TRISTAN LOUTH-ROBINS
| GOYDER'S LINE (2014-2017)

Goyder's Line (2014-17)
Performance work for Max/MSP, vocoder and extended effects.

The plains that I crossed in those days were not endlessly alike. Sometimes I looked over a great shallow valley with scattered trees and idle cattle and perhaps a meagre stream at its centre. Sometimes, at the end of a tract of utterly uncompromising country, the road rose towards what was unquestionably a hill before I saw ahead only another plain, level and bare and daunting.

Gerald Murnane, The Plains (1982)

Goyder’s original line of rainfall and a recent 21st Century revision inform the basis of this electro-acoustic work. The lines - their relative patterns and trajectories- represent the fundamental frequencies of two sawtooth waves, which are routed as inputs to a vocoder and extended effects modules. Although each of the frequencies remain distinct throughout the work, the resulting modulations reveal expansive sonorities and rich harmonic textures. At regular iterations the lines are purposefully suspended in parallel, allowing their harmonic relationship and modulations to unfold and develop.

The plains surrounding the ghost town of Dawson are situated in the lower Flinders Ranges - a vast arena of ochre-coloured earth and sparse vegetation. The presence of distant hills that stretch around the plains appear to reinforce the utter stillness of this place. As if time and motion are suspended or are just inclined to unfold at their own pace. As one spends more time in this place, its unique properties are revealed. A subtle scent carried on a breeze that sends a rustle through dry leaves, the droning buzz of busy insects, the brief relief that lies in the shadows of clouds drifting slowly over the terrain and discrete rumbles that exist just on the audible periphery.

Sometime during 1865, a few kilometres south of where Dawson would be settled twenty-three years later, George Goyder was travelling across the region on horseback. Goyder, who was the South Australian colony’s Surveyor-General had been tasked with the duty of mapping the boundary between areas that received regular rainfall and those that were prone to drought. Based on Goyder’s Line of Rainfall and the subsequent report detailing his findings, farmers were discouraged from planting crops north of the line. In most instances, this advice was not heeded.

At the beginning of the 21st Century as much of Australia was enduring the Millennium Drought (1997-2009), Goyder’s Line became a point of reference for meteorologists, climate scientists and farming communities. During the drought it became evident that the line of rainfall as identified by Goyder in the late 19th Century - whilst being subsequently regarded as a highly accurate tool of analysis and agricultural planning for most of the following century - was requiring reassessment and pointed to a southward trend in light of protracted drought, shifting seasonal rainfall patterns and the impact of anthropogenic climate change.

I regard this work as an ode to the South Australian interior, as defined by Goyder’s original line and its contemporary revision. The interior, at its boundary appears as a vast, seemingly boundless space - rich with the possibility of uncertainty, terror and fascination.

TLR, September 2017.


For more reading regarding the development of Goyder's Line', check out this comprehensive post on my blog.



Township of Dawson (South Australia), April 2013. Photo: TLR
Map detailing the original Goyder's Line of Rainfall. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Performance set up for Australasian Computer Music Conference concert, September 2016. Photo: TLR.