Jul 14, 2016

a horn of chicken wire, a new kokako, and Douglas Lilburn's media zombies at the National Library


On the 14th of July at 1pm I gave a performance/lecture at the National Library, Wellington, in response to Zombies on the Horizon, an exhibition drawing on archival collections to tell a lateral story of the development of experimental music in Aotearoa, put together by the National Library's music curator Matt Steindl for the Turnbull Gallery. 

This exhibition takes its name from a statement by composer Douglas Lilburn, who begins the show's own narrative, talking about the coming of electronic media within music culture as "the zombie on the horizon". I also took this as my own lateral starting point, speculating how Lilburn's statement might be seen in relation or contrast to the notion of Zombie Media, recently elaborated by Jussi Parikka and Garnet Hertz, particularly in relation to an 'archival turn' within sound art cultures.

Apr 1, 2016

marcasite radio experiment #1



a brief post-midnight birthday-morning experiment / work-in-progress report. the first vaguely successful attempt at materialising something i've been wanting to make for quite a while now, which has the working title of 'marcasite radio' and is, essentially, a 1920s 'heirloom crystal set' (!) based around the speculation that the white iron pyrite that was used to make marcasite jewellery in the 1920s and 30s can act as the crystalline mineral in a crystal detector. 


and yes - when set into a 'hacked' crystal radio receiver of the same era, my maternal great grandmother's marcasite brooch becomes a diode that faintly speaks the voices of the aether.
her name was ann wright (i'm named after her) and she was born in the 19th century, and was 101 when she died. (as of around an hour ago, i'm 59 years younger than that milestone). my mother gave me two pieces of her marcasite jewellery as a graduation present. it's a powerful thing to tune in to the material ghosts of my female ancestry today, to cast out into that space through the strange magic of radio, while also thinking back toward the work of this country's female radio pioneers in the first decades of the 20th century. that history, itself like a faint, crackling signal in the midst of static rain. a lot more work needed here, but a promising start, and an excellent way to celebrate the first few hours of being fairly old now, myself...

Oct 25, 2015

"uncentred, space is also reversible... there is nothing to grasp": Edison Ledges (diagram for twelve archival silences)




"even as strange geographies corrugate, fracture and smear worldly scale and tempo, the ground isn’t somehow evaporated into virtual information flux, but, quite to contrary, we are brought to the end of the non-place, to a point where place can be and must be re-established anew as an accountable habitat in the renewed image of these very same deformations." 

- Benjamin Bratton, 'On the Nomos of the Cloud: The Stack, Deep Address, Integral Geography'.

In creating the short study Edison ledges (diagram for twelve archival silences), various archival sound recordings, in this case, commercially released Edison wax cylinders c.1890-1920 catalogued within the 500+ cylinders that form part of the collections of a small Hobart-based museum dedicated to sound technologies, the Sound Preservation Association of Tasmania (S.P.A.T), were recorded, and the music subsequently removed, leaving only the precursory audio, and the final run-out grooves. Inverting the kinds of editing processes used, for example, in digital archival sound preservation, in which an editor would normally edit out these audible silences and use noise reduction software to progressively remove the grain media to reveal the music, here, the grain, the noise and the silence are all that remain of the technical, epistemological and economic act of late 19th century audio recording. 

Oct 18, 2015

Andrei Tarkovsky: Another Kind of Language, 3CD re-release on and/Oar


Released just months before the 20th anniversary of the filmmaker's death, the quiet emergence of the re-release of the Tarkovsky tribute and/Oar initially put together in 2003 was aptly timed. Like a small expanded cinema exercise in itself, this package included a 20 page booklet and 3 CDs, two including compositions from the original release, and the last with contributions from seven new artists. I contributed a new track, 'for shoring up the past, as though with timber', and wrote an impressionistic essay for the liner notes, called 'there is only here and now, and light'. Full info on the release (where there are still copies left, at the time of writing) is available at and/Oar. Thanks so much to Dale Lloyd for his work and faith.      


Feb 5, 2015

Collected Huia Notations (like shells on the shore when the sea of living memory has receded)



“As traditional memory has vanished, we have felt called upon to accumulate fragments, reports, documents, images, and speeches—any tangible sign of what was—as if this expanding dossier might some day be subpoenaed as evidence before who knows what tribunal of history. The trace negates the sacred but retains its aura. We cannot know in advance what should be remembered, hence we refrain from destroying anything and put everything in archives instead.” - Pierre Nora, Between Memory and History

We are not so much mourning our own inevitable loss, or the ego reflected in that loss, as we are mourning the absence of the connection. (…) A more tenable ecological conceptualisation of mourning needs to consider connectivity, rather than unified subjectivity, as a tool for exploring the deep channels of grief over the loss of the more-than-human.” - John C. Ryan, Why Do Extinctions Matter?

“The category of the fragmentary (…) is not to be confused with the category of the contingent particularity; the fragment is that part of the totality of the work that opposes totality.” -Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory 



 
Collected Huia Notations (like shells on the shore when the sea of living memory has receded) is a work for phonograph, solo piano, and extinct bird. It collates the four known Western musical notations of the song of the Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris), an endemic New Zealand wattlebird of the ancient family Callaeidae, which was driven to extinction in the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, partially through the attentions of overzealous wealthy Victorian Ornithologists and Museum collectors.

Jan 10, 2015

notes toward a library of superlative trees. a transmission for Eucalyptus regnans

notes toward a library of superlative trees. a transmission for Eucalyptus regnans was one of two works exhibited as part of a listening air. / They are that that talks of going at Constance ARI, Hobart, Tasmania, which opened on 10th January 2015, alongside works by Matt Warren and Alex Bishop-Thorpe. It was part of the offsite programme for the sound festival Mona Foma.  

Dec 3, 2014

a one minute radio silence for Sceloglaux albifacies



recordings of the silences of mounted specimens of the extinct New Zealand bird Sceloglaux albifacies (the Whekau, or Laughing Owl) are collected from public Natural History museums, via the paranormal investigation method of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon), which is associated with the use of radio and sound recording as a means to contact the dead. the silences are layered into a one minute transmission, collated on the centenary of the officially recognized extinction of the species.

a blank time-capsule, “a one minute radio silence for Sceloglaux albifacies” investigates cultural notions of death and memorialisation in relation to the stability of recording mechanisms, the ‘eternal stasis’ of the archive as storage, linking this to early colonial collecting practices: the predatory accumulating of rare birds which rationalised sacrificing the living animal in favour of the ‘immortality’ of the museum specimen. despite a few dozen of its corpses being collected in such a way, along with a scant number of known photographs, some drawings and written accounts, the living Whekau’s cry was not recorded. accordingly, this project aims neither to represent, nor to ‘speak for’ the bird in human terms, in favour of giving space to its absence, listening in to the one hundred year lack of any signal between 1914-2014.

[image: juvenile Sceloglaux albifacies photographed at its nest in a cavity under a limestone boulder by Cuthbert and Oliver Parr. c.1909, Raincliff Station, Opihi River, South Canterbury, New Zealand. This is the only image of this bird ever taken in the wild.]

Sep 28, 2014

a partial list of animal companions, 1978-1985


a partial list of animal companions i had as a child, age approx 4-12, in Oyster Cove, Tasmania, and East Gippsland, Victoria. classification is of individual, recognizable animals or groups of animals "collected" for close-observation of behaviour or life-cycle in terrariums/aquariums, and/or lived with as deliberate "familiars" in my immediate environment, rather than just observed in passing in the garden / in the wild. I have only included animals that weren’t ‘acquired’ via commercial transaction, but approached personally, by collection (mostly temporary) and/or re-visitation over days/months/seasons in the immediate environment they (and I) lived in. Many of the individuals of these species were admired for their beauty and/or emotionally connected with, some were regarded as being as close as (if not closer than) human friends, and some received full burials upon death.

Garden Mantis (Orthodera ministralis)
False Garden Mantid (Pseudomantis albofimbriata)
Common Grass Blue (Zizina labradus)
Common Garden Katydid (Caedicia simplex)
Gum Leaf Katydid (Torbia viridissima)
Green Grocer Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae)
Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti)
Longicorn Beetle (Phoracantha obscura)
Black Field Cricket (Teleogryllus commodus)
Wanderer Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Mottled Cup Moth (Doratifera vulnerans)
Saunders' Case Moth (Metura elongatus)
Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti)
Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii)
Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis)
Eastern Long-necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis)

Aug 23, 2014

"water is meaningless without ships"


"Water is meaningless without ships and that bespeaks harbours to haven them, and men and cargoes. What I have written does not pretend to poetry. It only says what it seemed could be said. … "

- Denis Glover, 'Wellington Harbour', 1974



Jul 23, 2014

the worlds within a film: revisiting Nigel Bunn's photography for 'Notes for a Coastline'



notes for a coastline was a 2003 film directed by Zoe Roland, for which I wrote an essayistic, poetic monologue, which was used as the basis of the voiceover which sonically "anchored" the non-narrative drift of the film.

the Dunedin Film Society asked to screen the film in their 2014 programme, on the 23rd of July, as a local example of artist-filmmaking and a short before Shirley Horrocks' documentary on the senior New Zealand photographer Marti Friedlander, Marti: The Passionate Eye

the film was finally digitised for the screening, and in dragging frames out of it I was newly struck by all the small worlds that are buried inside it, which emerged with their own beauty and texture.

these images are all sourced from the exquisite 16mm camerawork Nigel Bunn shot for the film, only one of its media. as individual frames rendered into digital stasis, they paradoxically whisper of the fluid materiality of celluloid. apart from the myriad filmic references one could mention, some of the shots remind me of Vija Celmins' drawings, and some look like early photography by Henry Fox Talbot, and some have the mystery of a box of photographs or glass magic lantern slides newly discovered in the dusty corner of an old antique store, their out-of-sequence timeline revealing a new "treasure map" buried in their relation.

it seems appropriate that they are re-shufflable in this new way as a series of found photographs, as the last line I wrote in the script was "and there is no real ending to this process, as the walking continues after the viewing is finished. as listening continues...".


Jul 16, 2014

"at home" a collaboration by radio cegeste & moth


“We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”
― Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
under the moth moniker, Jon Dale's occasional sonic missives have been collectively described by one commentator as an "incredibly haunting, rich dronescape." certainly, Jon is pretty much an honorary New Zealander when it comes to evoking the kinds of beautiful isolationism one might normally associate with an everyday familiarity with South Island landscapes, and one of the most assiduous and eloquent writers on that particular experimental idiom to be found anywhere.

staying for a week in Jon's apartment in Brunswick, Melbourne c.2011, resulted in this. we called it "at home" because that's where it was recorded; the small spaces of domestic life are very present in the piece. the fate of this apartment, now no longer Jon's home, and sadly since gentrified toward 21st century neo-liberal blandness, uncannily echoes that of the home I lived in at the time - the first place I'd called home in over five years, very much my childhood dream-house in Bachelardian vein, as well as the solid structural frame around history and memory which made the destabilisingly destructive anxieties of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake bearable. This was the 1903 mansion Threave in Dunedin, its bay window blurrily visible in the photo of the cover art here - a weight of air and light and listening also now lost to the expedient whims of "development."

So "at home" might be readable as something of a meditation on these spaces, and transience, small and impermanent comforts, stray signals, locality, finding space for listening, wandering thoughts only possible in silence, the remembered atmospheres of introverted, solitary rooms. in this regard, something about the piece reminds me of the final track on one under-appreciated masterpiece of the Dunedin home-recording aesthetic, Nigel Bunn's 1999 album Index, a seeming-afterthought to the song structures elsewhere on the album, called "this day at home." The track is a field recording of gently falling rain out the window of an old Dunedin warehouse, Nigel's home at the time; a capturing of one afternoon, a moment in a life - now also lost: the building has been demolished, its site turned into a carpark. But in the meditative, slow space within the sound of the recording, the building's memory, all the lives it once contained, seem still extant, endlessly circling in the aether.  

for moth/cegeste, there is talk of a record. in the meantime, you can download "at home" for free from the bandcamp link above. 

Jul 9, 2014

McIntyre/Stern in performance at Make It Up Club's 16th Birthday Celebrations, Melbourne, 14.01.2014


I was rather chuffed to find that Weirdo with a Dictaphone had recently bootlegged a recording of the duo performance I did with Joel Stern at Make It Up Club in mid-January, alongside this appropriately noisy photo and the somewhat startling comment: "An amazing, mystifying performance. Possibly one of the best MIUC shows I’ve ever seen."

This gig was a unique one for many reasons; significantly, Joel's playful interventions marked the first time i'd ever experimented with another live input signal going direct through my transmitter, at the same time as my own. The resulting homage to the misuse of the archive, theremins, morse code, a shared passion for the collecting of weirdo Library Music, Canary Training and Bird Identification records, and similar ephemera, can now be download for free from the link above, for your listening pleasure. It's great to be able to hear it....

Thanks again to Joel and Lloyd for making it possible, and to all the other erudite (and sometimes archival) ears...

Jul 5, 2014

a memorial silence for Sceloglaux albifacies, on the centenary of its extinction.



On the 5th July 2014, I headed into Canterbury Museum to record the mounted specimen of the Laughing Owl/Whekau (Sceloglaux albifacies) to be found, grouped humbly under the designation "forest birds", with various other New Zealand endemic species both extinct and still hanging on, in the Museum's extensive, old fashioned 'bird hall'. A sonic still life which was quietly significant, this 10 minute recording occurred on the 100th anniversary of the day (05.07.1914) the last officially acknowledged member of this species was found dead by the side of the road at Blue Cliffs station, not far from here in South Canterbury, by an 18 year old girl named Airini Woodhouse.

It seemed appropriate to commemorate this small, bleak anniversary, not mentioned in the New Zealand public media (unlike the 100th anniversary of the First World War, which has diverted much arts funding towards various memorial projects this year), with a private mourning ritual, a memorial silence which mirrors the silence of the bird itself, from Airini's sad discovery in 1914 onward, despite the rich prior textuality of description which attends this bird's voice, the eerie "doleful shrieks" and startling, unsettling, mad night forest laughter documented so frequently in the late 1800s, when the Whekau was still found in South Island forest and plain. This took the form of recorded listening as a form of meditation, an inhabitation of a listening space, rather than merely a form of archiving, mixed in with a paranormal ritual investigation, via the practice of Electronic Voice Phenomenon - a nod to radio's long association with attempts to contact the dead.



Jul 3, 2014

inclement and incline: irirangi and "three inclements (the ocean does not mean to be listened to)"


irirangi
1. spirit voice - an eerie, high pitched off key note, or harmonic, sometimes heard near the ceiling of the meeting house above people singing. It was sometimes regarded as a bad omen and a portent of death.

2. (noun) radio wave.
Mehemea ka waiata tātou ki roto i te whare, ā ka rangona te waha e waiata ana i waho, he waha wairua, he irirangi tēnā (W 1971:80). / If we sing inside the house and the voice is heard outside that is a spirit voice.
---

The wonderful experimental music imprint Consumer Waste records has been kind enough to release (29.06.14) a set of three short pieces (as CW13) whose various component sounds I recorded while NZ Dept. of Conservation / Creative New Zealand artist in residence on Kapiti Island in May 2012, and finished editing on headphones in the unlikely sound-studio of Fendalton Community Library, located just down the street from my parents' house in Christchurch, very soon after returning from the residency that June. It's a wonderfully anonymous, hands-off public space, where i'm unlikely to be interrupted by anyone I know. Almost two years to the day, I am again sitting in the same place in Fendalton Community Library typing this, listening to the recordings and looking at various historic photographs which have, for me, become attached to this set of sounds. A return, of sorts.

Upon re-listening, the release - now called "three inclements (the ocean does not mean to be listened to)" after quite a few other working titles (the language, unlike the pieces, wasn't instantaneously obvious) - seems jagged, its vignettes reflecting its topographical variety of sonic spaces and collecting methods, a rocky and uneven terrain alive with the rawness of the island's own life. For a sonic document made on an island bird sanctuary, there are very few birds to be heard, apart from those incidentally in the background of some of the location recordings. This CD is not a literal representation of birds (other projects from the residency focusing on birds can be found elsewhere on this site), but a listening-in to the wider context of the island, its histories, its politics, and its absences. As part of the residency's wider focus on radio as fieldwork, this project gathers three "field tunings" into the frequency spectrum, which were all recorded on one day - the 9th May, 2012, around the area of Waiorua Bay. The receiver - a retired Maritime multiband radio - was cast as a listening ear within fields and shorelines, and its tunings layered with sounds also recorded in the same locales with various kinds of microphones. 

Mar 31, 2014

some reflections on the dead space of storage media, and its relation to a bird which evaded solidity in classification for 150 years


Moving into an object-based output for radio cegeste's dissipative ephemeralities was initially only driven by finding productive frisson in collaboration with improvisational musicians who release most things they do on their own record labels (here's looking at you, Lee Noyes). I couldn't really say no, and i'm glad I didn't. Since then, and despite ongoing trepidations around solidifying fleeting aetheric mobiles into repeat-listening structures in storage media, I'm telling myself i'm using such formats strategically.

I'm rather fond of the almost unplayable format of the mini CD, which is obsolete in a more recent - and invisible - way than most of the sonic objects i've tended to be interested in, the early 20th century forms whose temporal distances speak 'materiality' to a digital age in more obviously 'antique' manner. This dainty wafer of digital inscription is however an entirely appropriate format for radio cegeste's first solo release to have been caught on; the New Zealand Storm Petrel EP, released on Kate Carr's label Flaming Pines late last year, is a fleeting, crackly thing, just less than 20 minutes long. I was specifically interested in Kate's Birds of a Feather series for this label, based on birds in music, for its potential to extend my radio work around the immediacy of radio-and-bird communicability (see Kokako Variations, and other recent transmission works) into the 'dead space' of storage media. (I've been using storage media in combination with transmission for a little while, but often though their appearance as chunks of stored time in live performance.) 

The New Zealand Storm Petrel was a perfect focus for this investigation, being notable for its flight from taxonomy, a re-appearance which is only Lazarus-like for the classificatory mechanisms of human language (presumably, the bird knew where it was, all along). A bird like a book returned to the library of babel after more than a human lifetime, to assuage the spectres of colonial guilt. To replace its ghost shelved in some dusty corner, with all the other stuffed specimens.