Thoughts on musical experiences, my own works, and who knows what else.
On the verge of creating the first work involving a traditional Western instrument in 3 years, I find myself reflecting on one of the most successful instrument+tape collaborations I’ve ever come across - Transient Landscapes by Leah Barclay.
The album involves collaborations with numerous instrumentalists from around the world, pairing their performance with beautifully pure soundscapes from their local area, collected and composed by Barclay.
Barclay’s ability to process abstract and natural sounds and make them meld seamlessly into instrumental music is extraordinary. Her fascination with waterways is very clear from all her works, but especially in this album dedicated to the rivers of the world, and the people and animals that depend on them. Everglades (2012) is over too quickly. Plucked guitar harmonises with gentle water splashes, picked up via hydraphone. It’s hard to pick a favourite out of the collection, but this may be mine. Han River, a much longer work based on the Korean waterway of the same name, uses snatches of voice, drums, bells to reflect how waterways not only inspire raw existence, but culture and community. The 15-minute work oscillates between meditative and energetic, even using snatches of voice as another layer of texture and meaning, but always the essence of the water bursts through.
With Leah’s innate ability to conjure a certain landscape, using both sounds drawn and inspired by place, it is hard not to feel a pull to create something in a similar vein. A few days ago, my artist neighbour said, “residencies are places where you can make mistakes freely.” While I’m hoping it won’t be a mistake, I picked up my flute this morning and began to experiment with random notes, recording everything and noting which accidental phrases resonated. I’ve recorded flute clicks, my laptop keyboard, bird call, and when everything cools down a little bit in the early evening, I’ll gather some field recordings on the short strip of beach on the Shoalhaven river. Armed with these tools, I plan to make a work which reflects Bundanon, the Shoalhaven river, and the many different faces it presents to its human visitors.