In December 2017, Elizabeth Miller and Craig Pedersen (Sound of the Mountain) had a residency at Spectrum Project Space in Perth, Western Australia. (The whole week of which was incredible.) As part of this residency, they screened a film by Shinkan Tamaki called time space motion. As it happened, we recorded ourselves watching this mostly silent film (we had been recording another performance and the device was left on while the film screened).
I felt very moved by this film. Aside from being probably the most stunning piece of film I’ve ever seen, it really resonated with an aesthetic that I was trying to explore almost twenty years ago in art school as a painter. And having a not very pleasant time. In part, I could have articulated what I was striving to explore more clearly. In part, it just seemed like everyone else was interested in different things and didn’t really get what I was interested in. I was interested in something about the beauty of the everyday, of the textural landscape-like beauty of pavements and walls that perform their history. I tried to explore this in painting and collage—admittedly not very well—and had people say things like ‘it just looks like a random mess on a wall or pavement, and you wouldn’t stop to look at that’. At the time, I was one of those people who did stop to look at things like that.
I stopped painting when I left art school (in 1998). And I haven’t painted since. It’s not as sad as it sounds—my creative focus shifted towards poetry and musick. I was still creatively engaged with the world. But I didn’t have a particularly great time at art school. I certainly didn’t find it nourishing. And I just drifted away / let it go when I left.
Cut to nineteen years later and some friends of mine show a film which moves me to tears and stirs up all kinds of emotions in me I haven’t felt for a long, long time. I cry because I have never seen a film so beautiful. I cry because I am confronted with an incredibly refined version of the aesthetic that I was striving for all those years ago (and which I abandoned).
I dream about painting most nights for a few weeks after watching this film and despite most of my house being packed up for a move to the other side of the continent, I buy some paints and paint for the first time in nearly two decades. It’s frustrating, not having practiced for so long, and it’s also incredibly satisfying and profoundly disorientating and pleasurable. Years of visceral memories around paint and texture feel present in my body prompting all kinds of responses.
I felt moved to do something in response to my encounter with this film, and while my return to painting in some ways feels more important (whether or not the painting goes anywhere interesting in terms of outcomes) I was highly amused by the accidental recording of our (mostly) silence watching this (mostly) silent film. And something about these recording for me references paying attention to the everyday, the overlooked, ‘silence’ and striving to see new images in/of the world.
Sound of the Mountain (Elizabeth Millar and Craig Pedersen) spent 5 days on Tone List’s Residency #4 at Spectrum Project Space from December 26 to 30th 2017.
Their improvising-sound-noise duo focuses on acoustic and electronic textures and sounds through the use of extended techniques on acoustic instruments (trumpet and clarinet), close amplification, and self-made instruments.
The concept for the residency was for Sound of the Mountain to make, perform and collaborate. During the day they worked on expanding their sound-making practice by building low-voltage noise-generating instruments and programs in Max MSP. In the evening these instruments were used in performance and collaboration with local musicians. At the end of every day the instruments and the room were dismantled and returned to zero state. In this way each subsequent performance involved different instruments, sounds and collaborators.
On most days the various sound sculptures or instruments came together within 30 minutes prior to performance. Whilst this was not always a comfortable situation, it was interesting to see how new ideas could materialize at the last minute, given an urgent need. Often the self-made instruments would not function the way they were intended, and grappling with them in a live setting became part of the performance, and informed the music. During the residency the artists explored the limits of an aesthetic-driven practice, as every day they chose to work in new and unfamiliar ways. Through out the residency, members of the community exchanged ideas, practices and sounds, and there was a wide variety of performances.
Below is a summary of each day of the residency, including the instruments built, the performance schedule, and a recording except from each concert.
Sound of the Mountain (Elizabeth Millar and Craig Pedersen) would like to thank collaborators Sage Pbbbt, Furchick (Claire Pannell), Pedro Alvarez and Josten Myburgh, Tone List, Dan O’Connor, Filth Goddess, Eduardo Cossio and everyone in the community, including those who performed during the week, those who lent equipment, and those who helped set up and pack down the space.
Elizabeth built: Contact microphones, vibrators and bangles in metal bowls with contact mic, massage motor with contact mic trailing on the concrete floor, Max/MSP patch sending a saw-tooth wave into set of earbud headphones inside of a long tube, fading in and out at different rates.
Craig built: Amplified computer fans controlled with potentiometers, fans were left on and Max/MSP patch faded the signal in and out based on semi-random values. Feedback machine: a condenser microphone in front of a bass-amp; microphone signal was routed through audio interface, and volume was controlled by a max patch. Rate of change and maximum volume was set by semi-random parameter, so that feedback occurred semi-unexpectedly, in partially unpredictable ways. White noise generator fading in and out at different rates, outputting into broken JBL single channel speaker. Attached to the speaker cone was heavy tin wire, which carried the signal to a small cymbal that had a tambourine bangle on it.
Audio excerpt: Performance (Sound of the Mountain with Josten Myburgh).
Elizabeth built: AM radio, magnetic pendulum amp switch for contact microphone, cymbal and tuning fork 'mobile' in a fan
Craig built: Feedback machine: JBL speaker with tin wire going to a contact mic'd toy cymbal, routed through an audio interface and back into the speaker. JBL speaker could be used with tambourine bangles to adjust sound. Max/MSP patch spatialised the feedback into 4 cymbals.
The day also included an improvisation session with Shoshana Rosenberg, Josten Myburgh, Ali Fyffe, Matt Hinchliffe and Sage Pbbbt.
Audio excerpt: Sound of the Mountain performing to Passages, a film by Shinkan Tamaki.
Day Three - Collaboration with Pedro Alvarez
Elizabeth built: Fan popping with bouncing metal cord, close mic'd. Motorized arm hitting contact-mic'd metal goblet. Milk frother in contact-mic'd metal goblet.
Craig built: 2 computer fans controlled by swithes connected to trumpet valves. Potentiometers to control fan speed, connected together with alligator clips, and tip-bin salvaged wire. One fan in a colander, another fan on top of a cymbal.
Pedro Alvarez used two guitars, with one functioning as a low-gain feedback drone instrument.
Audio excerpt: Sound of the Mountain with Pedro Alvarez
Day Four - Collaboration with Furchick
Elizabeth built: Fan streamers beating on colour-changing LED sieve with contact mic, through octave pedal. Vibrator-controlled circuit switch driving motorized percussion on: metal goblet, cow bell, thunder tube spring.
Craig built: Two toy cymbals suspended from the ceiling; hanging off each of them a 5V hobby fan. Used rare-earth magnet ended wire, connected tip of each motor to a slinky. Slinkies had foam cups attached to the bottom for amplification. Attached contact microphones and controlled through mixing desk. 9V battery connected to old broken speaker taped to a vibrator, spoon attached to battery, circuit completed by touching vibrator clip to spoon. Vibrator created continuous on-off when placed against spoon, and acted as a synthesizer. Speaker was mic'd with another small speaker that had been turned into a microphone, run into the mixing desk for control.
The day's activities included a visit to SciTech.
Audio Excerpt: Furchick with Sound of the Mountain.
Day Five - Collaboration with Sage Pbbbt
No new instruments built - much listening, including soundwalks, and exploration of sounds in the corridor space down the side of the venue.
Audio Excerpt: Sage Pbbbt with Sound of the Mountain.