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Natural Rhythm (1983)

Go to Gallery Page Natural Rhythm
Related EntriesAudio Visual Gallery
Performance, Temporary Installation and Outdoor Installation
Location: St. Kilda Pier, St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia
St. Kilda Festival, March 27, 1983 - installation by Warren Burt with performances by Ron Nagorcka and Ernie Althoff.

Memory is a tricky thing, especially after a lapse of 19 years. But as I remember it, and as I am reminded by the photos and sound recordings of the event, Natural Rhythm was an installation on St. Kilda Pier for the St. Kilda Festival. I am unclear whether it was just a performance on the 27th of March, or a two day performance on March 26 and 27th. The date on the cassette recording is 27 March, but the date on the reel to reel tape is 26th March 26th was a Friday, however, and as I remember, the St. Kilda Festival was on a Saturday, so perhaps the date on the reel to reel recording is a mistake.

The physical setup of the piece involved a hydrophone hanging from the pier into the water, a water gong (a ring of metal partially submerged with a coke can on an attached cable which hit the metal ring with wave action, making pitch bending sounds), and an underwater loudspeaker. The output from the hydrophone went into a Gentle Electric Pitch-to-Voltage converter, which then controlled a Serge Synthesizer with at least two patches; one was a series of short bell like tones that traced pitches and rhythms of events over a certain amplitude, and the other was a warbling tone that followed the amplitude of the input, if I remember correctly. A small cassette recorder played excerpts from Debussy’s “La Mer” and perhaps Ravel’s “Jeux D’eau” through the underwater loudspeaker. Additionally, the output of the hydrophone was heard directly through the loudspeakers; and there were also sounds of the public, myself explaining what was going on to interested passers by, and the sound of the occasional seagull. All of these sound sources were under my control, sort of. That is, I could change the nature of the electronic sounds, and choose which of the above sounds were playing at what time. I was interacting with the rhythms and pitches produced by the hydrophone. Most of the clicking sounds are, I believe, shrimp, and the twinkling Webern-like music produced by tracing their clicking was one of the delights of the day. Additionally, the sizzzzzing sound was a real surprise - it’s the sound of motorboats filtered by distance under water. As I remember, I performed solo for most of the day, but there were also group performances where Ron Nagorcka and Ernie Althoff joined me, playing a variety of sound sources including didjeridu, prepared saxophone, additional water gongs, and cheap electronics, among other sound sources.

As to any “theory” or “philosophy” behind the event, aside from all the usual suspects (process, environmental sensitivity, accessibility of work to the public, etc.) I think the most important would be friendliness. That is, I considered it to be most important that this work, which was frankly exploratory (what sounds would be produced by the hydrophone and water gong and “water filter” (the sound of pre-recorded music filtered by water), be presented in as friendly a manner as possible, in order to defeat any sense that the artist was some sort of remote or alienating figure.

The audio excerpts in the Image & Audio / Video Gallery are a direct dub of the binaural cassette master of the event made on the day. Listening with headphones is recommended to get the full spatial impact of the event. “Natural Rhythm” was one of two pieces of mine played on the PBAA series called “Composing for Radio” which was produced by myself and Simon Britton.

13 October, 2002
Warren Burt

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 22 October 2002
Modified: 23 October 2002

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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