Australia Council for the Arts
Arts Projects for Individuals and Groups
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Manager of Dorrigo Rainforest Centre at Dorrigo National Park.
She has been working in this, and other roles, at NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service since 1995 and is committed to opening the parks to the local community and visitors as well as to nurturing the cultural life of the park through the visitors centre.
Retired ranger who worked for NSW NPWS at Dorrigo and New England National Parks from 1982 to 2012. His extensive on-park knowledge of local flora and fauna means he knows how to locate lyrebirds during breeding season. He is committed to the project and will accompany me in the field.
Park ranger, New England National Park since 1999
Park ranger, New England National Park since 2000
Ornithologist and national parks schools education program since 2004
Dorrigo Plateau Area Manager
Has managed 12 parks and reserves in the Dorrigo area since 2012, NPWS since 1994
Sonograms have been used as a way of representing bird song in a graphic form since the 1940s, when researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the USA invented the sound spectograph, also known as a sonogram, as a means to identify criminals by their voiceprints. From this time ornthologists have used sonograms as a method for transcribing birdsong. Sonograms display frequency versus time on a graph.
Prototype sonogram scores I made using Amadeus Pro software are located in the 'images' support material.
In addition to researching anthropomorphism, posthumanism and human/animal relations, I have been reading widely on current discourse pertaining to birdsong. Australian musician and theorist Hollis Taylor’s (with co-authors Vicki Powys and Carol Probets) texts on the lyrebird and pied butcher bird have been influential, providing insight into the lyrebird’s peculiarities and habits as well as into French composer and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen’s transcriptions of lyrebird and other Australian birds’ songs, which he incorporated into some of his final orchestral works.
For this project I am drawing on knowledge gained from David Rothenberg’s book, Why Birds Sing. Rothenberg writes extensively on the sonogram as an early method for transcribing birdsong and on the lyrebird’s compositional abilities. He undertook a sabbatical year in 2015 in Berlin, where I currently live, and I was able to meet with him on a number of occasions to discuss this project. He has since become a mentor and project supporter (see his letter in letters of support/support material).
Philosophical writings on animals and animal/human relations that have influenced the project include Jacques Derrida’s concept of the animot in The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow), Donna Haraway's rethinking of "the question of the animal" in The Cyborg Manifesto and other texts, Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of ‘becoming animal’ in A Thousand Plateaus and across other works and Brian Massumi’s concept of an animal politics in What Animals Teach Us about Politics.
Context: artists and musicians working in a related manner
Influential contemporary composers who undertook pioneering experimental work with birdsong in the 1960s and beyond, particularly John Cage and Pauline Oliveros. Internationally based artists whose work I consider to be relevant to this project include Pierre Huyghe with his biotopic environments and anthropomorphic/transhuman film and performance works, Carsten Höller and his installation work with birds and Camille Henrot’s work, particularly her installations featuring animals and objects. Australian artists of note working in a related manner across music/sound and incorporating scores/graphic notation into their work (both referencing noted graphic score composer Cornelius Cardew) include Marco Fusinato and Nathan Gray.
Australian birdsong, electronic music and musical memory
My long standing interest in birdsong stems from my childhood in suburban Sydney. Since spending extended periods of time living away from Australia, my appreciation for the uniqueness of Australian birdsong has deepened. Avian sounds in electronic music have also held a long fascination and continue to surface in my work. In the ‘90s I became increasingly preoccupied with the bird-like sounds of drum machines and similar electronic music making instruments and pursued amateur circuit making of bird noise making devices. I have strong sonic memories of the techno 303 sounds in acid techno tracks played at warehouse raves. The lyrebird’s sampling like abilities are unique as is the manner in which it ‘remixes’ songs from other birds and animals to create its own song. I am interested in musical memory and perception and the translation of sounds from one context to another, from animal to human and back. I will endeavour to address the question: how are sounds perceived and how do these perceptions differ depending on cultural, physical, biological and psychological phenomena?
I have three confirmed international practitioners who will mentor the project during phase 2, creating the installation with music performance modules (not to be funded by this grant). They are: Berlin based artist/composer/conductor Ari Benjamin Meyers, a collaborator with whom I have worked with several times. He performs and has presented work extensively internationally, including at the Guggenheim Museum New York and Documenta, Germany and works as an artist exhibiting music in an art context (specialisation: arrangement, performance and music direction). Berlin based musician/composer Andre Vida also works increasingly in a contemporary art context and has created work using graphic scores including at Eyebeam, New York (specialisation: graphic scores). New York based David Rothenberg is an ‘interspecies’ musician and philosopher and author of several books including ‘Why Birds Sing’ who has been engaging with animals and playing music with them for several decades. He has written extensively on the subject of bird song (specialisation: sonograms and birdsong analysis).