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Lamb, Alan

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Artist, Composer, Sound Scupltor and Systems Developer
An exploration of sound structures, neither musically "designed" nor of random occurence. Such structures to possess the properties of beauty, complexity and evocation of the emotional, the spiritual and the imaginary. On the whole, sound compositions arising from these aims are not intended to possess intellectual formalism.

Approaches used:

1. Aeolian sound usually generated by long wires (eg telegraph wires) which I sometimes manipulate using mechanical devices to change parameters of the system. Also addition of voice, tonal instruments and percussive devices using many techniques either at the time of recording or later in studio. These systems are often designed with a sculptural aesthetic (eg Spring 8 Wire Installation, below).

2. Improvised electronic devices (Infinite Music Machines), designed to explore the more patterned and beautiful sounds derived from chaos (classical). Circuits are usually designed and built with a visual sculptural aesthetic. 3. Mechanical sound-making devices (eg tuned bicycle wheels) as sound sources for stochastic, chaotic, and nature-based movements through mechanical linkages.


For aeolian systems I usually use long wires (up to a kilometer) supported in spans (50 to 300 meters) between massive rigid supports. The wires are preferably of high tensile steel 2.5 to 3.2mm in diameter. Tensions are kept high (approx 200 Kilogram) but well within the elastic limits of the steel to allow for unexpected forces and impacts. These dimensions appear to produce the optimal ranges and complexities of sounds which are effectively infinite over time. Big open spaces are needed where the winds can flow without obstruction or turbulence. I use a multitude of attached devices for interacting with the wires depending on aesthetic requirements. Among my favorites are eg 1. polystyrene foam "singing boxes" which make the vibrations of the wires audible and allow voice, instruments and percussion to be played into the wires to add by improvisation to the sound complexes 2. Devices for varying wire tensions 3. Nylon strings a few centimeters to a couple of meters long tied Electronic and mechanical systems are designed to respond chaotically to a variety of chance and deliberate actions mediated by all sorts of sensors to whatever seems appropriate using standard installation techniques. The aim is to produce unpredictable sound complexes which cannot be repeated.


All my aeolian systems have been outdoors though I can imagine that "indoor" locations such as liftshafts, rail tunnels could be fascinating. Urban locations are almost impossible usually because of local government red tape. My most successful systems have been rural, wilderness and outback, and one urban, a vertical system hanging from a 50 meter lighting tower in a railway shunting yard in Fremantle.

My preferred approach is to seek a "perfect" location (open, accessible, ease of fastening wires, free from acoustic interference, safe for people who may wander unknowingly onto the site, unlikely to be subject to vandalism or at least where "vandal-proofing" has a chance). Private land is preferable to minimise red tape. Even better is to own the site. I bought twelve acres, in rural Baldivis south of Perth specifically for the purpose in 1991. The muliplicity of "perfection" factors means that choosing a site takes a very long search and even then the project may be stymied by the unexpected. I always examine sites when invited, but in only two cases have such projects proceeded to completion (and one of them was almost fatally stymied, Japan, below).

Whether public or private, invited or not, I take great care to examine the "feeling" of the site and to consult with everyone who may be affected by the installation. I place great importance on researching aboriginal significance of the site. In one case (Wogarno Station, midwest outback, WA), I believe the site used to have sacred importance to the aborigines before the clearances of the mid 20th century. Now "abandoned" I nevertheless used the site with the greatest possible sensitivity so that the installation could sound yet be almost invisible and interfere minimally with the land (below). In all sites the installation has to be sympathetic aesthetically and spiritually. I make quite sure the owners understand precisely what I expect the installation to look and sound like. Neighbors must also be consulted if they may be possibly affected. Without universal good will the installation will fail; the wind is alive.

I try to avoid accoustic pollution. This is two way. I have received complaints from neighbors about the sounds of installations, which I have had to modify. Conversely, environmental sounds can be highly intrusive to the installation, but not always. Sometimes, noise which was anticipated to be disruptive has turned out to be surprisingly enriching. For example noise from heavy industry was especially complimentary to the nature of the lighting tower installation. On the other hand I have had to request eg that the Department of Civil Aviation redirect trainee pilots away from above my Baldivis property. Sometimes an installation may be constructed with the deliberate intent of including environmental sound, eg bird song at Wogarno.


1. With Joan Brassil, sculptor, NSW. Generally as is Joan's method with many composers and sound artists, she asked me to compose sound works in response to poems which she wrote and sent to me, while she made the sculptural work, including video and light sculptures. Somehow Joan uses a magic which causes the sound and the sculpture to correspond and compliment with extraordinary effect.

Of significance are the three collaborations 1. Mirages 1986 2. Spaces Between 1987 3. Kimberley Strangers Gazing 1988 all of which were exhibited at a variety of venues including Ars Electronica in 1989.

Joan talks at length about these works in a beautiful radiophonic work for poetry, prose and sound "Landscape in 4 Dimensions" produced by Harry Johston ABC FM 1990.

In 2001 Joan and I completed the Campbelltown Wind Harp as the centrepiece of the new Bicentenial Gardens project in Campbelltown, NSW. This was the culmination of over 12 years of planning and design. Joan says she wished to make a beautiful wind harp as I envisaged in my dreams. This she did, a beautiful 8 meter high inspiration, to which I was able to attach wires in such a way that the sounds generated were like those I first heard as a young child in the telegraph poles of western Scotland. A most wonderful gift from one of my dearest friends.

2. The White Room by Vaneta Lagdzina who also asked myself, Ros Bandt, Warren Burt and Ernie Althoff to assist. This was a mutimedia light, sound and theatre sculpture created by Vineta for World Music Days in an old and magnificent castle in Warsaw, Poland. The details of the work are given in Lagdzina's page, this site.



2001 Campbelltown Wind Harp, in collaboration with Joan Brassil, sculptor, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia.
2001 Boorara Forest Great Bow, In Honour of the Noble Ferals, virgin Karri forest wilderness ("Wally's Farm") Western Australia.
1999 Wogarno Wire Installation, midwest outback, Western Australia.
1997 SPring 8 Wind Organ, mountain wilderness, Harima (near Kobe), Japan.
1996 In The Deep Blue Sea, sound and light installation, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.
1992 The White Room, Multimedia collaboration using an electronic "Infinite Music Machine" by Vineta Lagdzina directing self, Ros Bandt, Warren Burt and Ernie Althoff, World Music Days, Warsaw, Poland.
1991-2000 Baldivis site for continuous experimental wire and other sound installations, rural, Western Australia.
1989 Stochastic Inversions, electronic "Infinite Music Machine" New Music Week, ABC FM, Perth, Western Australia.
1988 Bickley Wire Installation, forest wilderness, Across the Valley, Bickley, Western Australia.
1987 Westrail Lighting Tower Wire Installation, urban, vertical instrument, North Fremantle, Western Australia.
1987 Murdoch University Wire Installation, semi-rural, Murdoch Campus, Perth, Western Australia.
1986 Pole Farm Wind Organ, semi-rural, Darwin Institute of Technology, NT, Australia.
1976-1984 The Faraway Wind Organ, Great Southern outback, Western Australia.


2001- The Rape of Boorara, part one, 25 minutes, Baldivis wire installation
2000 Artifact from the Human Epoch, 7 minutes, Aeolian Harp, home, North Fremantle
1999 Meditation on SPring 8, 12 minutes, SPring 8 Wind Organ
1997 Night Passage, final version, 25 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1988 Journeys on the Winds of Time 1, 12 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1988 Primal Image, final version, 29 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1988 New Journey, 11 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ, with Sarah Hopkins, Cello
1987 Spaces Between, 10 minutes, Murdoch Wire Installation
1987 Journeys on the Winds of Time 2, 7 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1986 Twins Beating at Powers of 2HZ, 10 minutes, Pole Farm Wind Organ
1986 Fiddles and Dits, 27 minutes, Pole Farm Wind Organ
1986 Mirages, 10 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1986 Beauty, 17 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1985 Sky Song, 15 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ, with Sarah Hopkins, Cello
1984 Last Anzac, 12 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ
1979 Requiem for Martin Prestige, 17 minutes, Faraway Wind Organ

Related Entries for Lamb, Alan



Top of Page
Published Resources

Audio CDs

  • Lamb, Alan, Journeys on the Winds of Time, New Albion, USA, 1990. [ Details... ]
  • Lamb, Alan, Primal Images: Archival Recordings 1981-1988, Dorobo Records, 1995. [ Details... ]
  • Lamb, Alan, Night Passage, Dorobo Records, 1998. [ Details... ]

Online Resources

Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 30 May 2002
Modified: 2 July 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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