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This paper explores four different site-specific sound projects called Soundings, and unpacks various reasons for ‘engagement with place’ as an arts practice. This practice is based on a collaborative approach to sound-making in various Australian environments, interactively undertaken between the author and Brisbane-based composer-performer Erik Griswold since 2007. The practice of Soundings meditates on the following questions: • How can site-specific performance lead to new knowledge, new relationships, and new experiences for the performers and listeners? • How can site-specific performance help to activate listening and, therefore, understanding of place? • Who and what is listening, and who and what is playing?
This paper explores four different site-specific sound pro-
jects called Soundings, and unpacks various reasons for
‘engagement with place’ as an arts practice. This practice
is based on a collaborative approach to sound-making in
various Australian environments, interactively undertaken
between the author and Brisbane-based composer-perfor-
mer Erik Griswold since 2007. The practice of Soundings
meditates on the following questions:
 How can site-specific performance lead to new
knowledge, new relationships, and new experiences
for the performers and listeners?
 How can site-specific performance help to activate
listening and, therefore, understanding of place?
 Who and what is listening, and who and what is
“Soundings is a term coined to articulate activation of a
place or space by a musician that is both investigative, in-
formation seeking, and performative” (Tomlinson, 2019).
This approach opens-up the possibilities to unravel multiple
histories, memories and uses of land—from over 40,000
years of the land being walked upon and listened to, 250
years of clearing, farming and mining, coming full-circle to
more recent efforts of rehabilitation, replanting, protection,
and community engagement to imagine a different future.
These Soundings projects approach environmental sound
performance through historical narrative, reflective writing,
improvisational practices, environmental concerns, colla-
borative processes, and site specific interactivity, to name
a few methods. They contribute to further scholarship in
a burgeoning field that includes many Australian compo-
ser/artist/musicians engaged with the sonic-specificity of
place. Notable works in this direction include Ghost Towns
(English, 2004), Through Fire, Crevice and the Hidden
Valley (Denley, 2007), Is Birdsong Music? (Taylor, 2017),
Fences of Australia (Rose & Taylor, 2002), The Music Fence
(Leak, 2003), and Mungo ( Bandt 2003). Internationally,
this practice draws upon the considered listening work of
Oliveros’ (2005) Deep Listening, Westercamp (1974), and
Magen’s (2011) notion of the Soundwalk, Harris’ (2013)
Scorescapes, Annea Lockwood’s (2005) sonic mappings,
Alvin Lucier’s (1980) acoustic interrogations, and R. Murray
Schafer’s (1977) proposition of a soundscape. The intention
of Soundings is to understand how sound is transformed
by acoustic spaces in a variety of places, and how listening
can be heightened through mobile audience engagement.
Looking out through a window in the bush one day I made a
list of variables that find their way into my composition process:
proximity, intimacy, density, effort, effortlessness,
shape, projection, juxtaposition, masking, form,
shape, contour, texture, depth, strength, fragility,
serendipity, alignment, coincidence, combinations,
reassembling, meaning, semiotics, relationships,
entering, exiting, opening, closing, transforma-
tion, time, control, abandon, age, pliability, density,
weather, dryness, wetness, reflections, absorption,
refraction, illumination, tendency, togetherness, at-
traction, stoicism, size, movement, potential, limita-
tion, distance, awareness, expansion, surrounding,
immersion, enclosed, observational, community,
colour, shade, vibration, motion, flickering, break-
ing, approach, falling, cascading, creeping, surg-
ing, flying, propelled, impedance, flow. (Author,
journal entry, October 20, 2017)
These ideas are evident in the compositional material em-
ployed in Soundings, which are sometimes notated, but
more often verbally described, and then embodied in ac-
tion. My compositional process is guided by specific mo-
des of exploration including physical choreographic design,
listening and exploration of sonic shapes.
The compositional approach employed by both Griswold
and myself in Soundings employs materials at hand inclu-
ding people, sounds, spaces and places. The role of the
composer in the Sounding, becomes the role of a colla-
borative music-maker, working with the environment, wor-
king with the prevailing conditions, working with available
musicians, collecting and assembling from what the place,
context and environment afford. This adaptive and flexible
compositional process draws on skills of the improviser,
interpreter, project manager, listener, and curator. It also
takes into account research-in-and-about place that might
inform the temporal design, or the inner structure, of the
Sounding. Sounding Wivenhoe 2007 and Sounding the
Condamine 2009, both discussed in detail below, are two
such examples.
Soundings have led me to think deeply about listening,
and the nature of listening that is activated through each
project. Listening is perhaps the most important task of a
musician—listening to our sound, listening to the space,
listening to the environment, listening to each other. It is
the unique experience that we, as artists, share with the
audience and the surroundings—we are all in it together,
listening. When we are listening, we are paying attention.
When we pay attention, we offer respect. When we offer
respect, we might begin to hear what others are saying.
Listening can be seen as an ethical act, and as musicians,
we can traverse boundaries, cultures, divisions, and diffe-
rences through listening.
Furthermore, music is temporal in nature; it is a function of
time, and these projects unfold in time and space through
artistic action. The intentional composed musical sounds,
and the streaming sound in the environment are equally va-
lued, and manifest as an interplay rather than an intentional
juxtaposition. In Soundings, it is not just humans listening
in to the performance, but also the environment becoming
acutely aware of our anthropogenic sounds. Soundings re-
gards the curious birds, the trees, the insects, and the ani-
mals, as part of the listening community. Accordingly, these
site-specific listening experiences are a combination of fo-
cused, temporal listening, with inclusive immersive listening.
Since 2007, Erik Griswold and I have been involved in
creating site-specific creative interventions in a variety of
Australian settings: Sounding Wivenhoe (2007) reflected
depleting water supplies in extreme drought; Sounding
the Condamine (2009) examined the pioneering history of
sounding the landscape through the cowbells worn by bu-
llock trains; The Listening Museum (2013, 2016, 2018) is an
indoor work that combined factory workers, musicians and
installation artists in a reimagining of place; and most re-
cently Sounding Harrigans Lane (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,
2018), is a sonic exploration of rejuvenating bushland.
These temporal, performative events aimed to enhance
our ability to listen in our environment, and perhaps even to
change our relationship with, and responsibilities towards,
place. This changing relationship to sound will be eviden-
ced through each of the case studies that follow.
This paper uses the aforementioned collaborative projects
as case studies to examine how site specific performance
can bring about new understandings of place. It takes note
of how these events engaged with community, and how
the projects transformed our connection to land, our sen-
se of place, and our multi-sensorial awareness. The case
studies all share the centrality of an inclusive notion of lis-
tening; complete with all its component parts of intentional
sound, unintentional sound, functional sound, and sound
produced for aesthetic reasons. (Tomlinson, 2019) They
also look at different value systems, hierarchies and even
responsibilities that are invoked in the different contexts, as
the audience themselves intermingle with the performers,
becoming part of the performance through listening.
Sounding Wivenhoe 2007
The first Sounding was composed by Erik Griswold, exa-
mining drought through a performance on the dry, crac-
ked banks of Lake Wivenhoe—the main water source for
Brisbane City. Griswold, in collaboration with visual artist
Rebecca Ross, took the dwindling Wivenhoe Dam (in the
midst of a century-worst drought) as the focal point of his
investigation of acoustic, visual, and cultural properties
of that site. In this instance Sounding had multiple mea-
nings: the act of one that sounds; a probe of the envi-
ronment for scientific observation; a measured depth of
water. Together they created a site-specific musical perfor-
mance which aligned with the natural environment. They
harnessed music, scientific data, environment, and archi-
tecture to examine pressing issues of drought and water
management, thereby increasing an awareness through
musicians and audience members of the Wivenhoe Dam.
Sounding Wivenhoe gathered ten musicians (bassoon, vio-
lin, clarinet, cello, percussion, toy piano, oboe, trombone,
trumpet, and flute) at the site of Wivenhoe Lake during one
of the longest running droughts in Brisbane history. Daily
news stories about the falling water levels of the dam—23%,
19.8% and eventually down to 14%—inspired Griswold to
take both musicians and audience out on to the cracked-
mud lake-bed, to perform and listen on what should have
been underwater. The act of bringing people together on
site to experience water loss, drought and community, be-
came the central outcome of the work.
This work is a notated composition using time codes, set
pitches and suggested rhythmic patterns based on bird
calls, wind and other meteorological phenomena particular
to the site. The structure of the composition gave each
performer the opportunity and permission to play, listen
and respond. The ten musicians projected their sounds
across the lake in a long-distance musical conversation
(over hundreds of metres). The significance of the work
came from gathering music-makers directly on land that
had rarely been exposed, connecting downwards to the
dry mud while projecting sound outwards across the re-
maining water basin. The work rose out of a particular en-
vironmental issue, and was used to differently experience
and understand the issue. Notably, this was a site that
none of the musicians had ever visited. The experience
changed not only their notion of the place specifically, but
also their water source awareness and water usage more
generally. Perhaps the act of musicking - playing and liste-
ning as sound travels through the air, across and against
different surfaces is in itself special. This realtime fee-
dback produces an attentiveness in the listening communi-
ty which in turn heightens the other senses. One begins to
hear beyond what we can see, almost following sound on
its journey through space. A particularity in the movement
of sound is therefore learned by the musicians; a trumpet
sound skidding across the water, a bassoon note projec-
ted one hundred metres to the oboist, or a toy piano note’s
articulation bouncing off the lake.
Later this work was transported to an indoor venue, the
Brisbane Powerhouse, and aptly renamed Sounding the
Powerhouse. Interestingly the performance practice of
this work that was developed and embodied in the origi-
nal outdoor performance, and the playing style of each of
the instrumentalists in the indoor venue recalled the ap-
proach of skidding, projecting or bouncing sound. The mu-
sicians had found a new way of playing their instruments in
Sounding Wivenhoe that became the language of this work.
Performances at the Brisbane Powerhouse were framed by
Ross’ mesmerizing video installation, which used footage
from the lake to enhance the complex musical rhythms,
and enhance this transplanting of place and space through
sound and image. Reviewer Greg Hooper explains it like
this: “Performers echo rhythms and pitch fragments across
the space...The music sits well in the space, the performers
acting as sound sources within an environment: obviously
present but not obtrusive.” (Hooper, 2007).
Sounding the Condamine 2009
The second Sounding, Sounding the Condamine, was
again site-specific. Enacted on the banks of the Dogwood
Creek near the town of Condamine, 4 hours drive west
of Brisbane, it examined the colonial droving history of
Western Queensland through the Condamine Bell. This
bell is a cowbell, and was used in the pre-fence droving
days to help drovers navigate and locate their stock while
moving them through the harsh weather patterns of flood
and drought. Sounding the Condamine brought together
400 farmers, community members, listeners, and artists
to create an event that explored one particular theme, the
Condamine Bell, from a multitude of perspectives.
Nine performers, composers, installation artists,
and sound artists were asked to create works for
the Sounding the Condamine Project to be pre-
sented on April 18, 2009. It was to be an outdoor
event free of generators, with a music ensemble
consisting of three trombones, two flutes, two me-
lodicas, bass, drums and vocals. All creators were
invited to a four day retreat in the area to get to
know the locals, the stories, and the environment.
(Tomlinson, 2009)
This Sounding was different from the singular immersive
activity of Sounding Wivenhoe, in that it was a celebration
and acknowledgement of history rather than an environ-
mental call to attention. Sounding the Condamine included
a collection of songs, performance pieces, improvisations,
and poetry, and unfolded over 3 hours. This constellation
of creative acts celebrated the colourful histories of the
Condamine Bell in the context of its use in the late 1800’s
to open-up the land in Western Queensland. It exemplified
a site-specific, community-based, exploratory investiga-
tion of sound in place—the banks of the Dogwood Creek/
Condamine River, a central historical site in the bells his-
tory due to the forging of the bell in the nearby town of
Condamine, and the many newspaper accounts of floods.
Background information on the Condamine bell that infor-
med this work included tangible stories found in newspapers
from the late 1890’s such as the flood on the Condamine
River when numerous drovers were stuck together with
their livestock, each being able to distinguish his animals
from the others by the pitch of their bells. I read of drovers
that bragged their bell could be heard over ten miles on a
cold still night, and I read bush poetry of Condamine Jack
about the characteristic sound of the landscape.
From my experience, I have come to understand that ins-
piration for new works come from remarkably different
places. Collaborative colleague Steve Newcomb became
obsessed with Condamine Jack’s poetry and set three
poems to music; Passing of the Condamine Bell beca-
me the theme song of the event (Newcomb 2009). Erik
Griswold used the acoustic energy of the place to create
two site-specific works, Trombones in Tinnies (Griswold,
2009) and Flutes of the Forest (Griswold, 2009). Stephen
Leek chose to arrange a popular folk song, On the Banks of
the Condamine, for the local choir ‘Maid2Sing’ to perform
(Leek, 2009). Jan Baker-Finch and I examined the pionee-
ring history by using skipping ropes as a sound source and
a reference to drovers whips. Composer Robert Davidson
took the historic newspaper accounts provided to the com-
posers to create a strong but dreamlike musical statement
that reflected the optimism and stoicism that he perceived
in the environment. Installation artists visited the site and
found an environment to sound; among them was Kumi
Kato, who placed her Bell Tree Walk by the creek. Sharka
Bosakova recalled her Czech childhood as she floated a
burning raft of sticks down the creek; a tribute also to the
loggers sending timber downstream.
Central to all activity was the Condamine Bell, an item
many of the 400 audience members brought with them
from their homes. On arrival, all bells were checked-in
and individual scores passed out to the bell owners
with particular instructions such as “meet at the sit-
ting log at 4pm, holding your bell, then run toward the
clearing.” The first hour of the event was experien-
tial—performances happening for the audience. Using
a map the audience could locate the performers and
listen in on the sounding event. When the audience
members turned into performers the dynamic of the
event transformed and it was clear that a new memory
of sound and place was being formed. As I wrote soon
after the event,
With a few hundred people on site, and at least
100 bells, contented chaos descended. Many
stayed in one spot and watched the flow of activ-
ity. Some had been practising their instructions for
the preceding hour, desperately trying not to make
a mistake. Incidents happened: Jan, encountering
a passing bell-ringer on the path, coyly invited him
to dance and an audience gathered around them;
someone became tired and set up a deck chair in
the middle of the path while ‘human cows’ wan-
dered by, en route to their next destination. The
effort was phenomenal. The sound magical. The
execution far from perfect. (Tomlinson, 2009)
This project gave us a chance to re-sound a historical
practice, on the land, by proposing new uses for a soun-
ding object. It also gathered together a cross-section of
people for a once only experience, leaving a new sonic
and cultural memory for those that listened. The event
created new communities that straddle city artists and
bush farmers, teaching us all to hear and feel differently.
The elements of place, inclusive of weather, sunlight,
water depth, tree health, season, and the moon cycle
contributed to the event as much as the presence of
each person.
I concluded a paper about this project in 2009 with these
words, still relevant to this discussion 10 years later.
[In my writing, there is] constant reference to en-
vironment, locals, transformation, familiar/unfa-
miliar, and transitions. While these words might
seem specific to this particular project, I believe
they are deeply embedded in the creation of any
musical event, whether in the concert hall, pub or
outdoor space. The environment in which art hap-
pens so honestly affects the reception of the art.
Community art accepts this ... . (Tomlinson, 2009.)
This project was elemental in developing many other works.
Soundings projects in place meant that we, as a commu-
nity of artist-researchers, were developing the idea that we
are all active listeners together in place.
The Listening Museum 2013, 2016, 2018
The process of making the Listening Museum is well do-
cumented in the chapter The Listening Museum where it is
described as a “modular multi-layered interdisciplinary event
for the exploration of sound.” (Tomlinson, 2016). In contrast
to the aforementioned Soundings, the Listening Museum is
an indoor event set up to explore how audiences navigate
space through walking and listening, how they are attracted
to sonic activity and how they deal with competing simul-
taneous sound events. Set up as an experimental site to
intentionally disrupt notions of durational compositions by
abutting them amongst installations and disturbing them
with spontaneous happenings, The Listening Museum in-
terrogates what Rebelo et al, (2008) call the “Museum of
Listening”. In musical terms the Museum of Listening is
when the audience and performers are listening in a set
physical space with an entry threshold and a physical (but
perhaps not acoustic) boundary, so that there is an inside
and outside, or a here and there. However, there is no direct
hierarchy provided to the audience of what to listen to and
when to listen to it. Much like a museum, the audience are
free to wander and interact with performances, entering a
work half way through, leaving after 2 minutes, and strolling
on to something else. The project is a mix of compositions,
installations, improvisations and even participatory events
that confers listening responsibility on the audience mem-
ber, in much the same way as the previously discussed
Soundings in outdoor environments allowed.
In the Listening Museum, the environment, or the threshold
entered into, was the working factory of UAP (Urban Art
Projects), complete with lathes, a foundry, mould-making
machines, cutting machines, grinders, blow torches, and
robots among many others. Functional use of this machi-
nery and factory workers was mixed-in with purely musi-
cal, sounds. The compositional approach taken meant that
unintentional interruptions by workers and artists, were in-
terspersed with pre-determined, structured compositions.
What resulted was a listening experience where each in-
dividual audience member, over the course of two hours,
navigated their own personal journey through the sounding
material. In some instances, in a space of over 2563 squa-
re meters, there were intimate sound events with only one
audience member present. In other instances, an entire au-
dience could not avoid collective, loud provocations.
The Listening Museum is itself a meta-composition, and
is made up of many component parts that were construc-
ted in a modular time-based map. The most recent 2018
version featured Powertools and Drummers (Tomlinson
2018), a conducted work for four factory powertool wor-
kers and three punk drummers, abutting physical force
against machine energy. There were ten discreet sound
installations hidden in venues like the lunchroom and
the finishing room, a piano playing robot, a bronze me-
tal pour, eight individual performances, both composed
and improvised, and two performers inhabiting Trombone
Haus. No individual audience member experienced all the
works, but nearly all had unique stories to tell about their
experience of the event. Discussions at the bar after the
event were rich with comparison stories: “You missed
that? It was amazing!”; “I was the only one there”; “my
favourite was… .’
What this Sounding in an industrial factory setting has in
common with the other works is the mobility that it affords
in the listening experience. Further, in essence, these pro-
jects work with instruments, communities, and place to ex-
pand creative ideas through experimentation. Ideally, The
Listening Museum will lead to new ways of interacting with
sound, and potentially new relationships to place. “The mo-
bility of the listener seems to have a deep effect on the ex-
perience of listening—choosing what to listen to, where to
listen from, and experiencing sound as something to be ex-
plored rather than simply received.” (Tomlinson, 2019) It is
this individualised ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ approach
that is central to the Museum of Listening experience. It be-
comes a microsm of how we live our life; how we go about
our daily activity, making choices, paying attention, missing
the obvious. Much like Jez Riley French’s ‘scores for liste-
ning’ (French XXXX) which are mostly text and photogra-
phic images that act as cues for listening experiences,
the entire factory becomes a cue for listening. The cura-
torial or compositional function is to encourage this attenti-
veness and potential for spontaneous artistic engagement
among The Listening Museum participants including musi-
cians, installation makers, factory workers, and audience
members through the acts of walking and wayfinding.
The Listening Museum adds to work that focuses on the pla-
ce and space in which music happens, contributing to a dete-
rritorialisation of the seated listening experience of the concert
hall, towards a more physically active listener-led experience.
It demonstrates a move away from The Theatre of
Listening toward The Museum of Listening, inten-
tionally addressing issues of mobility/wayfinding
and relationships between the listener/participant
and space. The curatorial function in this work is
to inhabit the space with sound objects—instal-
lations, compositions, events—that can illuminate
listening potentials, provide sonic space for indi-
vidual journeys, and still maintain the coherence of
a large-scale composition.” (Tomlinson, 2016, pp.
Sounding Harrigans Lane 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,
The site of the final case study is 300 kilometers southwest
of Brisbane in the granite-belt high on the Great Dividing
Range. This private property is home to the award-win-
ning Piano Mill, and hosts the annual event Easterat the
Piano Mill 2017 which includes this case study Sounding
Harrigans Lane (referencing the address of the property).
The site is set atop a deep valley on a mixture of forested
tall trees and dense fern gullies.
The Piano Mill itself, is a purpose built structure that houses
16 ‘pre-loved’ pianos. A collaboration between architect
Bruce Wolfe and composer Erik Griswold, this building has
become the focal point of the Harrigan’s Lane property on
which the Soundings have taken place. The Mill sits in the
tall trees near the cleared house site at the top of the valley
and is itself deeply connected to its surroundings. During
the development and rehearsals for the premiere work
for the building-cum-instrument, Griswold’s Alls Grist that
Comes to the Mill it was noted, “the environment began to
play an important role in the listening, as the musicians de-
veloped an understanding of the pace of the wind, birdlife,
and insect sounds, using the 16 pianos not just as a density
of sound, but as a spatialisation of sound.” (Griswold, et al,
2018, p. 53).
Sounding Harrigans Lane has been happening annua-
lly every Easter Sunday since 2014 and been part of the
Easter@The Piano Mill since 2016. The first Sounding here
was designed as a concert in the bush to an invited au-
dience of around 20, but it immediately became clear from
audience reactions that the set list was not the important
part of the event. I observed that the interaction of sound
and place, and the moments that intersected light, sound,
and movement, were the magical things that all listeners
responded to. For example playing a solo triangle on top of
a granite rock while the sunset was setting and the sound
was dancing off the homestead and cascading down the
valley was a highlight for many audience members. Singing
and dipping gongs in the water while being canoed across
a dam, accompanied by a lonely piano on a platform on the
banks of the dam was another highlight – sound, move-
ment, light and place.
I began experimenting with improvisational happenings in the
bush, using different areas of the property to create different
sonic responses, drawing on the compositional words men-
tioned at the beginning of this paper such as intimacy, proxi-
mity, effort and masking. This broadened the sound palate of
my own percussion performance and was compositionally
enhanced through the inclusion of various instrumentalists,
movement artists, and visual artists. A mover in heavy sand
filled shoes weighted to the earth, interacts with a percus-
sionist playing solo balloon: rubbing, caressing, and enticing
sound out of a single blown up supermarket quality balloon.
Or two flutists are down in the densest fern gully intentionally
interacting with the local bird life they can be heard hun-
dreds of metres before they can be seen.
I also began to understand that a number of issues were
unique to this way of working—sound always helped ar-
ticulate silence (or the lack of it), and musical ideas that
tested the parameters of proximity and presence were
interesting parameters of exploration. In other words,
sonic mobility and temporal flexibility quickly became
important factors for both the sound-makers and the
listeners. As one listener stated, “I am not sure I would
listen to this as a concert, but out here, I cannot ima-
gine anything more magical.” In these experiments, all
sounds were welcome, and my compositional approach
was to frame listening experiences based on this notion
of inclusivity in sound. I find the awareness of what is
in the environment particularly interesting, and the fact
that instrumental sound can be used to highlight or bring
attention to what is already there, empowering, as an
The 2016 Sounding at Harrigan Lane was a mixture of sight
specific performances pieces led by different creative lea-
ders, taking on a similar approach to that of the Listening
Museum. Spread over a distance of around three kilome-
tres, the Sounding traversed sonic interventions and surpri-
se pop-up events, intimate performances, and found object
performances. It was again a two hour ‘choose-your-own
adventure’ style event with maps and signage for naviga-
tion. This curated part of the Sounding was in itself a meta-
composition, spread over huge distances with the audience
discovering sounds well before they could see sound sou-
rces—much like bird-watching. The event was galvanised
in a central location overlooking a deep valley in a clearing
scattered with giant rocks.
Stark long tones penetrated the space, reflecting
off the granite rocks strewn around the area, and
high sharp woodblocks interacted with the now
active crickets. Triangles danced above it all, and
the tamtams collected the bass sounds below. The
audience were at first turning to each new sound
and timbre, attracted to the sound, but very soon
they started to just look through the valley to hear
the sound as a collective, a dreaming space, per-
mission to be still and to listen.” (Griswold et al.,
2018, p. 61)
Easter@The Piano Mill 2017 introduced yet another ap-
proach through the semi-notated composition Vibrations in
a Landscape (Griswold & Tomlinson, 2017). This work, built
on layered sonic ideas, and introduced choreographic ele-
ments to heighten the sense of spatialisation in the sound.
For instance, ten musicians stood on individual logs, each
spinning a speaker around their head, creating movement
in sine-tone chords being played; a row of twelve triangle
players walked through the audience in a set pattern that
included spinning the triangles and spinning the arm; four
tamtam players performed at the north, south, east and
west positions of the performance space; groups of bell and
ratchet players ran chaotically through the space, playing
only when still; motorbikes revved through the performance
space adding to the movement, energy and sound world.
While referencing ideas from the Museum of Listening, this
work transcended the idea of physical boundaries. The
space was crafted by mostly acoustic boundaries, or what
(Rebelo et al, 2008) would call the City of Listening.
Vibrations in a Landscape was a 60 minute work speci-
fically composed for this private property in the bush. It
allowed for interaction with the already-sounding site as
part of the listening experience. It therefore blurred the
boundaries between intentional and unintentional sound,
and repurposed the drone of wind and motorbikes revving
from background sounds to intentional sounds. This work
was specifically composed for the house-site at the top of
a huge valley at the Harrigans Lane property. This is one of
the few Soundings that has been transported to alternate
sites, using the sonic layering, or clearly demarcated fre-
quency bands evident through the instrumentation in the
work, to explore particularities in site, regardless of the lo-
cation (Tyalgum Music Festival 2017, for example ).
These works all require a lot of people power—taking musi-
cians and equipment out to site, working with the weather,
the environment, flies, mosquitoes, sun, rain, standing on
land, being in place together. Some of the impact of this
work surprised me. One musician thanked me for taking
them out of the city for a few days. People act differently
towards one another in these environments; I act differently.
And we listen differently.
For me, the practice of Soundings has become how I learn
about place. While at times compositions emerge from the
knowledge—like in Sounding Wivenhoe—it is the act of pla-
ying in place that is the transformational key. Listening, being,
interacting, mimicking, proposing, and manipulating sounds
in a particular space has been my learning and sharing
process. And going through this process with others—either
as performers, collaborators or audience members—places
them in the learning, evolving space as well.
Mobility has become a key element for the audience in all
these case studies as they engage in the listening expe-
rience through walking, proximity to sound sources, and
a sense of discovery. Taking audiences out of the seated
concert hall environment opens up the experience of inten-
tional attentive listening to different kinds of audiences. The
new performance environments also create space for new
kinds of music to be created and for performers to create
new performance practices on their instruments.
This collection of four case studies also demonstrates
a compositional and curatorial evolution and learning.
In Sounding Wivenhoe it was the surprise of the perfor-
mers and the audience being on site together, sharing
the experience, that was most profound. In Sounding the
Condamine it was the engagement of the local community
as sound makers, alongside their patient and curious liste-
ning to new ideas that is most memorable. In the Listening
Museum projects, the mobility of audiences, the individua-
lized listening adventures of each attendee, and the gathe-
ring and dispersing of the audience continue to drive the
curatorial decision-making in that project forward. Lastly,
the ongoing Sounding Harrigan’s Lane project has in itself
become an ongoing research question about audience ex-
perience, performer engagement, and site-specific art ma-
king. So much new work has been made there over the
past five years, with over 50 performers involved and more
than 1,000 listeners.
The sounds we make in Soundings are always played into a
sonically rich environment, and require a sense of empathy
between performers, on one level, and between the human
and the non-human, on another holistic level. But, as artists
we are still marking out our sonic territory. These pieces are
temporal; they are ephemeral fleeting moments that con-
nect people and place, forging and eliciting deep memo-
ries. They are both fixed and flexible, allowing performers to
navigate their way through time while still being connected
to one another. And the audience members are performing
the role of listening – navigating through their sound world,
and reorientating their knowledge of place.
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The Great Animal Orchestra, Profile Books
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Krause, B., 2013, The Great Animal Orchestra, Profile Books, ISBN-13: 978-1781250013
The Soundscape -and the tuning of the world, Destiny Books Truax, B. (Ed). (1999). Handbook for Acoustic Ecology
  • R M Schafer
Schafer, R. M. (1993). The Soundscape -and the tuning of the world, Destiny Books Truax, B. (Ed). (1999). Handbook for Acoustic Ecology (2nd Ed), Cambridge Street Publishing