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.