenna. There are two thumb wheels on the side - one for volume, the other for frequency tuning. A pair of metal nubs can be used for direct contact with surfaces. Ether can detect and sonify low-frequency magnetics as well as high frequency radio signals. This episode of sonic sketchbooks is built entirely from sounds detected by Ether as I wandered about the streets of my local neighbourhood. Many of the sound sources were evident - of particular interest were door entry panels - but many sounds were spatially definitive fields that I could walk in and out of but which had no determinable generative origin. The composition time-smears and overlays excerpts from an hour long recording I made on a 3km roundtrip walk on the morning of Wednesday 18 August 2021. It’s an unusual sonic space, one we’re seldom exposed to and have been culturally trained to dislike - the noise-sound generated as by-product of our technocentric lifestyles that is usually intentionally filtered out of our communication systems. The noise that gets in the way, feels somewhat dystopian, reminds us of entropy and chaos, or doesn’t stir helpful emotional response in the way that favoured music might. But spending some time with these strange sounds usually banished into silence, sonifying the invisible energetic presences in which we're constantly bathed, opens interesting possibilities in the sonic imaginary. You can find out more about SOMA and explore the podcast series in the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net

Aug 24

39 min 32 sec

This episode is an unedited recording I made, with the artists permission, of an improvised collaborative soundscape made by participants in a workshop led by japanese artist Tetsuya Umeda who had presented an hour-long solo performance a couple of nights earlier as part of the 2017 Performance Space Liveworks Festival at Carriageworks which is housed in repurposed 19th century locomotive workshops in inner city Eveleigh. Umeda-san uses simple physics involving heat and harmonics, pressure, gravity, dry ice and everyday objects to create multi-source sonic events which he performatively activates, wandering around amongst diverse objects and devices strewn in a large circle around which the audience gathers. We watch him set up assemblages that will drip, explode, tumble, or fall at some indeterminable point along the hour-long journey. At the show I attended, the performance was underpinned by reverberant harmonic drones emanating from many heated columns, each made of three empty food tins stuck together sitting over small gas burners. Umeda-san would place the tubes on the burners at different times, and each would take a little while to begin its drone and over time, the various drones combined into strange standing wave patterns tha the could then vary by moving his hand over the column, removing from the heat, adding a little water and so on. In the Saturday afternoon workshop, with about 20 others, Umeda-san showed us how to construct one of these instruments that produces a single resonant frequency tone, and we all made one each - later, in the same cavernous space in which he had performed, the group created an improvised soundscape using the tone-tubes and other found objects and materials provided by Umeda-san - such as blocks of dry ice - and found in pockets and backpacks.

Aug 17

39 min 34 sec

release date: 10 august 2021 - Australian census day Well into the second month of another COVID-19 lockdown here in Sydney, with high daily infection rates indicating no end in sight for a while… This weeks episode presents the soundtracks to a collective series of abstract digital video sequences titled Colourforms that I made in 2017 for a gallery exhibition. Anyone who has seen my Instagram posts during this lockdown will be familiar with my ‘digital dusk’ series of one minute visual abstracts. The origin of the technical methodology I use to make them might begin with the Colourform series, but the aesthetic was certainly in play a lot earlier, in the 1970s, when I’d draw directly on Super 8 and 16mm celluloid film with overheard projection pens and make 35mm slides using cellophane, packaging and any other translucent materials that could be cutup and glued together on that tiny work area. Today I construct and film simple kinetic assemblages with my iPhone, bring the scenes into Final Cut Pro and manipulate exposure, saturation, filters, time, and layers blending to explore abstract visual potentials, completely disassociating the filmed scenes from any semblance of real world recognition to place them squarely within the context and historical traditions of abstract art. The six tracks of this podcast episode were constructed in a similar way, developing abstraction from both the captured vision and its accompanying sound. Each track is introduced by its original title, ably though awkwardly spoken by a digital assistant.

Aug 9

26 min 51 sec

The COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney continues as does my excavation of files from the rhyzomatic strings of long neglected nested folders on an old workhorse iMac. This weeks episode presents a mix of tracks commissioned in 2014 for automated daily replay in the Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, South Australia. The sounds emanated quietly from inside a small laser-cut timber geodesic dome I designed to house an ipod and stereo speaker set. The intention was to introduce a strange ambience in a relatively confined sonic field within the subdued space of the large open interior. The MEB is a unique museological space, the last remaining in the world of a type once found throughout the colonies of the 19th century British Empire. They were small museums of botanical science and industry designed to inform settler cultures of the types of productive uses they might make of occupied territories through agriculture - which plant species might thrive in a particular climate to yield timber, fruits, grains, fibres and other of the innumerable uses of plants required for the development of settler economies. Adelaide’s exemplary museum opened in 1881 and through the 20th century sat like an architectural rip van winkle, asleep , dimly lit, a charming archaic relic. In 2008, then director of the botanic gardens Steve Forbes invited curator and historian Peter Emmett to think about what might be done with the building which was being drawn into a development project that ight turn it into a visitor centre, or worse, a cafe… Peter convinced the authorities of the true value of the museum and proposed to return it to its 1881 original state - mainly because the entire collection was still there, and his research revealed it to be the only one of its kind remaining in the world. I worked on the interpretation for the opening of the new space in 2009, and later made a soundscape for its interior. The tracks are mostly built from field recordings I made in the gardens over various visits.

Aug 3

39 min 4 sec

release date: 27 july 2021 This weeks episode is made in the fifth consecutive week of a fairly restrictive COVID19 lockdown here in Sydney and I made the program where I live in a small apartment in Redfern, on gadigal country. Wondering if and when I might ever be able to visit Japan again, I built this new composition with excerpts from field recordings on a retired iMac I have at home; recordings I made in and around Kyoto on visits in 2014 and 2015. I listen to playlists from my field recordings in my studio while working, letting the recordings play in their entirety, each track usually around 20 minutes. In my podcast compositions, I intuitively sequence, mix, effect and filter excepts from the recordings to create a kind of sonic dérive, a wandering listening through encounters and ambiences entangled by poetic association. You can find information about the podcast series via the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net - this is episode 30.

Jul 27

21 min 42 sec

I constructed this weeks episode during the third week of a stay-at-home, shelter-in-place COVID-19 lockdown on gadigal land, in sydney australia where I live, make and work. Without access to my studio and the majority of my archived sound library, I’ve structured this episode from field recordings I have on a home iMac, recordings made at the rural artist-in-residence facility at Bundanon on the central south coast of New South Wales. The spine of the piece, a loud fluttering, is a time-stretched recording of hundreds of flies and other insects swarming on a recently dead wombat. Out bushwalking in pathless forest, I heard the loud sonic epicentre of insects advantaging the carcass long before I could see it. I set up my recorder to capture a 20 minute document of the event. That recording has been slowed to 10 times the original length, to make strange and hear anew that encounter. Low musical and wailing sounds are slowed forest birds, a crystalline drone slowed cicadas and wind. This bed track is interwoven with recordings of my walking through different environments at Bundanon - domestic, rural agricultural and remnant bushland - and of fire, water, wind and small sonic events made with found objects. The intention is to create a strangely evocative soundscape, something to listen to and wonder about while drawing, napping or in other ways spending time in lockdown… You can find out more about the podcast in the episode guide at sonicsketchbooks.net

Jul 20

23 min 5 sec

This sonic offering is built from recordings made with the Apple iOS app RodeRec from the Australian audio tech company Rode, makers of many excellent microphone types and other audio production gear. I started using the RodeRec app soon after it was released in 2013, loaded onto an iphone 4, and have always carried and used it on my iphones ever since. It’s promoted as a ‘field recording’ app and that’s how I’ve used it, to capture recordings of moments of acoustic interest encountered while out in the world. As we tend to carry our phones with us everywhere, the app has been a useful way to hold onto sounds when without my recorders and mics - which is, of course, much of the time. I tend to make shorter captures with the app - though not always - and the ubiquity of mobile phone presence out in the world means that no-one pays a 2nd glance to someone standing looking at their handheld gadget and wearing headphones. My assumption is that their assumption is I’m listening to music rather than recording a fellow throwing bottles into the back of truck or the sound of travelling on public transport. So, this composition is comprised only of sounds captured using my iphone and RodeRec, and here there is no time smearing or much in the way of filters or effects, just some layering to create textural and narrative interest…

Jul 13

31 min 47 sec

This episode arose from finding a folder of recordings during a recent lockdown cleanup, forgotten in a digital folder on an old hard drive. Labelled ‘BINAURAL EXPERIMENTS’ it’s a suite of recordings I made mostly at my bush hut, but some in my inner-city studio and some in the streets of Sydney. They were made with a pair of binaural microphones that are worn in the ears of the recordist, to help recreate in playback under headphones a strong sensation of aural presence and spatial location of sound sources. The effect can be quite uncanny, especially when listening back to sounds in the same space they were originally recorded. For this episode I’ve composed a half-hour sonic wander amongst a selection of files from that folder of experiments. I think about this as a form of abstract art, sculpting with sound and time to create and explore interesting textures, spaces, correspondences, suggestions, the unusual, the not easily categorised work with sound outside the normative silos of music, audio books or sound effects. The piece is definitely best experienced listening with over-ear headphones…

Jul 6

33 min 33 sec

This episode focuses on an acoustic sculptural object I devised and built in 2014. It’s a cryptic flattened cylinder that rests on a low stool. A pair of identical stools face each other across the object. Gallery visitors are invited to sit, in pairs, to hold and move the object in their hands. Sounds are generated within the object - rolling, bumping and random sequences of resonant metallic tones. The object is an instrument producing a musicality of uncertainty. The mechanism is hidden within, prompting investigation by peering into slots around its perimeter. Like looking into a microscope there’s a scale transition from the space of the room to the shadowy micro-architectural world within, and a simple revelation of the sonic mechanism. Three table tennis balls roll freely around striking any of the dozens of individual steel tines mounted on hardwood blocks inside. 
 The object’s form is intentionally reminiscent of the zoetrope, a 19th century pre-cinema optical device for creating animated visual effects. But rather than animation of vision, this object animates sound, relationships, association and memory. I built the cryptic lamellaphone as an homage to the 19th century English ‘natural philosopher’ Robert Brown (1773-1858). In 1827, he observed a captivating phenomenon through his microscope which he carefully described but could not adequately explain. It was the apparently animated - that is, life driven - motion of pollen grains in water. He published a paper - A Breif Account of Microscopical Observations made in the months of June, July and August 1827 on the particles contained in the pollen of plants and on the general existence of active molecules in organic and inorganic bodies.” Decades later in the early twentieth century, Australian physicist William Sutherland, Polish scientist Marian Smoluchowski and Albert Einstein independently theorised what Brown had seen - the random motion of minute particles in suspension - as evidence of molecular activity, informed by the rapidly developing new ideas in physics about ‘the atom’. On the movement of small particles suspended in a stationary liquid demanded by the molecular-kinetic theory of heat. The phenomenon is now known as Brownian motion. So this episode comprises direct and manipulated recordings - made with different microphone types - of my ‘cryptic lamellaphone’ singing songs for Robert Brown.

Jun 29

19 min 17 sec

release date: 22 June 2021 This episode presents interpretations of sound works I developed for participatory performances in the PLATFORM series staged at Articulate project space in Sydney’s inner-western suburb of Leichhardt. PLATFORM is a project coordinated by Tess de Quincey and curated by Tess and collaborators including Linda Luke, Marcus Whale, Martin del Amo, Eugene Ward and others. It is a salon afternoon of informal performance by artists from different disciplines including dance, theatre, visual art, ceramics, performance, sound art, and music. The pieces are carefully curated to flow together, occupying every available space within the three level gallery building, its back lane, surrounding streets and nearby urban infrastructure. At Tess’s invitation I’ve created performances and performance scores for Platform in which whoever of the other artists volunteer become the largely unrehearsed players in a sonic event involving soundings of post-consumer waste - bottles, boxes, tins, containers - from which sound is teased using breath, hand-made mallets, motions and gravity. The scores involve a simple instruction that all performers enact for a loosely predetermined period of time. For example, while walking slowly around the space, hold two small empty glass bottles and blow across the mouth of each bottle to create a tone. Listening to the other players, choose when to make a sound and how long it lasts. Continue for ten minutes. Another performance for only two people involved constructing two 4-metre long tubes from plastic water bottles. Small quartz pebbles were dropped into the top of the long hanging tubes by two performers on the first floor of the space, to rhythmically rattle down and drop into a large water-cooler bottle on the ground floor below - one filled with water, the other empty. These and my other Platform projects explore the production of sonic events through simple gestures and/or the performative application of simple instructions. My interest is to explore the intentional production of randomised sound fields that parallel those naturally produced sound fields we experience and respond to as intriguing, emotive or pleasurable, usually involving some captivating stochastic or aleatoric musicality arising, for example, from transitory natural processes or aggregations of communicating creatures. Thanks to Tess de Quincey and all the performers in the Platform series who generously enacted these works.

Jun 22

28 min 57 sec

release date: 15 june 2021 This episode is a virtual visit to The Centre for Deep Reading retreat, an annual event staged at a property named Tyraman, on Wonnarua country north west of Sydney in the Hunter Valley between the rural towns of Dungog and Gresford. The CDR is a labour of love, social relations and experimental cultural enrichment devised and sustained by writer, activist, humanities teacher and fellow pedestrian explorer Nick Keys. I visited Nick at his apartment in the Sydney suburb of Northbridge to talk with him about the project. In the episode, excerpts from our conversation are interwoven with excerpts from field recordings I made at the 2018 and 2019 CDR retreats, giving some sense of the soundworlds there. For the retreat I’ve developed an activity we call ‘Deep Listening’ - with deference to Pauline Oliveros of course - wherein I invite groups of five people to sit quietly together in the forest, firstly listening unaided, then for 20 minutes listening under headphones to the amplified presence of whatever sounds occur. The autonomous sounds of creatures, distant rural activities and that moment’s weather are delivered to the listening party via stereo microphones set up out of sight. It’s an exercise in aural attention that participants report as opening their ears to the complexities of everyday natural sonic production, and instilling a sense of deep calm. Importantly, people report that what and how they hear in subsequent days is altered or heightened. This episode features the voices of Vanessa Berry, Kathryn Bird , Ross Gibson and Nick Keys along with incidental, less discernible voices of other Centre for Deep Reading participants. The poetry readings and multiple voice event are recordings of Barbara Campbell's 'Out Loud' experiences she developed for the CDR, performed collaboratively by participants.

Jun 15

41 min 32 sec

This episode is a sail along some of the backwaters of lo-fi electronic and digital sound I’ve been experimenting with and exploring over the past few years. My first forays into electromagnetic and digital sonic synthesis were in the late 1970s early 80s on my Fender Rodes 88 piano, a first generation Casio VL-Tone bought by my old friend and fellow sonic explorer adam wolter aka philip toydog - he particulalrly enjoyed the cheesy drum machine presets of that little novelty keyboard calculator - now a collectors item -, followed by various Commodore Amiga computers, a Korg MS-10, numerous tape recorders and then until now the long march of macintosh computers and devices. The sounds in the multi-tracked composition you’re about to hear were generated using combinations of a handful of small independent devices, some out of kickstarter projects I’ve backed, some home-made, some from the many small scale labs springing up everywhere and some using iOS apps. I connect or bring devices together and work with them to try and find soundscape registers that interest me - usually slow, meandering musicalities incorporating stochastic and random generative elements, and unusual sonic combinations. I don’t categorise or classify this as music - its more a form of sonic sculpture shaped outside the formal constraints of BPM, tunings, instrument skills or conventional instruments. These are soundscapes for those, like me, with incurable sonic curiosity…

Jun 8

33 min 32 sec

This episode is excerpts from field recordings I made in Japan in 2018. Travelling with three friends, we spent time in Kyoto, Higashi-Hiroshima and Uno, a coastal town providing access to the fabled art islands of the Seto inland sea. Most of this sonic montage is uninterrupted by explanation other than to introduce recordings made inside the remarkable Teshima Art Museum. All of us had long wanted to visit the inspiring cultural phenomenon of the Seto Art Islands. From Uno, we ventured to the islands of Teshima and Naoshima to experience the art projects and singular museums - particularly the stunning Teshima Art Museum, a huge concrete dome housing one art project, the creative vision of artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa. The building resembles a huge water drop and the installation inside activates water in subtle, slow and beautiful ways. The internal space is 60 by 40 meters with no supporting columns. The vast open space reaches only 4.3 meters height, gently rising from the circumference. The floor is polished concrete with barely noticeable shallow depressions scattered around. Two large oval openings allow wind, light and sound into this unusual volume. Trickles of water continuously emerge from tiny openings in the ground plane, pooling in the slight yet broad depressions to create reflective surface. The unusual space causes extreme sonic illusions and reverberative feedback. It also acts as a sonic telescope, capturing and amplifying distant sounds. I visited the Teshima Museum twice. It was raining on the second day and I spent a couple of hours inside the structure watching passing showers fall through the oculus apertures in perfectly defined oval cascades. While visitors are asked to not take photos inside, the attendants had no issue with me making audio recordings. This episode concludes with excerpts from my recordings on that rainy day inside the Teshima Art Museum.

May 31

56 min 16 sec

In April 2018 I was fortunate to have time at an artist in residency program in the musician’s cottage at Bundanon, on Wodi Wodi and Yuin country, near Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales. Bundanon is a large property on the Shoalhaven River, part farmland, part bushland, which was the home and studio of Australian artist Arthur Boyd. He and his wife Yvonne gifted the property to the nation in 1993 as a cultural trust for the development of artists and arts education. The residency program is an important part of this continuing work. The musicians cottage is one of the old farm houses converted to include a music studio with grand piano and living quarters. I shared the residency with friend and artist colleague Barbara Campbell who was developing her own new work involving tree rubbings onto copper sheet. I spent the time constructing various of my aleatoric ensemble assemblages - analogue sonic-kinetic devices basded on small turntables fitted with boxes, tins and containers with marbles, superballs and other objects inside - and recording the unique chaotically looping musicality of various combinations. The grand piano offered an opportunity for some Cageian explorations of chance, mostly dropping superballs onto the inner harp of the grand piano and recording the stochastic results. A more structured project was recording many individual chords from the sheet music of Erik Satie. Sort of searching for the harmonic DNA of Satie’s perhaps too well-known and carelessly used music. Other strands of activity were making abstract drawings and watercolours during the day, and making field recordings around the property at any time of day or night. For this episode of sonic sketchbooks I’ve created a series of new compositions from the recordings made during that 2018 residency. Bundanon supports new work, research and collaborations by artists and researchers from around the world.  You can find links to the Bundanon Trust website and find out more about the podcast at the sonic sketchbooks episode guide - sonicsketchbooks.net

May 25

32 min 53 sec

In this episode I’m in conversation with Melbourne artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth who create compelling audio-visual installations using video, sound, architecture, objects and recorded performance. Their works are products of detailed interrogatory research, speculation and conjecture, often arising in the context of artist residency programs in various parts of the world including the UK and Russia. In 2015 the late, hugely influential Nigerian-born contemporary art curator and writer Okwui Enwezor selected their work 'Zaum Tractor' for inclusion in his personally curated component of the 56th Venice Biennale: All The World’s Futures, just one of the many significant contemporary art contexts in which they’ve exhibited. In this conversation with the artists in their Melbourne home and me in my Sydney studio, we discuss three projects from their impressive catalogue of work - What Listening Knows, Zaum Tractor, and Where Lakes Once Had Water. You can find links to their website and vimeo channel where you can view excerpts from their installation projects, at the sonic sketchbooks episode guide sonicsketchbooks.net

May 18

46 min 18 sec

release date: 11 may 2021 This weeks episode is from a two day sound and drawing workshop I developed and conducted in May 2021 with 3rd year BFA students at the National Art School in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst. I’m a sessional tutor there, teaching two foundational streams with first year students - introduction to digital media, and experimental and expanded drawing. The workshop was in two parts - acoustic and electronic - both exploring the often neglected sonic and performative qualities and potentials of drawing, the representation of sound through drawing and various forms of the graphical score, and the diverse sonic textures and musicality of mark-making generated with different implements and media and recorded with different microphone types. On the first day we devised means of acoustic amplification of the act of drawing and performed improvised ensemble pieces in the tradition of Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra. On the second day, we worked with digital audio recorders and mobile phones to record drawing actions using a variety of microphones, then simultaneously replayed the recordings through portable wifi speakers - one for each student - to create a Cageian sonic ensemble of chance encounter. I assembled this episode’s series of sketches from recordings we made during the workshop which was staged in a huge renovated 19th century sandstone prison cellblock now used as a teaching space. Thanks to all the students who participated and especially Lydia, Charlotte and Zane who provided their recordings for me to intermingle and cross-pollinate with my own for this episode. You can find out more about sonic sketchbooks through the episode guide at sonicskechbooks.net

May 11

29 min 32 sec

Artists make their work from anything available. One of the things I use is sound. This weeks program is a new suite of sonic constructs built from recordings of a few of my sonic-kinetic installations and objects. In 2015 I built 'the 21-pendulum entropophone', an instrument comprising a kinetic-acoustic array of discarded aluminium drink cans collected from Sydney streets, then worked to turn each into a kind of bell. The altered tins were suspended in series along seven long dowels, spaced to knock together when the dowels moved. Each dowel had three concrete weights attached, forming a long pendulum at each end and a short one in the middle. Each tins paper-thin aluminium membrane produced a low amplitude sound with a clean tone. Using various sizes and cutting to varying lengths created diverse random microtones. Activated by visitors’ gentle touches, the instrument produced atonal clattering cascades, rhythmic pulses and ephemeral melodic sequences that gradually decayed to the silence of equilibrium. Thus the name - entropophone. It is an instrument anyone can play, but the sounds it makes at any given moment are not repeatable. Heard from nearby, the sounds are like distant moored boats or wandering farm animals. But if the listener brings their ears close to the hanging tins, the sound is suddenly experienced as surprisingly rich and resonant. The exhibition also included my 3-pendulum harmonograph, a mechanical drawing machine that translates the slowly expended energy of pendulums into detailed geometric drawings. I made various audio recordings of both works and have used excerpts to prepare a sequence of new sonic sketches for this program. The episode concludes with a work-in-progress version of a score for voices. In 2019 I was co-curator and showed works in an exhibition that ended with a performance salon on November 30 - International Remembrance Day for Lost Species. For the event, I wrote a cross-species score for voices of humans and forest pigeons, with birdcalls and words derived from an online biologists’ field recording archive. To create an aid for rehearsals with the six-person performance ensemble Reject Theatre Troupe, I used text-to-voice software to develop the composition. This is what is presented here. The work is titled 'Skins in the Museum'.

May 4

34 min 5 sec

release date: 20 April 2021 In 1988 I travelled overseas for the first time, taking my Marantz PMD430 stereo cassette recorder, a pair of lapel mics and boxes of TDK SA-42 cassette tapes to make field recordings. I liked the SA-42 tapes because they provided 20 minutes per side and my preference has always been to make uninterrupted 20 minute recordings. This episode begins with excerpts from a few of the tapes I made in Japan and ends with the complete recording of a walkthrough some of the electronic media art installations staged at the 1988 Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. One of these installations was Solar Music Hothouse by Fluxus artist Joe Jones.

Apr 20

49 min 50 sec

In this episode I talk with Jeff Doring, an artist, musician, photographer, author, raconteur, conservationist and filmmaker. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Jeff spent time in Papua and New Guinea working as a Nagra-lugging sound recordist, firstly for a New York documentary production company. Shortly after, he returned as director and sound recordist in the making of his feature-length observational documentary ‘Tidikawa and Friends’. This award-winning project offered the world an uninterpreted filmic encounter with the ancient self-sufficient rainforest lifeworld of the biami or bedamini people, at a moment when colonial impact had only very recently reached them. The principal figure followed in the film is the charismatic seance-leader Tidikawa. A couple of years ago it was revealed that the original reel-to-reel magnetic tapes Jeff recorded for Tidikawa and Friends still existed. This program presents just one of those dozens of 100-foot tapes, a field recording of an evening seance in Tidikawa's rainforest garden hut surrounded by village men and boys. Before the recording, Jeff reminisces about that night of 50 years ago, introduces the main people involved and explains some of the context of the project. Remarkably, the quality of this recently digitised tape is as good as the day it was recorded - a testament to the analogue marvel of mid-20th-century sound engineering. Now in his mid-70s, Jeff has lived off-grid in a bush hut and studio north-west of Sydney for the past four decades. I spoke to him there, with generator evident in the background and surrounded by the calls of his beloved bush birds - grey fantails’ squeaky trills, a wonga pigeon’s insistent monotone pulse, watery drifts of yellow-faced honeyeaters and many others… You can find out more about Jeff, his films, photography and art practice at the podcast website sonicsketchbooks.net

Apr 17

27 min 23 sec

Sonic Sketchbooks episode 15 interview with Virginia Hilyard This program is an interview with artist Virginia Hilyard who is a filmmaker, sound recordist, visual artist and teacher with early training in architecture and sculpture. Virginia has been making and exhibiting work since 1985, and her solo and collaborative works have been shown in cities and regional centres throughout Australia, South East Asia, Europe, the UK, North America and Canada. Virginia and I were organising members of the Sydney Super 8 Film Group in the 1980s and in the past decade we’ve presented sound art exhibitions together. I took a train out to Sydney’s inner western suburb of Hurlstone Park to meet with Virginia at her home and to ask her about her work with sound, particularly a series of international and local residencies and workshops she’s undertaken in recent years. tracklist 03:20 - 05:15 train station, trans-Siberian railway journey 2018 06:05 - 07:25 thunderstorm in Germany 09:40 - 12:20 Ice Sound, 2013 18:15 - 19:55 Picture Start, 2016 - soundtrack excerpt from 16mm film installation Soundtrack from field recording made in western Iceland. JrF contact mics attached to one of the steel guy ropes supporting the Hellissandur longwave radio mast, one of the tallest structures in northern Europe. Using JrF contact mics, 2013. 20:20 - 23:15 Ice Sound, 2013 field recordings of Snæfellsjökull, a volcanic glacier in western Iceland, 2013. Mix by Sean Hay. 24:40 - 26:10. excerpt from installation somnauralisms, Articulate project space 2017 27:25 - 28:55 - trans-Siberian railway journey 2018 30:55 - 32:10 - Olkhon, late night, a stop on the trans-Siberian railway journey 2018 34:30 - 39:35 - Room Tones - Super 8, stereo 11:30, 2012 - soundtrack excerpts 40:45 - 41:55 - field recording of Regent honeyeater 2019 (Anthochaera phrygia) 43:25 - 45:00 - humpback whales, hydrophone recording 46:25 - 50:35 - excerpt from performance by Virginia Hilyard at Articulate project space, Leichhardt on 30 November 2019, International Remembrance Day for Lost Species

Apr 13

51 min 16 sec

This episode is a composition comprising field recordings I made in Kyoto Japan in 2015.

Apr 6

1 hr 10 min

On the morning of the 2nd of February 2021 - a warm and humid summer day - I caught the light rail tram out to Arlington in Sydney’s inner western suburbs and walked up to Dulwich Hill to the apartment of musician and composer Laura Altman to talk with her about her busy creative life with experimental music. Laura is a clarinetist and improviser who joyfully explores all the sonic possibilities of that 17th century instrument and mainstay of classical orchestras and chamber ensembles. She is a long time active member of Sydney’s fabled Splinter Orchestra and a musical collaborator in duos and trios with fellow improvisers such as accordionist and pianist Monica Brooks, Berlin-based pianist of the prepared piano, Magda Mayas, guitarist Nick Brooks, saxophonist Peter Farrar, the late Cor Fuhler and many others. Laura also works to publish experimental music through the label Caterpillar, and is one of the organisers of the online information portal EMUS - exploratory music sydney - a calendar and newsletter for improvised, exploratory, experimental music and sound art in Sydney and surrounds - find that excellent resource at emus-dot-space Various of Laura’s works are available on bandcamp and you can find out more at her website lauraaltman.net, and more about Sydney’s lively exploratory music and sound art scenes at emus-dot-space tracklist 04:30-05:40 + 08:05-09:15 GW recording of a Splinter Orchestra performance at Articulate project space, Leichhardt, Sydney 30 July 2017 splinter orchestra bandcamp link https://splitrec.bandcamp.com/album/mungo 10:30-15:30 Laura Altman & Monica Brooks, ‘concurrent II’ from ‘as is’, a limited edition CD and digital album released October 2012 https://itllbeawesome.bandcamp.com/album/as-is 17:20-28:30. Laura Altman & Nick Ashwood, ‘poltergeist’ from ‘Battery’ digital album released May 2020 https://caterpillarrec.bandcamp.com/album/battery 32:20-42:20 The Great Waitress (Laura Altman, Monica Brooks, Magda Mayas), ‘Sownder’ from ‘Flock’ limited edition CD and digital album released January 2014 https://greatwaitress.bandcamp.com/album/flock

Mar 29

45 min 42 sec

ORIGMA RESERVE TRACKLIST Origma Reserve is a 10 hectare off-grid bush property surrounded on all sides by healthy Sydney sandstone forest under various titles - Aboriginal Land, State forest, Crown Land, and private ownership including gazetted Conservation Reserves. The property is bounded on the east and west by 100m ridges, and a valley wetland runs south to north. There are relictual rainforest species on the south-facing slopes, swamp mahoganys dotted amongst dense stands of tall paperbarks on the wetland margins, various combinations of ironbark/turpentine and bloodwood/angphora on the hillsides. Signs of pre-colonial occupation, such as grinding grooves and sand-floored caves dot the landscape. I’ve been making audio field recordings there since purchasing the title to the property in the mid-1990’s, to preserve it from development. The dominant larger tree species are yellow bloodwood, forest grey gum, cabbage gum, ironbark, turpentine, various angophora and paperbarks. As with the tree combinations, the diverse understory plants vary depending on elevation, proximity to water, cardinal direction (ie sunlight) and underlying geology. It is remarkable how slight the ecological shift needs to be for the botanical complex to vary. There is very little weed invasion, other than along the vehicle tracks and what’s arrives in floodwaters from upstream ‘developed’ properties a few kilometres away. I’ve documented over 125 bird species there, seven species of microbat were identified by a specialist team, there are various possums including so-called ’squirrel’ gliders, swamp wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, wombats, bandicoots, innumerable invertebrates and a decent reptilian diversity from tiny geckos to meters long goannas, red-bellied blacks, tiger and brown snakes to huge swamp pythons. All these lifeforms are entangled in ancient evolutionary networks, reliant on each other in so many ways. Understanding and appreciating the bush is not about the indexical cataloguing of individual species, separated from this crucial entanglement - the tangle IS the thing! This brief presentation of a very few recorded encounters from the past eight years gives some sense of the brilliant aural diversity of intact Sydney sandstone country. Future episodes of Sonic Sketchbooks will further explore this audio archive. 03:00 - 06:30 summer storm, noisy friarbirds calling, afternoon 22 January 2021 06:30 - 09:15 helicopter triggers golden whistler responses, morning 20 September 2016 09:15 - 13:00 striped marsh frogs on wetland, channel-bill cuckoos calling 03 September 2015 13:00 - 18:25 lyrebird and cicadas 23 January 2021 18:25 - 21:00 eastern froglets calling at waterhole, rainwater running from hillside washaway 14 February 2020 21:00 - 24:00 thornbills and other small birds in a feeding party in a stand of wattles bordering wetland 20 June 2020 24:00 - 26:00 dozens of a bee-fly species in congregation over hot sand 21 January 2021 26:00 - 30:00 unusual social gathering of dozens of gang-gang cockatoos in ironbark trees; bell miners calling in distance 09 December 2012 30:00 - 41:50 yellow-tailed black cockatoos, glossy black cockatoos, eastern whipbirds and many other forest species, surrounding a small billabong, late afternoon - the background white noise is wind blowing across the dense forest canopy of an adjacent hillside, the close knocking sounds are insects landing on plant stems, the recorder was placed on the ground in dense native grasses 05 October 2020 41:50 - 41:30 family group of four origma solitaria, the rock warbler*, bathing in a shallow pool in a cave 25 November 2019 41:30 - 49:15 pair of origma display-calling and hop-flying together 02 October 2017 49:15 - 53:30 group of grey shrikethrush, skirmishing in yellow bloodwood and angophora forest 07 March 2021 53:30 - 01:05:00 lone male lyrebird singing on one of his cleared forest dance grounds, late afternoon 16 October 2014

Mar 20

1 hr 5 min

This program is a recording made in one of my installation works titled 'soundtracker'. A multi-source, multi-speaker listening environment, adaptable for different spaces, soundtracker presents fifteen hours of audio excerpts from field recordings I’ve made over 40 years. Each excerpt is about 6 minutes long. SOUNDTRACKER is presented in a very dark room, illuminated only by diffuse natural light entering through a circle of white Japanese shoji paper that transmutes the crisp distraction of external views into diffuse luminous presence and shadow-play. In the darkness, five identical sculptural forms sit on the floor, in a circle surrounding a custom-built 5-sided bench seat. Playback devices and speakers hidden within the cryptic shapes endlessly shuffle-play over 150 tracks to create an ever-changing sonic-poetic atmosphere. The installation environment alludes to the calming shadow-cloaked spaces within traditional Japanese architecture so well described by Jun’ichiro Tanazaki in his 1933 essay ‘In Praise of Shadows’. Visitors enter the space from the brighter outside world and find their way to the bench, to sit and listen in the subdued light for as long as the unpredictably variable surround-sound mix holds their interest. soundtracker provides a penumbral space for reflective quietude in an evocative liminal emptiness. tracklist Locus A
0:00-4:30 Bundanon evening 29Oct13 4:30-9:30 Kinetic installation of 150+ hand-worked aluminium drink cans 01Mar15 9:30-16:20 Origma Reserve (OR) 29Oct2012 14:50-18:45 Under northern pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge 11Aug13 18:45-25:00 Pond, Adelaide Botanic Gardens 22Oct13 25:00-27:40 Raindrops falling from trees onto overturned metal bowls 27:40-31:35 Local rail, Hakone, Japan Sep1988 31:35-34:20 Black cockatoos, OR 06Sep16 Locus B 0:00-3:35 Time-stretch, rain drops in downpipe 06Jan2016 3:35-6:00 Water in gutters, Honen-in temple, Kyoto 6:10-11:05 3-pendulum harmonograph 15Feb2015 11:10-14:45 OR 09Dec2013 14:55-21:00 Evening camp near Tennant Creek, Northern Territory with Warumungu families and cultural workers developing Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Center 2003 21:00-26:20 Hillside washaway, OR 26:20-31:20 Wooden door, Bundanon residency 31:25-35:30 aleatoric ensemble unit Locus C 0:00-4:50 School group in garden, Ginkaku-ji temple, Kyoto 4:50-9:45 Diamond dove & fly swarm, OR 9:50-13:50 Time-stretch, striking bamboo Adelaide Botanic Gardens 19Oct13 13:50-17:10 Male superb lyrebird, raindrops falling from trees 03Apr15 17:10-20:35 Time-stretch, contact mic, pen plotter, Monash University 12Dec12 20:35-22:35 Council street-washing vehicle, Redfern 22:35-29:40 Time-stretch, below decks, overnight on research vessel, Shark Bay, Western Australia 2004 29:40-33:55 Local train to Uji, south-east of Kyoto 03Nov14 Locus D 0:00-2:00 Temple bell, wind in trees, Shoren-in, Kyoto 2:00-5:00 Kinetic installation walkthrough 01Mar15 04:50-09:00 Gyuto Monks of Tibet, sand mandala dissolution ceremony, Bondi Pavilion, Sydney 21Apr16 9:05-10:50 3-pendulum harmonograph 10:50-18:00 Water over stones in gutter, Jakko-in temple, Ohara, north-east of Kyoto 18:05-19:35 Stingless native bee hive, OR 19:35-25:30 Pilgrims & monk, chanting heart sutra, Mimuroto-ji, south-east of Kyoto 25:30-26:40 Gang-gang cockatoos, OR 10Dec2012 26:40-32:20 Night, OR 08Feb2014 32:20-33:25 Wharf, Man O'War steps, Sydney Opera House, night 29Aug12 Locus E 0:00-0:45 Tourists, Bondi Beach, Sydney 29Aug12 0:45-5:50 Frogs in dam, night, Dungog, New South Wales 03Oct16 5:50-11:50 Demolition work, Hobart wharves, Tasmania 24Nov14 11:50-19:50 Cicadas, Kyoto Botanic Gardens 20:00-20:15 Pigeon flies away, Origma Reserve, Sydney 20:20-25:30 Evening thunderstorm, OR 05Mar14 25:30-30:15 Raindrops falling from trees onto metal dishes, ground, and deck, OR 30:15-32:45 Time-stretch, rainwater dripping into cave pool, OR 18Jun13 32:20-35:30 Night, black field crickets, OR 16Mar14 OR = Origma Reserve

Mar 15

38 min 19 sec

release date - 10 march 2021 This episode presents audio documentation of a multi-speaker installation made in collaboration with fellow artist Jon McCormack. A free-standing 4-meter wide timber geodesic dome is skinned with white Japanese shoji paper. Visitors enter the dome to sit at a 5-sided bench seat with 15 speakers arranged in a hemisphere above and around them. Two empty triangles provide views outside the dome, in the manner of a bird hide. I derived the sounds heard in the dome from an online resource of biologists’ field recordings, carefully extracting and dissecting the spoken-word tape IDs usually considered only of technical interest for researchers - observations of behaviour, records of time, date, place, species, etc. The recordists were dedicated people, usually alone, often isolated in remote wilderness, using technological aids to listen to and archive sounds made by animals with the intention of contributing to scientific knowledge. My interest is in the poetic potential of this vocal marginalia to creatively explore a largely unattended record of human engagement with the natural world. The hundreds of vocal fragments were tagged in thematic groupings of date, place, description of action, species naming, and so on. Jon and his team developed a custom-written software to replay randomised selections from this audio-clips library, with randomised spaces of silence between files and randomised assignment of sounds to any speaker in the 15-unit array. The listening experience is like being in a hide in a forest where birds and other animals' voices have been substituted by human voices declaiming in unpredictable combinations just as ecosystems full of animals do. Selections from my long-form field recordings of Australian bush locations played quietly in the dome, a nuanced sonic bed for the spoken word elements. This episode is an unedited recording made in-situ at the University of Sydney's College of the Arts Gallery where the work was installed in the exhibition ‘FIELDWORK: Artist Encounters’ that I curated in 2016. ‘a quivering marginalia' was supported by a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body.

Mar 9

19 min 19 sec

release date: 02 march 2021 This program is an interview with mesotonal composers and musicians Kraig Grady and Terumi Narushima who together as the duet Clocks and Clouds. I travelled to their home in Unanderra south of Sydney to speak with them about the insrtuments that Kraig designs and builds, their compositional strategies and the ways that each space they play in modulates the sonic production and experiential affect of their music. You can find out a lot more about Kraig and Terumi’s activities at the website anaphoria.com

Mar 2

36 min 21 sec

This week's program is a live recording of rehearsals I did in preparation for an experimental music night on 24 August 2018 at Servo in the steel city of Port Kembla south of Sydney. Mesotonal composer and colleague Kraig Grady [anaphoria.com] invited me to make a performance in the evening program that also included music students from Wollongong University, and the headline act Whirlpool, a duo of Kraig playing his mesotonally tuned vibraphone and renowned keyboardist Chris Abrahams playing drones on a small harmonium. My performance titled ‘sonic event for found voice and electronics’ involved setting up five wifi speakers on the stage which were fed sounds from ipods, iphones, littlebits electronics and a Koma FieldKit effects mixer all of which I manipulated live on stage. The inputs included CV generated electronics, excerpts from my field recording library and voice fragments of biologists talking to their tape recorders while field recording animal sounds - the found voices. It was an experiment in mixing together disparate sound modalities to create a poetic sonic event existing somewhere on the margins of music but well inside the territory of sound art.

Feb 23

22 min 12 sec

This program presents three soundscapes I generated to accompany the exhibition of an 8m long drawing work that I made during a residency at Stacks Projects - an artist-run gallery space in Potts Point, Sydney. The soundscapes are constructed from recordings of simple autonomous kinetic drawing apparatus that were set up and left to operate for extended periods of time without intervention. Each apparatus is a unique combination of modified turntable, found objects, rods, cables, and pens, in an assemblage suspended from a camera tripod. Over the week-long residency, 50 independent drawings were generated on a long roll of heavyweight drawing paper gradually unfurled on the floor. The making of each drawing generated rhythmic patterns of sound that I captured with a digital audio recorder placed near each developing drawing at floor level. The sounds were manipulated by layering, time shifting, EQ and other simple effects, to produce three collections of six minute tracks that were replayed in the gallery from three spatially separated speakers. Each sequence had varying periods of silence between tracks - a compositional strategy to ensure modulation of the soundscape dynamics in the exhibition space. These sounds derived from production of the drawings, infuse the exhibition space with an unusual musicality intended to inflect the viewers reception of the exhibited ‘ecology of aleatoric drawings’ - the 8m long sheet having been lifted from the floor and hung on the wall.

Feb 16

25 min 58 sec

This program is a one-hour composition of evolving sonic construction shaped from my library of field recordings and other inquisitive recordings made in my studio and bush hut. I work by selecting a collection of tracks of interest, randomly dropping them together on a digital timeline, then intuitively shaping the sounds by time-shifting, re-arranging, layering and effecting, listening and re-listening until a certain enigmatic register emerges. I consider this practice to be a form of immaterial sculpture, locating and shaping sounds in aural and poetic space, setting up open-ended allusive and abstract relationships between disparately collected sounds gathered from my direct lived experience and from my formal experimentation in the studio. These compositions can provide an interesting alternative soundscape experience - that is, an alternative to broadcast or streaming media services - for artists, writers, or anyone engaged in creative flow activity

Feb 9

1 hr 2 min

sonic sketchbooks podcast - episode 05 release date: 02 february 2021 installation – ‘dreamfield 48/15’ This episode is a recording of my 2015 installation ‘dreamfield 48/15’, an homage to John Milton Cage Jr, the American 20th-century avant-garde sound artist, composer, writer, philosopher, provocateur, mushroom expert and visual artist, who has been a lifelong inspiration. The work comprises a large drawing on paper hanging on a wall, and, opposite this, a few meters away, a bench seat with two sets of headphones.  The pencil and ink drawing is a hand enlarged version of the sheet music for John Cage’s 1948 composition Dream. I replaced the scored notes with painted orange dots to create a visual representation of Dream’s pattern of sound.   At the bench seat headphones, two separate sound sources combine into a single stereo stream. One is a piano recital of Dream played by artist colleague Barbara Campbell. The other is excerpts from my field recordings made in Kyoto in 2015.  The two sources play continuously and are not synchronised. The field recordings play in random order, and the piano recital loops, creating an autonomous cinematically suggestive mix that varies all the time.  While the field recordings evoke minds-eye images, the listener looks at the real-world drawing and perhaps tries to match the drifting lyrical piano notes with their corresponding orange dots. dream field 48/15 ink on paper – 2250w x 1500h mm, electronics (2 x iPods, custom cable, 2 x stereo headphones), audio media, bench seat

Feb 2

20 min 30 sec

release date: 26 January 2021
 Guest Episode - Jon McCormack ‘Eden’

This week's program is the first of two episodes with digital media artist, musician, programmer and Director of the innovative Sensilab project at Melbournes Monash University, Professor Jon McCormack. 

Jon and I have been colleagues, collaborators and friends since the mid 1980s. He has a remarkable oeuvre of work, more well known and acknowledged internationally than here in Australia. Before the advent of COVID19, he was always on his way to or from somewhere in the world to install his works, present papers and lectures or undertake an artist-in-residency project.

This episode is a conversation about his digital media installation project Eden. In a second episode we discuss his digital music software Nodal.

Jan 26

33 min 39 sec

Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, is the site of ongoing work of archaeology, conservation and exhibition of the extraordinary relics of first emperor Qin Shihuang (259–210 BCE). This episode presents excerpts from a soundscape I developed for "The First Emperor - China's Entombed Warriors", a significant exhibition staged in 2010 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. 

Then-director Edmund Capon invited me to develop and create the exhibition's multimedia elements. In addition to video projections and screens, we envisaged an atmospheric soundscape for the main exhibition hall where the two-thousand-year-old life-size terracotta warrior figures were to be displayed.

The soundscape uses two distinct types of sound - ambient compositions by artist and musician Ian Hamilton who I invited to collaborate on the project, and short, suggestive field recordings I made from source material provided by a China-based cinematographer. 

These two sets of stereo tracks played simultaneously and unsynchronised from four speakers high in the corners of the two-storey space, ensuring always unpredictable combinations of music and field recordings.

Ian developed his contributions from recordings of traditional Chinese instruments, ancient bronze bells, and a Taoist ceremony in a remote mountain village. He manipulated and transformed these found sounds to shape slowly evolving musical sequences, alternating quieter openness and louder complexity. And his sounds move spatially through the stereo field, drifting around the listener.

To accompany and complement Ian's music, I prepared excerpts from field recordings representing the elemental forces of fire, water, air and earth - rustling bamboo, forests at night, wind over sand, rainfall, insects and native birds. 

In combination, the sounds provide a subtle cinematic register to the listening and viewing experience. 

The original soundscape tracks were close to an hour's duration. The episode’s 20-minute example includes two of Ian's ambient tracks in full, accompanied by a randomised selection of my field atmospheres.

In late 2018, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, commissioned me to create new large scale video projections for the entrance to their exhibition Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality. And our multi-speaker soundscape was again used in the main exhibition hall.

 Roles: 
Gary Warner – concept, implementation, atmospheres 
Ian Hamilton – musical arrangement, manipulations
 Episode 02 track list:
timings rounded to closest 5 second interval

02:55 - 26:15
soundscape for main exhibition hall ‘The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors’ - excerpt
END

Jan 19

27 min 2 sec

I’ve been experimenting with sound derived from everyday things for decades. In 1981 friends gave me John Cage’s book Empty Words because of my predilection for musicality over music. Musicality arising from the use of non-instruments and coalescences of chance, autonomy, simplicity, chaotic systems and bpm-less open-endedness. My ‘aleatoric ensemble’ continues this fascination. It comprises a growing number of similar units, based on a small USB turntable modified to allow variable rotation speed. Combinations of trays, boxes and tins with balls, quandong nuts, marbles and other small objects inside are assembled in ad-hoc fashion on each turntable. Set in motion, the constructions turn, the objects move, balls roll, and surfaces are struck, generating a strangely captivating, repetitive but always slightly variant musicality. They’re a type of crude analogue sequencer varied by rotational speed and selection of objects. Multiple turntables with various combinations of prepared objects are set in motion simultaneously to create complex soundscapes. Each instrument/device can be played by slight variations in RPM and addition or subtraction of different objects. Ideally, the ensemble is used in performance and installation contexts because I want the audience to experience the sounds made by the system in real space and time, preferably over an extended duration. But I also make many compositions using my recordings of different aleatoric ensemble combinations. aleatoric particles ‘aleatoric particles’ is a suite of 45 compositions, each of two minutes duration, created for a public art soundscape commissioned by Adelaide City Council, South Australia. Primary recordings made using the aleatoric ensemble were manipulated and mixed with excerpts from my field recordings to produce this unique collection of experimental sonic sketches.  Seven examples are included here in the podcast, introduced by an incorporeal voice. Episode 02 track list timings rounded to closest 5 second interval 01:30 - 04:05 excerpt from ‘The Bundanon Sonographies’, 2018-2020 04:55 - 14:15 recorded rehearsal for performance ‘an aleatoric ensemble [+ other sonic miscellany]’, Articulate project space, Sydney, 12 November 2017 14:55 - 15:45 soundtrack element for performance ‘Scientarctica’, That Space, Brisbane, September 1986 17:10 - 32:15 seven of the ‘aleatoric particles’ series, 2017 END

Jan 12

32 min 33 sec

Episode description This first episode of the Sonic Sketchbooks podcast is a rhizomatic composition of excerpts from upcoming episodes, an introduction to some of the types and uses of sound explored in the podcast series. The following playlist includes notes about the sequence of sounds, and the episode from which each is derived. More information about each episode will become available at the time of the episode’s release. Playlist for Sonic Sketchbooks Episode 01 timings rounded to closest 5 second interval; compositions, artworks and field recordings by Gary Warner unless otherwise noted 01:25 - 02:35 field recording of A Quivering Marginalia, an installation by Gary Warner and Jon McCormack at the University of Sydney College of the Arts Gallery, 07-30 July 2016 - Ep 10 02:30 - 03:05 interview with Professor Jon McCormack, Zoom, 07 July 2020 - Ep 04 03:05 - 03:55 soundtrack to Eden, a digital interactive installation by Jon McCormack - Ep 04 03:50 - 05:10 exhibition soundtrack for An Ecology of Aleatoric Drawings, Stacks projects, 2018 - Ep 07 05:00 - 06:50 field recording of frog pond at Ryoan-ji, Kyoto Japan, 16 May 2017 - Ep 13 06:50- 07:05 Clocks and Clouds performing, Newtown, Sydney, 20 July 2019 - Ep 09 07:05 - 08:20 Untitled Intuitions, a sound art composition - Ep 06 07:55 - 09:50 field recording at Origma Reserve, warm, overcast, still, 4pm 24 November 2019 - Ep 12 09:45 - 11:00 05 July 2020 - Jeff Doring narrating while listening to audio he recorded in 1971 at Obeimi, New Guinea - Ep 14 11:00 - 13:05 Nagra field recording ‘Biami Music 30’ by Jeff Doring, Obeimi, New Guinea, 1971 - Ep 14 13:00 - 14:45 exhibition soundtrack for The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors, AGNSW 2010 - a collaboration with Ian Hamilton - Ep 03 14:40 - 16:05 field recording - Keihan Line subway approaching Demachi-Yanagi station, Kyoto, 2015 - Ep 13 16:00 - 16:30 Clocks & Clouds performing at the Ort Festival, SNO Contemporary Art Projects, Marrickville, Sydney, 05 May 2017 - Ep 09 16:25 - 17:25 exhibition soundtrack for An Ecology of Aleatoric Drawings, Stacks projects 2018 - Ep 07 17:25 - 18:35 recorded rehearsal for performance at Servo, Port Kembla, 24 August 2018 - Ep 08 18:30 - 19:45 Soundtracker, installed in the Single Man’s Hut, Bundanon, 9 April – 7 May 2017 - Ep 11 19:45 - 21:20 interview with Clocks & Clouds: Kraig Grady and Terumi Narushima, Unanderra, 05 November 2020 - Ep 09 21:10 - 23:00 Clocks and Clouds performing at the International Memorial Day for Lost Species salon event at Articulate project space, 30 November 2019 - Ep 09 22:40 - 25:55 exhibition soundtrack for The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors, AGNSW 2010 - a collaboration with Ian Hamilton - Ep 03 25:45 - 27:30 Soundtracker, installed at ES74 Gallery, Alexandria, 17 November 2016 - Ep 11 27:10 - 29:20 field recording of water running in a hillside gutter at Jakko-in, Ohara, Japan, 28 July 2015 - Ep 13 28:00 - 29:20 Barbara Campbell playing Dream by John Cage, Camperdown, Sydney, 09 February 2015 - Ep 05

Jan 4

30 min 16 sec