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Voicing the Murray (1996)

Go to Gallery Page Voicing the Murray
Related EntriesAudio Visual Gallery
Gallery Installation, Temporary Installation and Sound Sculpture
Sound Installation by Ros Bandt

In December 1995 I was invited to be one of 3 artists commissioned to make work for Confluences, the Mildura Arts Festival. John Wolsely, painter and Sieglind Karl, earth artist and myself were chosen by local artist and curator,Tom Henty. Having worked in the region many times since 1985, I was excited at the prospect, as the Murray River is such a unique and critical habitat for the whole of Australia. It is a manmade oasis which has brought with it the by-products of man's overuse of the environment, erosion, salination, and cultural dislocation for indigenous peoples.

Defining the Brief: Acoustic Ecology

As a sound artist I intended to give the Murray river a voice, a voice derived from all the voices impinging on its banks and surfaces. A fluid playback multichannel sound installation would allow listeners to hear the voices as they moved in relation to eachother. I needed to record stories from the local people; grape harvesters, irrigators, the lock keepers, the dam owners, the flora and fauna experts, and most importantly the original owners, the Aboriginal people who are in danger of losing their own languages at the present time. Several field trips to Mildura to interview and record were necessary to get the actual sounds. I often camped out. The idea of endangered sounds, preserved sounds, lost sounds and new introduced sounds became apparent while I was investigating the impact of technology in the area. The list of sound sources and voices collected appears below. I was using a DAT 10 tape recorder and a sony digital disc recorder. In some cases the sound of the endangered birds for instance, the grey throated miner and the frogs habitat in the mating season had to be supplied by experts in the field, by consent. One must respect the sounds as belonging to a place and realise that the microphone can be an agent of imperialism. Permission should always be granted before proceeding.

Sounds of the Murray region

1. Dawn chorus under River red gums
Cockatoos, pelican, fish in the water, parrots, magpies, yellow miners. Lake Hattah National Park.

2. Picking the grapes
Sounds of picking and laying out grapes on drying racks at vineyard locations. A mixture of text and environmental sounds were used.
Thanks to Sue Hedley, Marie Rawlings, Noel Hedley.

3. Paddlesteamer
'Melbourne' and diesel 'Rothbury', thanks to Chris Pointon, Captain Peter Payne.

4. Endangered birds
Black eared miner and red throated whistler. Recorded by Alec Hawtin, Irymple.

5. Frogs
Buronga wetlands near the bridge. Recorded by Mr David Robinson.

6. Pumps
Psyche bend and the Chaffey steam pumps were recorded as well as a modern pumping station which provided modern and historical examples of water controlling devies. Ray Byrnes, First Mildura Irrigation Trust provided commentary.

7. Barkindji language
Text spoken by Rex Smith, Junette Mitchell, Kevin King.

8.Yorta Yorta stories
Told by Betty Clements and Fred Atkinson.

9. Lock 11./Weir
Permission from Jeff Galasso.

Some ten hours of field recordings were collected from which the piece would be made. Six unit cycles of 15 minutes each would be the desired outcome.

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 24 October 2002
Modified: 22 May 2003

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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