Backyard sounds

One day I'd like to make an Australian version of this idea

Thank you Yanco

The inFrequency tour rumbled through Yanco on Saturday night as a diverse line-up brought their audiovisual performances to town

Griffith's Bernard Gray shared his experience in live-coding at a workshop during the afternoon, then demonstrated the flexibility of this approach with a set that leapt from a jazzy opening into distorted beats before cooling off with a funky break that he seemed to materialise through programming on his keyboard.

Bassling brought a collection of synthesisers onstage to accompany video projections and audio-activated visuals.

See video here!

Dron Skot's techno pummelled the sound system and brought a cheer from the Chinese restaurant next door. 

(Thanks Lee and Donny!)

DJ Ruined My Wedding Day walked a fine line between giving the crowd the pop music they thought they knew, then perverting it into breakcore and rave.

Myst Mach's performance began with an audience singalong to 'Promiscuous' by Nelly Furtado, then channeled the spirit of Sophie with a DJ set accompanied with dancing and manipulated video that looked like it came from a fisting video.

The All Services Club provided a warm and friendly venue, as well as being enthusiastic in their support for the event.

Thanks also to our bartender, Dale.

 

inFREQUENCY tour

The inFREQUENCY tour will bring together electronic musicians from the southeast and southwest for performances and workshops that showcase their different approaches

“We’re literally overcoming the Great Dividing Range to visit locations in regional New South Wales,” says organiser Jason Richardson.



“Our aim is to create opportunities to share cutting-edge audio-visual art through live shows and workshops that will provide a behind-the-scenes perspective on the techniques being used.”


There will be demonstrations of video projection-mapping and live-coding that provide an introduction to free software in workshops before the performances dazzle and inspire audiences.



Artists Scott Baker and Jason Richardson have two decades of experience in working together, including running projection-mapping workshops at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum in 2016.



Both were part of the Unsound Festivals that ran in Wagga Wagga, which put Australia’s experimental musicians on the world stage.



Baker has developed audio-visual art as Abre Ojos and his new techno persona Dron Skot, while Richardson’s work as Bassling has also gained national and international interest.



“This project began when I was enthusing to Scott how Bernard Gray was developing live-coding performance skills in Griffith with the DECODED workshops” says Jason.



“It brought to mind the skills in music-making and video-editing that I’d learned in Wagga, so we began planning a way to bring together this diverse group of musicians based in regional NSW.”



“Scott identified artists Myst Mach and The DJ Ruined My Wedding Day from the South Coast and we thought it’d be great to create performance opportunities to develop skills for the musicians and the audiences, because you never know where the ideas and experiences can take you.”

Myst Mach is a young producer and DJ from Tathra who pulls together genres far and wide to mould them into a kinetic object in their own dancefloor-focused journeys. 


The DJ Ruined My Wedding Day will make you as giddy as a bride on their wedding day and build you up to only take you higher with their DJ set colliding old favourites with the best underground tunes.



Baker and Richardson reflect how the skills they’ve developed came from experiments with technology, performance and exhibition.



“It’s great to get out and perform, but it’s even better to aim to inspire the next generation of regional artists through the workshops we are running,” says Jason.

Tickets are available via https://www.infrequency.au/

The inFREQUENCY tour is supported by the Backroads Initiative and South East Arts through funding from Create NSW and the NSW Government.
 

Mix & master

I'm certain they mean "route" rather than "root"

However, taking meaning from Australian slang, the idea that one can root to perfect a track is fantastic!

How to avoid Corona

Aunty Jeeno's Words of Wisdom from Arts North West on Vimeo.

35 years of Robocop

On Twitter I saw that Robocop is now 35 years old

I remember seeing the film in the cinema while in high school and enthusing about it to my friends.

Then, when it came out on video, I was unable to watch it again for years as it'd been reclassified as R-rated!

Unlike the R-rating shown in the US advert here, Australia's R is restricted to anyone under 18.

Anyway, I showed the film to my kids last year since they are all in high school.

It stands up well, despite the decades and development of various technologies -- including police robots.

The cynical idea that police service might be privatised now seems prescient in light of their role enforcing mining activities within Australia.

Artists wanted

Red Earth Ecology is looking to commission four local artists for the "Leeton Memories" project, which will transform reminisces of older residents into shop front displays

"Our aim is to work with people to develop a series of displays based on interviews about observations of environmental change," says project coordinator Jason Richardson.

"We have a small budget to cover materials and contribute something toward the time of the four contributors."

Edited extracts from recorded interviews with longtime residents will prompt and inform a series of shop front installations and be linked to these displays using QR codes.

"The idea is that you'll be able to hear a recorded commentary from older residents and that will inform the experience for viewers seeing the artworks," says Jason.

"We hope people will think broadly about what materials can go into making a display and the budget should help to realise their ideas."

The Leeton Memories project will raise the profile of local art and also aims to help the artists involved to develop their own projects.

Each display will be promoted with a profile of the contributors and discussion about the themes raised in the interview.

"We will also share our CASP application for this project with the artists, so they can get an understanding of what goes into a successful funding proposal."

Afterwards Red Earth Ecology will consider assisting with grant applications from the artists for the development of future projects in our region where they relate to the aims of that organisation.

"Red Earth Ecology was incorporated to enable projects that link people to the landscape, whether through plant regeneration activities or cultural practices like making artworks," says Jason.

"There's also a need for pathways in the Riverina so artists can develop local projects and we're willing to provide guidance."

"We want this Leeton Memories project to be the start of something that will create new memories in Leeton for years to come."

Leeton Memories is supported by Western Riverina Arts and Create NSW through funding from the NSW Government. 

Screw Youtube

Youtube's automation of copyright claims should be questioned

Look at what's happened to my video this morning.

A recording of my drumming, in fact two recordings of my drumming layered together, has been monetised by a company claiming I'm infringing on their copyright.

Someone else is collecting ad revenue from my material based on an automated response!

Youtube is facilitating this spurious claim and I think their system needs to be scrutinised.

The Big One

Couldn't resist sharing this image, which combines two of my interests.

Art is for everyone

While there's definitely space for professional artists, I think art should be for amateurs

If reading Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way taught me one thing, it's that creativity is our human birthright.

There are almost as many ways to make art as there are to be creative and creativity is where innovation happens.

Yet I see my kids increasingly losing interest in learning to make art, partly because the model of education is based on emulating the teacher.

We need to foster creative expression in our communities since it seems as though their individual differences are disappearing as the world shrinks.

I believe everyone should have an expressive habit or two.

These outlets reflect individual experiences by channeling passing thoughts and dreams while refining techniques -- maybe even inventing new ones.

The problem with making a thing professional is that one ends up becoming a manager.

This is something I learned at university, even without studying management.

When I worked there it was kinda bizarre to observe that academics would move into management roles.

These were people whose passion had led them to specialise in fields that became increasingly obscure as they got more qualified.

There was a tension between managing students while achieving research outcomes.

Yet all the time they were researching their expertise, the university would dangle jobs in management.

Career progression for many probably stalled with the casualisation of the workforce (driven by management consultants), so the only job security that seemed available was moving into something managing the casual staff.

I feel like I've seen the same phenomena in the arts world, as one-time artists become administrators and consultants.

It makes sense as one has to learn to justify the passion to create by developing a business case to apply for grants and navigate processes like running a board, buying insurance, marketing creative outcomes, etc.

The drawback is it becomes isolating as artists share less of their inspiration, which is the stuff that makes their creative output meaningful to audiences.

As an audience I don't want to be told something is important, I want to know why it's important to the artist.

Human interest stories are engaging and the best teachers make it feel as though you're on the journey with them, discovering the outcomes as they explain their development.

In some ways it seems a similar outcome to the academics who no longer teach their specialisations, since it's the process that reveals the intricacies of a subject to an increasingly educated population.

However, the qualifications in our communities are now increasingly administrative ones.

As a result, we see the justification for creative practices framed in terms of economic values.

Maybe the move toward government budgets recognising well-being will see a new framing for the arts?

Winter warmth

It's a guilty pleasure but I love being able to sit by a fire during winter

Part of me regrets putting smoke into the local environment and burning logs that have the potential to be habitat. 

Another part recognises the awe that stirred my ancestors as I look into the flames and let their flickering light guide my thoughts.

My family know I'm strict about when we'll have a fire and the general rule is the forecast maximum needs to be less than 14C or the minimum less than 4C.

Walking gum

This River Red Gum outside Bingara looks like it could walk around

The roots appear raised, presumably from the riverbank being washed away.

Unfortunately the scale of the tree isn't apparent in the photograph, but I could've climbed through the space underneath this amazing tree.

Cool reports

The end of semester means reading reports about the education of my children

Usually I only pay attention to the comments and look to get a sense of how much effort their putting into subjects.

Then I'll ask my kids how they feel about the report and usually they agree.

This year mathematics are offering additional metrics and I guess it's linked to the delivery of classes via modules with the software providing a bunch of data.

It raises some questions, since one section details how they're learning more than a year's worth of math but acknowledges the measurement isn't indicative because the difficulty of modules varies.

I pity the kids with reports saying they're learning less than a year because who knows what discipline might be delivered in the privacy of households.

However, my partner and I were fascinated to see that for two kids, their performance dipped markedly at the start of May.

Winter sucks, right?

Anyway, I like the new reports but wonder if other subjects can do something similar.

If math can provide numerical detail, maybe English can start spicing up their comments with exotic superlatives and hyperbolic verbosity?

Art in the age of mechanical reproduction

My grandfather had a collection of paintings on his walls

When I was a child I was curious about the art produced by my uncle, but otherwise I never thought about the rest until after he died.

Then the paintings were divided among his children and my father started having paintings on his walls.

I thought it was cool that one was by Pro Hart, since I'd heard of him.

Anyway, one day I looked closely at this painting of a woman riding a bicycle.

(I'm not sure who it's by, sorry I know that I should have an acknowledgment.)

So it might've been because I like riding bikes, but I hadn't really liked the painting.

I think I might've thought that the wavy lines seemed to ruin the image.

The result seemed a bit vague and indistinct, but now that's one of the things I like about it.

It's kinda dreamy and dynamic.

However, one day I looked closely at this painting and could see the wavy lines cut through layers of paint.

That was one of those lightbulb moments, when I realised how the process of painting contributed to the resulting image.

It reminded me of how colour photography works with layers to produce a representation.

Yet, rather than a chemical process, I could see how the brushstrokes built up the image.

Since then I've learned about blocking, the colour undercoat that sets a tone for a painting.

Now, when I see the painting of the cyclist, I surprise myself with new details that I admire.

The wavy lines capture movement, both in their representation and in their physical process.

Lately I've been appreciating the colour palette, particularly the light blue and lime green and brown.

Platinum jacket

Last week the high school called to say my son was getting an award

The only bad thing about this news was keeping it secret for a few days.

On Friday my partner and I went to see the presentation during the school assembly.

We checked in at the front office, received our visitor passes and were led to the auditorium.

I scanned around to see if I could spot my sons and found my youngest sitting at the front of the room.

They began reeling off details of my oldest son's contributions to the school.

It was interesting to hear them describe him as an "all-rounder" since his interest in sport is limited.

There were performances with the choir and school musicals, representing students on the SRC as well as debating and chess competitions.

They noted his subjects included extension English, advanced maths, chemistry and music.

Then his name was called and there was a rapturous applause.

Afterwards the teacher asked if it had been a surprise.

Oscar said his friend had spotted Jo and I, asking him why his parents were here, which had led him to assume that he was getting the award.

The platinum jacket will appeal to him, since he's been wearing the shirt given in Year 10 almost everyday.

It's good to see Oscar's efforts recognised.

Photo from the LHS Facebook page.

Dreams are weird

Woke from a dream in which I'd written a profile of Russell Crowe for Rolling Stone

There was a formatting issue and they needed me to resend the piece and I couldn't find it.

I was living with Taika Waititi and came home to go through my laptop, only to find he had friends over.

They were watching TV loudly and I needed quiet to look through my files in a panic.

Embarrassingly I started yelling at everyone.

Taika kept his cool, but his friends began chastising me.

I think my subconscious is telling me not to apply for the feature-writing mentorship that I saw yesterday. 

Naviarhaiku 441

Naviar Records have chosen one of my senryu for their musical prompt this week

I'm looking forward to interpreting it in a composition, as well as hearing how other producers approach it from their corners of the world.

It's been a good week for senryu, with news that another poem has been selected for a journal. 

Fivebough in Coonabarabran

Got to see (and hear) my contributions to the Inhalare exhibition developed by Kim V. Goldsmith

A diverse group of regional artists brought together different perspectives on the landscape.

At the event last weekend we discussed how to progress the exhibition. 

Mortar see

This brick wall in Jerilderie caught my interest

You can see how high the flooding has been by looking at the washed-out mortar.

The building overlooked the Billabong Creek, which runs through town.

I mentioned it to a local, who explained their husband had memories of walking along planks to reach the nearby primary school.

Cryptic

Woke from a dream where I swerved to avoid golden emu chicks and their mother of Gobbagombalin Bridge 

There were also a couple of young roos and we ended up sliding backwards into the Murrumbidgee River. 

I opened a window to get everyone out and Eden didn't answer, 

Had a feeling I'd seen emus on the Bridge in a previous dream. 

Apparently they're a symbol of family and it's interesting that male emu will raise chicks. 

Dreams are weird.

Inhalare exhibition opens

An immersive environmental art experience for everyone


An exhibition now open until mid-June at SPACE in Coonabarabran not only celebrates the connections artists across regional NSW have made with the natural world during times of restricted movement, but it provides an immersive experience for everyone through multiple points of connection with the artworks.


Inhalare/ breathe upon is a project and exhibition of sound, text and visual artworks by Andrew Hull (Bourke), Jason Richardson (Leeton), Danja Derkenne (Little Forest), Dr Greg Pritchard (Wagga Wagga), Anna Glynn (Jaspers Brush), Kim V. Goldsmith (Dubbo), Vicki Luke (Albury), Carol Archer (Bulahdelah), Amanda Donohue (Lake Macquarie), Clementine Belle McIntosh (Gilgandra), Libby Wakefield (Bowral) and Evelyn Alvarez (Coonabarabran).



In the first stage of the project, six of the artists were briefed to create works that would allow audiences to hear, feel, and even taste the places they’d become familiar with during COVID lockdowns or times of restricted movement. The soundscapes and 150-word texts produced were then sent to six visual artists to create an artwork in response, without being able to visit in person.



Early in the project’s development, it was agreed as many people as possible should be able to experience the works created, in turn providing an experience of the environments at their heart. SPACE gallery director, artist and accessible arts advocate, Allison Reynolds has worked with the group to provide advice and guidance on creating audio recordings and audio descriptions of the text and visual artworks, as well as providing a range of supports in the gallery.



“Art is an experience, and it is so important to me personally and to SPACE and its mission, to ensure all facets of the experience are available to everyone by designing the exhibition with that in mind from day dot,” said Ms Reynolds.



“SPACE is the only disabled-run gallery in regional, rural, and remote New South Wales and we look to lead galleries in moving past passive visual consumption of contemporary art and other artforms.”



CEO of Accessible Arts, the State’s peak arts and disability organisation, Liz Martin said, “It’s a very exciting initiative for the sector and with the group gaining a Regional Arts Fund grant where they’ll be collecting data around the visitor experience of the exhibition, providing us all with valuable insights on the importance of accessibility and experience for artists and visitors to any community.”



The exhibition is being promoted widely to travellers on the Newell Highway and day-trippers to Coonabarabran as being accessible with the assistance of a recently awarded Cultural Tourism Accelerator (CTA) Experience Marketing Campaign Grant provided by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative.



Inhalare/breathe upon has also been supported by the NSW Government through a Create NSW Covid Development Grant (Stage 1), the Australian Cultural Fund (Stage 2), and additional project and exhibition support has been provided by Orana Arts, ecoPULSE.art and SPACE.



Inhalare/breathe upon is at SPACE from 15 May to 16 June. The official opening is at 3pm on Saturday, 11 June. 

Playful


 

Anniversary

I fell in love about 20 years ago

It didn't seem so unusual that I noted the date at the time, but Jo and I are still together and have three wonderful children.

About a decade ago I went through my emails and tried to pin it down to a date, which I dutifully noted in Facebook and many of our friends liked it.

Anyway, since I've been locked out of Facebook for not using their app on a mobile phone, I now don't have that detail.

Over the years I shared various reflections on our enduring romance and the relationship has gone through different phases.

If there's a lesson to share, it's that relationships can be different every day and people can be too.

I think Khalil Gibran summed it up as:

the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow

Our differences are what keeps things interesting, since we're always sharing new ideas.

Thankfully most of our disagreements are about things that quickly seem trivial, such as choosing a meal.

Thanks Jo for sharing your life with me.

Mortar Life

With a piece of poem
unfolding in an essay
a story flickers

As an artist and a father, I've recently pondered what these roles share. 

Like children, making art is a process where we celebrate the arrival of a fully formed work. Also, one gets uncomfortable looks when attempting to explain the setting in which a creation was conceived. 

So, writing about developing art provides a way to share insights, while avoiding weird looks.

Testing your limits
pushing on your boundaries
collaboration 

Cementa is a bi-annual contemporary arts festival in the town of Kandos and the 2021 event would end up being something of a miscarriage, as COVID-19 disrupted the delivery of our installation. 

The courtship with RealArtWorks started about nine months before the dates planned for the event, when I got a message from Zeb Schulz that he wanted to talk.

If you don't know them, RealArtWorks is a post-disability arts company based in Lismore and they've been active in regional NSW. Our collaborations began with an improvised soundtrack for the This is Not What it Appears exhibition developed at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery in 2012.

Our projects since then included being part of their installation for Artstate in that city in 2020. I've had various roles, ranging from driving people across the state to shooting video. Over that time, I've observed a growing sense of purpose and confidence among the coterie drawn together in Lismore's SeeSpace.

My friendship with Zeb was cemented when he and his brother Paul established The Happiest Place In Wagga Wagga in 2003. It was based in a surprisingly theatrical space hidden high above the Australia Arcade but, looking back, I can see it reflected an inclusive and creative approach that continues with RealArtWorks. We would meet to improvise music, engage in wordplay, drink and watch subversive movies.

In our conversations Zeb explained the concept for Cementa is "Disco Concrete" and he saw a role for my musical remixes of landscapes, as well as assisting their group to explore Kandos both physically and sonically. 

We began sharing inspirations for the project, particularly Pierre Schaffer's ideas about Musique Concrete. "Why should a civilization which so misuses its power have, or deserve, a normal music?" Schaffer famously asked, so I knew we were going to get weird.

I gather it was the project's music director Randolph Reimann who made the conceptual leap between Kandos' cement-making history and this experimental genre. Reimann orchestrates the band Tralala Blip, which overlaps with RealArtWorks' membership.

Schaffer appealed to Zeb's vision, which usually involves bold creative connections packaged in a colourful lo-fi aesthetic that magnifies the smudged fingerprints to a scale that is inspiring. His partner Sunita describes their productions as "flipping people's switches" and I think the analogy speaks to the hands-on engagement they cultivate with an audience.

Art is not precious
at the heart of creation
our passionate mess

Deciding what to put in the car for collaboration with RealArtWorks is often a fraught process. Whatever I pack, it’ll be too much and not enough. I've learned to relax my expectations, as my role will be to prompt ideas and lend a hand or an instrument to the improvisations that follow. Over projects I’ve let go of my preconceptions and gone with the flow. Sometimes the most useful thing to provide is documentation, so I will take photos and keep this journal of our residency.

On a whim I pack The Narrow Road to the Deep North as it seemed appropriate to take a haibun collection by the great Japanese poet Matsuo Basho.

Scenes seen on the road
navigating with music
visual mixtapes

Travelling to Kandos brought back memories, both personal and from Australian art history. 

I know the route from visiting family at Wattle Flat throughout my life. It was strangely moving to see the old shed on the road between Cowra and Blayney that used to have Dunlop advertising on the roof. That sign had disappeared but now the shed was reduced to a series of support poles that resembled the pale tree trunks they had always been.

Another surprise was finding Wattle Flat bigger than I remembered, as new houses had joined the village. Nearby Sofala had developed a new walkway bridge that was sitting beside the Turon River. It looked like the bridge that ABC correspondent Bill Peach had been filmed walking over, before it was swept away in a flood during the 1980s.

Otherwise, Sofala looked the same as when Drysdale painted it, The Cars That Ate Paris drove around it and Elle McPherson walked through it in the film Sirens. The voluptuous hills looked as bare as when they inspired Donald Friend and Brett Whiteley.

The drive up out of the valley was as steep as I remembered and apparently, it’s one of the steepest climbs on NSW roads.

There was a beautiful sunset that stretched out across the mountains. As the road dipped around granite outcrops, the last rays of the day came and went and came and went and came again. The colours of the landscape changed between valleys, from ironbarks to those pale white gums that indicate the colder climes of the high country. 

Then, as I wondered if I’d missed a turn-off, there was the golden archway before the descent into Kandos. No longer were mining buckets hanging overhead but the view of the rock face that hangs over the town was still spectacular.

I arrived at the Railway Hotel in time for burgers with the RealArtWorks crew. Lydian greeted me like a brother and asked about the music I've been making. Even Carla seemed to remember me, although later when I passed Zac on the stairs and he asked, “How do you know me?”

We met in Lismore about a year and half ago, I explained.

He asked if I know a name that I didn’t recognise and have since forgotten.

No, I replied, and he explained she’s an ex-girlfriend.

Consuming ideas
throwing sentences on wind
eating universe

At breakfast I encountered the term “Concrete-Operational Thinking” and shared it with Zeb, thinking he would appreciate how it incorporates a word that we associate with Kandos. This term describes the foundation of moral reasoning that occurs in childhood and develops through adult life.

What followed from sharing this concept is an unexpected outpouring of confessions from Zeb and, if I shared them here, they might convict him of petty criminal activities during his teenage years. I will write that one part of the conversation was a technique for making free calls from public telephones.

Soon Zeb's brother Paul joined the conversation and outlined activities that brought him into the focus of law enforcement.

Afterwards I realise I’ve locked myself out of my room, so I sit and make conversation with Mike. We talk about Musique Concrete and I’m surprised by his observations of the sound of machinery.

As he’s blind, Mike explained he was frightened by vacuum cleaners as a child. At some point he was encouraged to consider their pitch, which proved to be a clever strategy for moving beyond fear and objectively thinking about their noise.

He reminded me that Australian appliances make noises between G and G#, a little flatter than the quarter tone between them. That's the cycle of 50Hz a second and, given the hum of fridges throughout the country, it might be the musical key of our nation's kitchens.

Soon I regained access to my room, as the Railway Hotel owner Milan lent me a spare key with the advice "Your keys are your wallet," which seemed to assume I had money. 

Then I went to the Kandos Museum with Sunita and Duncan to see about recording items in their collection. It was encouraging they saw a role for visiting artists to interpret local history.

Early afternoon I returned to the grounds with Mike, Duncan, Lydian and Randolph. We recorded metal objects in the Museum’s grounds and Mike improvised a few songs while playing items as percussion, including metal buckets like those I'd missed seeing on the drive into town.

That night it was my turn to cook and, after I was overwhelmed by offers to assist, Matt did all the cutting of onions and bacon for the pasta. As I watched him preparing the ingredients, I was reminded of the collages he produces. Occasionally I've glimpsed the suitcases of images that he collects from books for these artworks. Sometimes I've been able to observe him collecting resources from op shops and have felt protective of the books, which I'd prefer to keep on a shelf. But, when I see the surprising juxtapositions of imagery and poetic text, I realise how much I need to unlearn if I want to achieve his mastery of the medium.

Later, as we sat by the fire, Zac observed his stepfather shares the name Jason before he revealed his heartache. I told him that it helps to write a letter to the person that you’ll never post and encouraged him to keep his heart soft so that someone else can find their way in there.

Before everyone retreats to their beds we experiment with a projector on nearby trees.

Living with meaning
honest language in the world
more than characters

It was Carla’s birthday and she was very excited to share the event. Duncan cooked the pancakes she’d requested for breakfast.

While the rest of the group went for a bushwalk, I recorded around town and exhibits outside the Museum using a contact microphone. At a playground near the high school, I held a conversation with a young magpie. Then, as I was setting up my camera, I overheard a couple of blokes from across the grassy corner.

“Why’s he photographing steel poles?”

“Dunno, maybe he’s council.”

“Nah, he’s not council because that’s his car over there.”

It amused me that picking council staff is as easy as recognising leased vehicles.

Afterwards I went for a walk up the main street of Kandos and inspected sites for future recording.

Later I returned to a playground with Lydian and Mike after we celebrated Carla’s birthday. Mike somewhat politely listened to the equipment and tapped a bit before he lost interest. It seemed understandable since I usually manipulate these playgrounds to make them musical for my compositions. In contrast Lydian was transported as soon as he donned the headphones and began tapping rhythms. We spent about an hour exploring different pieces of equipment and, while Lydian grooved, Mike and I talked about audio books. 

That night we sat around a fire, which was lit each night by a Railway Hotel resident named John. Tonight, he and his pregnant partner Heidi sat with the group and it was surprising to hear his observations. “I thought you were all painters,” he said with a laugh and it inferred his understanding of the term artist.

It was John’s first experience talking with someone blind and I jumped into the conversation to tell him about Mike. "His pitch is phenomenal," I said about Mike's ability to tell you the tuning of the sounds he hears.

It never fails to amaze me when we tap a sculpture and he'll tell me its key.

John didn't seem impressed, so I mentioned Mike has a radio show. 

"That's awesome" he exclaimed.

Soon John shared jokes with Lydian and became relaxed enough to share details about his life. Heidi is pregnant with their first child together and, while it's not his first experience of fatherhood, he expressed excitement about how it would be new for them. John also enthused about how he'd never spent time with "these kinds of people" and I don't think he means artists.

Sound can be sculpture
carved from reverberations
taking shape in air

My sleep was interrupted by Matt talking as he led Mike to the bathroom in the early morning.

Over breakfast I let Mike hear samples from around town that I’ve arranged in Ableton Live.

Heidi joined Sunita and Carla to work on a cut-out figure that Matt animated to appear as dancing in a short video clip.

It took a while to get Mike’s keyboard to interface with my computer, then we had an extended jam with Duncan, Paul and Randolph. I offered Mike a variety of software synthesisers, as well as a program that repitched my samples of Kandos for his keyboard to trigger. During this Zeb and Matt video-mapped projections to the pub’s bar room. The overhead lights became eyeballs and animated marionette figures danced on the walls.

At night I took a few photos outside the Hotel, framing the stars behind the gums.

Sometime during the day there was a moment when I asked Zeb what he thought of the term "differently-abled" and his reply spoke to the inclusive atmosphere of RealArtWorks.

Zeb said he preferred the term 'neurodivergent' and, as he explained, he described himself as neurodivergent. Then Zeb looked in my eyes and said I was neurodivergent too, but I'm not sure what it means.

Stay lost without words
what we don’t know to describe
we can call beauty

I woke early on our last day and watched the dawn outside the window. It was an old piece of glass that distorted the landscape. At times it was hard to decide if leaves were moving from the wind or my head tilting.

Duncan and I planned to return to the site where the group went for a bushwalk on Wednesday. At Dunn's Swamp we had a magical moment when a peacock-like bird began producing the sounds of an entire aviary. It was a lyrebird and I had wanted to see one in the wild for years. The birds seemed kinda tame, which might be from ignoring the people camping nearby. 

I set my video camera recording on a picnic table to capture the incredible repertoire of bird calls and unlikely noises. The male's tail feathers were flipped to sit flat over the bird's head as it sang, clearly trying to impress the mate who seemed more interested in scratching at the ground.

Afterwards Duncan and I walked around the rocks, then he flew a drone over the unusual rock formations, but we couldn't stop talking about the lyrebirds.

Friday afternoon turned into evening and we all jammed again. Duncan loaded lyrebird samples into his digital drum kit and produced the very definition of Disco Concrete. Then we packed up and mentally I began the drive home.

Living in feelings
compiling information
looking for a thread 

It was foggy at sunrise and the gum trees wiggled in the window. Their silhouettes looked both close and far. The forms were clearly a tree, but the modulations of the glass made it contort. I imagined a voice asking, "why's he looking at a bunch of leaves," and became self-conscious for daydreaming and pondered things I should be doing.

Those moments where I observe myself are like snapshots. Sometimes it's a reminder of where my thoughts have wandered, other times it feels like that conversation overheard at the playground earlier in the week. In the former setting that insight can prompt reflection, while in the latter it usually chases away carefree moments of play.

Is that my neurodivergence? An ability to hear music in playground equipment, where bystanders see steel poles? The quality of play in Kandos was memorable and I was stimulated by great company and beautiful landscapes.

I reflected on our creative processes during the drive home. I left Kandos in fog, then I rose above the clouds and into a clear morning. Shortly before the steep descent into Sofala, I topped a crest that might have been the top of the world. I looked out across hilltops that appeared as islands in a sea of cold fluff. The distances between them stretched into the infinite and I wondered how much one hilltop might know about another.

As I drove back into the fog, I tried to hold an image in my mind of those peaks and the sunshine they saw while the rest of the world was clouded.

In Bathurst I tried to explain the scene to the cashier at the petrol station and realised it's better saved for a poem. Those sunny peaks seemed to epitomise the sense of play that RealArtWorks cultivate. The easy way in which creativity flowed took me back to being a child. Those days of running through Wattle Flat Common with a stick and feeling as though I held Excalibur.

Somewhere between Cowra and Young I heard a discussion on the radio about Down Syndrome being a "canary in the coal mine" as genetic testing of embryos becomes accessible to parents worldwide. It took my mind back to sitting around the fire at the Railway Hotel and John's comment echoed in my head about never having had the opportunity to hang out with people like Lydian, Carla and Zac. As he and Heidi were expecting, I began to wonder what other opportunities a parent might miss if they were told their child would be perceived as different.

The term "differently-abled" at times feels like a euphemism, until sometime during my collaboration I realised how much I envied those skills the RealArtWorks crew bring to their art-making. Their neurodivergence and their art has enriched my creative practise in more ways than I can summarise.

By the time I returned home I realised that RealArtWorks had "abled" something different in me.

By doing the verb
as father and as artist
I become the noun

The most significant resonance between being a parent and an artist is the sense of shepherding a creation into the world. One cannot fully know their personality when an idea is conceived, nor how they will be received. Our works become a mirror that others will hold up as reflections of who we are. Through creating we learn to know ourselves.

Hardened bonds of love
held by threads of wilful steel
cement your friendships 

Planetary line-up with Moon

Tomorrow morning the Moon will lead a line-up of planets

I anticipate it'll be cloudy, as it often seems to be cloudy when there's an astronomical feature to see. 

Unboxing

When I went the uni for the first time, they still had a Classics department

These days it seems as though many people who majored in Classics are now reworking the old stories from new directions.

Anyway, seems someone doesn't know the story of Pandora's box! 

Advance Australia unfairly

A recent Disquiet Junto project gave me an idea to use the cut-up technique on the national anthem

My oldest, Oscar, sings in the choir at school, so I knew he'd provide the raw material for this edit.

My partner Jo joked that I might get arrested for butchering the national anthem and it's a contentious song for me anyway, since the second verse is at odds with Australia's offshore detention policies.

I think it was William S. Burroughs who thought the Cut-up technique revealed hidden meanings in text, and it seems to me the Australian national anthem has language which seems to 'dog-whistle' the white Australia policies of earlier eras.

Anyway, my result is unmusical and I tried singing the new arrangement to the existing melody, which improved it but seemed at odds with the Junto directions.

Unpacking

Via Reddit 

Major issue with gendering music

While helping my son with his music assignment, I came across some interesting sexist language

A Youtube video described switching between major and minor chords as "both genders" and it bugged me.

I mean, yes, one could go on to argue that seventh chords show there are more than two genders.

What got under my skin is the idea that one gender would be major and another minor, as it infers one is superior somehow.

I know the differences between them depend on where you start and that G major is E minor, so there isn't much difference really.

But I don't find thinking of chords as genders helpful, since it adds a level of complex associations that ultimately raise increasing numbers of questions.

Oscar's bossa nova

My son got a music assignment to write a pop song, but they didn't specify genre or era 

This was our second attempt, after an electronic track didn't develop a satisfactory melody. 

I suggested that it might be easier to start with a melody and then work out the chords. 

Oscar said he'd been listening to lounge music and wanted to write a bossa nova tune. 

Luckily I found a suitable preset on my Omnichord, then we worked out the chords and structure then recorded this over the last couple of days.

Below is a version with a clarinet playing the melody.

Goodbye Facebook

Earlier this month I got blocked from using Facebook

In the past I've lost access for things that I've posted, which has often been frustrating as they were sometimes posted years earlier -- so it felt like I'd been punished for guidelines applied retrospectively.

This time it's less interesting because I was blocked for not using multi-factor authentication (MFA).

I had enough warning to let friends know I was leaving and it was nice that some took my offer of email.

Some friends tried to explain the value of MFA, but I don't have a mobile phone and couldn't see an alternative.

(I don't doubt the value of MFA, by the way.)

So far it's been painless to live without access to the popular social network, although I feel as though I'm missing out on stuff.

However, I'm also missing all the pointless time I spent on Facebook and the stuff I didn't need that I bought on Marketplace.

I think it's a win.

About the Junto

One of my favourite weekly activities is the Disquiet Junto

Recently I contributed a few observations about the creative prompts and the online community it inspires.

Those recordings now appear in the video embedded above.

Gender agenda

Federal parliament is sitting this week amid protests from various groups

The Morrison government is deeply unpopular and the personal apology heard yesterday from the Prime Minister to Brittany Higgins shows how badly he needs to repair his image with female voters.

There's been a perception that Morrison doesn't take personal responsibility for many things, so the messaging seems clear when he identifies oversight of a workplace where Ms Higgins was allegedly assaulted.

Last year Higgins spoke at a large protest by women outside Parliament House and today she'll be addressing the Press Club.

Morrison was so obviously trying to appeal to women with his hair-washing stunt.

So gender will be the topic on many agendas this week.

The debate in parliament of religious freedoms will have a similar focus, particularly the question whether religious schools should have the right to expel trans students.

This subject is interesting to me because it highlights a looming division among voters and it is one as stark as the presentation of gender differences.

Let me recall a local scene around the time of the last election. 

I was chairing a public meeting that was attended by representatives of all three levels of government.

There were a group of candidates for an upcoming election and it surprised me that one challenger quipped that on the subject of gender fluidity they "didn't want any gender fluid in high schools."

This simple gag substitutes sex and gender and, while it's a kind of dogwhistle in politics, it also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about issues including trans students.

I think shows a generation gap.

One of my majors at university was cultural studies, so I've researched differences of sex and gender in various departments.

Yet I often feel how difficult it is to navigate gender fluidity, particularly in conversations with my children.

Kids today are so much more capable when it comes to recognising this terrain.

Mine seem to have many more trans friends than I do.

So this gender gap that I've observed will be interesting to watch as it plays out in conversations at Parliament House ahead of an election.

Australian voters are on the cusp of an interesting shift, possibly as soon as the next election.

It's simple demographics that the ageing Baby Boomers are losing their grasp on Australian public life and Australian voters will soon be dominated by the upcoming echo of the baby boom they are named after.

Politics is often a series of wedge topics designed to identify divisions and I think the religious discrimination bill has further alienated the Coalition government.

Recommended meeting meeting

Infocouncil is the software used by local government to compile reports into business papers

I found this message when trying to notify a colleague that my report was ready. 

It's these weird little literal messages that keep the job interesting for me!

Least favourite

My workplace supplies biscuits for morning tea

Not all places where I've worked do offer morning tea for staff and one place asked for a financial contribution to cover this civility.

Anyway, I noticed the tearoom near my office had only Shortbread Cream left.

Usually I don't pay attention, because I bring almonds and dates to snack on during the day and find that combination is more appealing than chocolate or cake or most things on offer.

But I got curious and checked the downstairs tearoom and noticed the Shortbread Cream also appeared to be consumed less often. 

(That's a row of them on the left of the plastic tray.)

It led me to research Arnotts and I was surprised this biscuit went on sale in 1908 but I expect palm oil has changed their recipe.

Then I discovered that Kingstons have been around since the 1920s.

I'd always assumed they were a bastardisation of an Anzac biscuit, but it turns out they were around before parliament passed legislation about what can be called an Anzac.

(And Kingstons don't have oats, so I've learned something today.)

The chocolate one doesn't compare to an Oreo, although the look very similar.

If I had to pick one, it might be the Monte Carlo.

Their dry biscuit and addition of a jam-like flavour with the cream gives it more complexity, I think.

Now I think about it, the cream is what makes all of these taste terrible and the biscuits are no good for dipping in a cuppa as they leave a weird oily residue and usually fall apart after two dunks.

Blewin'

Blewin'
This flier for an Aboriginal mediation service caught my eye

It seems appropriate to discuss it on Australia Day as the expression of "having a blue" is slang for having a fight.

I guess the decision to write it as "blewin'" avoided misunderstanding if it were "bluein'" or "bluin'" but it did make me think the mediators might be blow-ins, an expression for people who have only recently arrived.

So, "having a blue" seems to have originated in the late Nineteenth Century, possibly gaining popularity based on an observation that Irish were often fighting.

Redheaded people were referred to as "blue" as an ironic joke, which might've started in the mid-Nineteenth Century with migration as part of the Gold Rush.

Given the unions in Australia started around that time and the Eureka flag has a blue background, I wonder if that might've also played a role.

Anyway, there seems to be a semiosis in the flier that draws on multiple layers of meaning across successive waves of migration.

The slang is a substitute for the word "mediation" which originates in Latin during the Fourteenth Century.

Yet the flier is aimed at a group with a much older claim to this land.

And it was printed in 2009, so likely out of date!

Elephant crushes Triple J

Woke to the news The Wiggles have won Triple J's Hottest 100 with their cover of Elephant

It's not surprising to me, as the song seemed to be the only contender that I saw being discussed in the lead-up to the event.

I think it's an inspired cover, as The Wiggles do what great covers do and make it their own.

The original track is cynical about a particular kind of corporate character that seems straight out of the stories about Sony's Australian operations.

This kid-friendly rendition brings light to the image and beautifully segues into The Wiggles own material as a kind of bridge or medley.

However, I feel like we're witnessing the moment when Triple J finally disappears up it's own arse.

For years the need for the station to appeal to youth has meant they increasingly mimic the overblown hype of commercial radio.

The idea that the Triple J competition is won by a song they produced themselves is a kind of vertical-integration, as the promote and also sell the result.

Maybe I should file a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission?

Around a roundtable

My collaborator Jo Roberts and I will be discussing our project with Orana Arts

Register here 

Reflection on listening to the radio

This year I've been trying to keep a journal and my reflection today seems innocuous enough that it hopefully won't embarrass me later

Driving to work today and I observed a surprising shift in myself.

In hindsight it seems kinda obvious but it was also very subtle.

I was listening to the news across three ABC stations.

They were discussing the events of the week in politics, the tsunami in Tonga and COVID-19, as well as commentary.

As I pressed for the radio to tune to a different station, it started searching and then went past the one I wanted to start scanning up from the bottom of the spectrum.

It arrived at the ABC Classical broadcast and, hearing the soft symphonic music, I felt a lightness.

There was a kind of shift in the weight of my head and also it was like my focus moved.

This reminded me of the way I can feel relief from no longer trying to read small print (because I'm long-sighted), but I could feel a different sort of mental focus.

The feeling deepened as a soprano brought a sophisticated vibrato to the performance.

I marvelled at the emphasis she brought to passags but wavering notes slowly and fast.

It reminded me how much I enjoy music but also how little of it I've been listening to recently. 

Bravery

Next time I wish I was brave I'm going to remember how this Willie Wagtail attacked an eagle