Avian Antics

Melbourne Now

You, Me and the Flock is the interactive painting installation by Juan Ford commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria as part of Melbourne Now, 22nd November 2013 – 23rd March 2014.  At Juan’s invitation, the NGV commissioned me to create the sound for the installation for which I created Avian Antics.

 

The idea behind Avian Antics was to create a soundscape out of my field recordings of birdsong and that extraordinary instrument: the human voice.  Primary schoolchildren and some of the less bashful staff at the National Gallery of Victoria respond to birdcalls native to South-Eastern Australia.

Their voices are arranged over field recordings made at a secluded bend of the majestic Murray River in the state of Victoria, where a high sandstone bluff forms a natural amphitheatre reflecting the birdsong across and off the wide stretch of water.  I was taken there by local Aboriginal man Ricky Mitchell, with whom I was working on the sound installation Wiimpii Pulkuu – Black Fella Talk.  It is a special place for him and his people and I felt very privileged that he should share this place so strong in spirit with me.  The birdsong I experienced there inspired Avian Antics.

I was delighted with the enthusiasm with which the children and children-at-heart embraced the idea of Avian Antics, but was truly astonished at the creativity, mimetic skills, and vocal dexterity they brought to this work – I’m sure my mouth was wide open most of the time as I recorded them.  It was truly enjoyable working in my studio to arrange and mix their voices to create a soundscape celebrating our love of birdsong, and the human voice.

On a more theoretical note, the voices make present the ‘never there’ of the absent birds which they mimic and respond to, while engaging in ‘dialogue’ with the birds recorded in a landscape in another place and time.