“Landfall” (or “land-ho”) are calls from a ship’s deck at sea on sighting land, in a quivering voice, laden with hope, and fear. Beaching a craft upon a shore radiant with the promise of treasure requires navigating crashing waves on rocky coastlines.
Once on shore though, land gives up its resources to its coloniser. Whether it be a small island, a continent or the planet, colonising scenarios have played out in full. Sustainable futures for the seven and rising billon people feasting upon our planet looks evermore doubtful.
We non-indigenous people who live in Australia find ourselves on an ancient land mass that is nearly, but not quite, familiar. It is a landscape with unique archetypal cadences, an ambient pulse that unsettles us, and against which our imported familiar architectures and garden-planting schemes act as a bulwark to its strangeness, keeping us émigrés to country.
The palpable and visceral nature of Australian experience necessarily diminishes the visual dominance of cultural expression common to international arts. Here, the senses are interwoven in powerful and secret ways, and sound vibration over vast and shallow space shivers above and below the audible range, as felt pulsation, as electrical fizzing, as much tasted, touched and seen, as smelt and heard. Intuition alive to these complex sensory experiences can bring us in tune with country.
If we can tune into country, wehave something useful to share with a world looking for sustainable co-habitation on their part of the planet. We can share our special listening experience with them.
Listening is fundamental to our discovery of self and place of being. Everyone must find ways to live in tune, and in rhythm, with their landscapes. My exploration of the sonic experience of the Australian landscape is resulting in sculptural, multi-sensory forms worth listening to. In this way, I hope to share the subtle percussive sounds and invented listening experiences with my fellow citizens, and with people across the world.
Accessible, interactive and participatory public art installations, like the Federation Bells Carillonat Birrarung Marr Park Melbourne, become sites of shared multi-sensory experience. This is an art experience beyond spectatorship and entertainment, inviting everyone to listen to the creativity of others. It is a listening experience for the positive energy of people. It is an invitation to creative play and the sharing of considered sensibilities. People anywhere in the world can download the Federation Bell Carillon Installation’s phone app, or use its web page, to compose music for this set of unique musical bells. Imagine people joyfully engaged in accessible, participatory and responsive creative play.
It offers a vision for public-space architectures connecting people with one another, and with the country they share with each other, listening for resonance and being sensitive and alive to the interwoven fields of vibration animating life all about them. People are composing with the fabulous and bewitching sounds of the Australian landscape vibrated from unique bronze forms.
Shivering bronze forms such as the harmonic bell, (a sound long sort in Europe but invented here) and the difference-tone bells installed in the 10,000-Year clock being buried inside a Texan mountain, or the newly invented Nao bell to be exhibited at the Chengdu Museum, all first sounded in Mia Mia, becoming unique resonant frequencies to this country, like the sounds of the bull-roarer and of the cockatoo.
Open, free, egalitarian, playful and ingenious creativity and invention, isn’t that what we Australians stand for in our cultural life? Shouldn’t this be our gift to a world in desperate need? That everyone gets to ‘have a go’ is not just a mantra for seeing if an idea works through participation, it is integral to the idea of ‘a fair go’, that powerful concept underwriting our community’s ingenuity (and the remaining hope for a prosperous future). Being sensitive to subliminal resonant frequencies and rhythms of our ancient landscape; tuning into country; this is the work of discovering who, and where, we are.
“Landfall” might be the call of someone’s pirate-maniacal imaginings of untold individual wealth appearing over the horizon, like those simple (it turns out, too simple) economic models of vast cattle farms, mineral mining and other schemes of exploitation that draw people to the heart of outback Australia. However, it can also be a call to tune into landfall’s siren song, to find oneself drawn to the irresistible sonic patterns that resonate and ricochet, reverberate and echo in, around, across and under the complex topological forms and vast open spaces of living country.
It is my greater hope that this kind of investigation, of tuning into our country and of building joyful sites of shared creative play for all, can inform the kind of society needed to find a sustainable harmony with the planet we are so very crowded upon.