Sorry for disappearing for a week while things were getting ever more interesting. It’s hard to mix the amount of new input I can take in while simultaneously outputting to the blog. It’s a confusion of now and then, present and past that many of us have felt while witnessing and reporting on our activities simultaneously, I’m sure.
So I’m going to just jump in on this last day and then go back and fill in the past events when I get to better bandwidth. I really want to document some of the great events of the last week: the forming of Vic’s clarinet out of the red gum bark from the grandfather tree along the banks of the great Murrumbidgee river; building an orchestra of found sounds in the schoolyard; the arrival of the Boree Creek school kids to play on the instruments; Vic and my visit to hear the singing of the Murrumbidgee river; the coming together of the whole orchestra of instruments with the community who came to play them on Saturday night! I’ll soon take you backwards to special days in time, but for now, here is my last listen to the schoolyard for your ears.
Last Day, day 20, 6:30 am.
Sitting under the gum tree again listening on this, my last morning here. No wind, absolutely still. The “kinda-blue-bird” is not singing today but the other birds are not singing of rain. I’ve learned that the “kinda-blue-bird” is actually called the Butcher bird, which does not make me particularly happy. The teen-age birds are called babblers, though there are some other babbling flocking giddy birds with longer beaks called Apostle birds. The babblers are endangered and a bit rare but here they are all over the place. Same with the “select” parrots. This is so still I can hear the sheep and their young lambs. I’ve now tasted this delicacy of salt bush lamb up at the Strong’s farm and it is delicious. Lamb from their farm. Food from this very place. Also had bread freshly ground wheat from Graham’s farm and had the most delicious toast ever eaten by man, this man at least. It is as different from normal bread as your own garden tomatoes are from from a gassed hydroponic tomato from nowhere at all.
Sense of place certainly does come from listening, but eating and smelling, and seeing, and feeling as well. I’ve bathed in the waters of th Murrumbidgee, listened to its song in a one string harp while dangling my feet in the flow, been warned by the birds of an approaching lightning storm, ignored the warning and written a song on an aluminum ladder up a gum tree while the storm struck. I know the sounds of the birds and their names for the most part. I can tell the weather by listening to the morning song. I can understand most of the Australian vowels by now. I have a strong sense of place generated by listening first and looking later. I’ve formed bonds with not only the soundscape but the storytellers, the singes, the sound man, the schoolchildren, the people who are concerned with the fate of humans and the land, the local radio broadcasters, the old men in their workshop, the women and men who are trying to breath life of the arts into the land and it’s people.
It’s quiet enough to hear the wings of birds this morning. Quiet enough to know that my little pre-amp would hiss all over this delicate scene, so I won’t record. The crows do their caustic laugh, that they do here. Vic and his family are still sleeping quietly in the schoolhouse after a long haul supporting this project. Baby Holly hasn’t started up her morning aria. Its peaceful with the job done for now, the residency in their home and studio now complete.
I’m leaving behind a place now that has been changed by the project of listening intently. Listening, finding, building, remembering, and really inhabiting a place with my imagination, imagination led by my ears. There are harps in trees, zithers in hollow logs , rusted metal xylophones hanging from the shed, church-bell discs under the teaching tree, rebar space-bells hanging from the cypress pine. There is a a red gum harp in the shed with local resonator gourds (empty water bottles). There is a sound map in Vic’s studio of people, places, performances recorded over the region in the last three weeks.
You find a dot on the map, press the related piano key, and hear and see the memory of sounds past. These are all things to listen to and stretch your imagination with and enter into the center of your own world - being present in your own home- space.
There are some of these instruments that I’m sad to leave behind but that is natural, and one that I will bring with me, or have sent, that rusted steel cello, the plowshare cello. Which has enticed me with it’s strange form and odd resonances and micro curves. And the one that I will miss hearing ithe night, but from the start that was a special gift for Vic, the Murrumbidgee red bark clarinet. Ahh, now there is a goodbye song from the kinda blue bird, the last I will hear, pure and true above the chatter of the rest of the band, now I reach for my recorder one last time.
Bye for now.