Reclamation (2013)
Work in development as part of Vitalstatistix's Adhocracy 2013's program.

A solo sound work seeking out the sonic presence of the underwater natural world within the industrialised environment of Port Adelaide.

TLR's diary notes:

Part 1:
I am currently confined to bed in the late afternoon with what feels like the beginnings of a typical winter cold. I am also feeling rather exhausted. It has been an incredibly hectic couple of months and I’m suprised I lasted this long and my immune system was up to the task of keeping me from crashing into a heap. Thankfully I have enough reserves of energy this afternoon to write a bit about my recent Portside activities.

The past long weekend has been consumed with my Reclamation project for this year’s Adhocracy held at the wonderful Vitalstatistix theatre in Port Adelaide. Reclamation was concerned with seeking out sounds of the natural world in the industrialised (and post-industrialised) waterways of the Port district. I used my recently purchased JrF D-series hydrophones to record sounds of the underwater environment from docks, boat ramps, pontoons, muddy banks, rocky outcrops and other landings that allowed me to maintain my equilibrium whilst lowering a stereo pair of hydrophones into the water.

I find that every time I visit a given location with hydrophones I am discovering something unique and unheard for the first time, and the Port waterways were a good example of this. From my first recording trip on Saturday morning what I discovered residing in the southern passages of the Port inlet was both suprising and strange.

A rich texture of clicks, pops and snaps permeated the underwater landscape with dramatic spatial detail in a variety of intensities, pitch and timbre. The calm conditions on the water only made this discovery all the more odd. Since there was an absence of any underwater currents or wave action, the clicking dominated against a muted environment. A totally unique space. The spell was eventually broken when a rowing boat entered the audible field with the recognisable sounds of water churning.

But what was responsible for the clicks, pops and snaps? At first I thought it must be electrical impulses travelling through the water, but I eventually concluded that the sounds were too organic sounding. A quick glance at my surroundings maybe provided an explanation – at various recording sites the columns, docksides and rocks were covered in mussels, mollusks and sponges – the seemingly insignificant inhabitants of the Port waterways.

UPDATE (1/7/2013): Jay-Dea Lopez suggested that this could be (is most certainly) the sound of Snapping Shrimp.

Part 2:
This time last week I was preparing the presentation of Reclamation for an audience on the closing night of Adhocracy 2013. The preceding days of the residency had been busy with regular morning field trips, an artist talk in the afternoon, preparing a daily listening station and lots of thinking in between. So, by Monday afternoon I was nearing total exhaustion, but still carried with reserves of excitement and enthusiasm for the project. My presentation was scheduled for 10pm and I had completed the work by 6pm, so there was plenty of time to (attempt to) relax and hang out with fellow artists and friends who had dropped by to check out the presentations and performances.

The finalised version of Reclamation began above the surface of the water with the clamour of the Portside area around Gawler Reach – a crew trimming the sails of the One And All, the thunder of cars crossing the Nelson Street Bridge and the distant wail of an angle grinder. After a minute or so, a passage below the water’s surface is made via the vibrations of the bridge and the subterranean resonances of a nearby drain before the listener becomes immersed in the underwater environment. An ‘industrialised water’ section is emphasised at first, dominated with the whirrs, drones and hiss of boats idling and traversing the water. Despite the presence of these industrial sounds, evidence of the natural world is already present in the audible clicks, pops and snaps of the crustaceans and mollusks that occasionally emerge out of the mix. Eventually these and other natural sounds dominate the work during the ‘reclaimed water’ section. Reclamation then ends quietly with the hushed sounds of shifting sand substrates before gradually fading into silence.

I was delighted to have such an attentive audience for the presentation of the work, the majority of whom (from what I could see) sat focused for the duration with their eyes closed. The Vitalstatistix Theatre was a lovely space to present the work with its acoustic properties scaling off and ‘complementing’ some parts of the mix that I thought could have used a little more work. It’s wonderful when a space can do these sorts of things for you.

TLR, June-July 2013.

Recording in Port Adelaide, June 2013. Photos: Lauren Playfair.

Presenting and listening sessions at Vitalstatistix, June 2013. Photos: Emma Webb.