May 25, 2005

Australian Wire Music

Post-contact outback Australia is a land that has been divvied up and delineated by wires – wires nailed to fence-posts to mark out properties; wires strung atop poles to deliver power and telecommunications. If you’ve spent any time driving through it, these wires (and the road under your wheels) are often the only discernable reminders of the European conquest of this sparsely populated continent. (Until, of course, you come across the inevitable roadhouse/internet café in the middle of nowhere.)

So, its somehow appropriate that the two artists who have been most active in exploiting the musical potential of such long-span wires, are both Australian.

Lamb.jpgFirst up is Alan Lamb, who records the sounds made by telegraph wires as they vibrate in the wind. He started doing this in the late 80’s, after acquiring a property near Fitzgerald National Park in southern Western Australia, that was traversed by these wires. The recordings he made were done by attaching contact mikes to the wires and waiting for the wind to set them in motion. The results are an eerie mix of glacially surging tones and slow-motion laser gun blasts. Here’s a remixed sample from his 1995 CD, Archival Recordings.

Fence.jpgUnlike Lamb, who passively records the sounds produced by wires, avant-garde violinist Jon Rose seeks out continent-spanning barriers like the rabbit proof fence, and hammers and saws tones out of them with help of violin and cello bows. Where Lamb’s recordings surge and spike, Rose’s rattle and splinter. Here’s a sample recorded on the perimeter fence of a communications site near Alice Springs. Its taken from the CD, Great Fences of Australia (which was released with a complimentary piece of barbed wire.)

Posted by Warren at May 25, 2005 01:20 AM | Field Recordings