The days have been getting very full and I’m despairing of getting the chance to go with Vic to record the Murrumbidgee River singing her song. The area around the Koala preserve has been taken back to “pre-contact” conditions except for the car tracks, and the cars, and my recording gear, and the fences. I appreciate the attempt to get the feeling for how it used to be, the majestic swim of the gum forest and the river. It is powerful. It is very very different from the miles of fenced paddocks right across the river. It is brave country.
So we go early in the morning, before other tasks claim our talents, and there is the press of time in the air as our public outcome approaches on the 19th of November. We are caught between the present moment and anticipation of the future when we must present what has been made to a public audience. We wind our way deeper into the gums, past families and clans of red gums, with patriarch and matriarch trees arching up high above their descendents into the morning light.
A turn takes us close to the rivers edge where a huge gum has fallen in last year’s flood, the flood that ended the eleven years of draught and wiped out so many farming families, and left its stain high up the trunks as if the water were still there darkening the light under a huge lake now vanished. The fallen gum makes a platform out over the river’s flow, the perfect stage for dipping a one stringed harp into the flow to let the river’s water bow a song. The water carries the string downstream and the tension of the string in the frame of the wood draws it back upstream. This vibrating action makes the song.
A few minutes of selecting a piece of red gum root, stripping the bark, fixing a harpsichord string and tuning it up a bit, then we are recording. First I get it going, then hand over to Vic who edges out to where the red gum branches make their plunge into the currents causing a turbulence of drags and spins. Looking at the flow it seems steady and placid, but dipping the harp into the water reveals the tiny and endless fractal changes of nature.