Daniel Blinkhorn and Bronwyn Mehan

Spineless Wonders’ new micro-lit collection inspires emerging composers

Emerging composers are creating soundscapes inspired by micro-literature in an exciting new collaboration between Spineless Wonders and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Four aspiring composers have chosen a work from Spineless Wonders’ upcoming micro-literature anthology Out of Place to fuel their creative process.

Each finished composition will be coupled with a recorded reading and text-based version of the micro-literature piece it relates to. These will be screened during the Out of Place launch on July 18 at Knox Street Bar in Chippendale.

Spineless Wonders Publisher Bronwyn Mehan was thrilled to be given a sneak preview of the compositions at the Conservatorium on May 9. She also heard how each composer had engaged with the text and made acoustic choices.

Jordan Jolly

Jordon Jolly said he was strongly drawn to ‘South’ by Sydney-based author and poet Roberta Lowing. His composition traced the journey of the heron in the piece from the middle of a lake and out over a destroyed human environment. He said he had recorded sounds in Taronga Zoo, a pub, at university and at home, and used resonators and other electronic techniques to ensure he could contrast the natural and man-made world in ways that would create a meaningful soundscape.

Mimi Kind and Alexis Weaver

Alexis Weaver said she wanted to evoke the emotions present in ‘Letitia’s Lithe Limbs’— an intriguing piece by internationally regarded Australian poet John Tranter. Her first step had been to bold all the phrases that spoke to her (one was ‘tepid prawn-coloured waters’). She had used just two sounds to create her continuous soundscape —water and a short track of improvised saxophone—and manipulated these digitally to elicit the textures she was aiming for.

Mimi Kind chose ‘On the Hour’ by Dorothy Simmons and said she knew the son in the story was facing a huge challenge in his life. She tried to express the story’s eerie intensity through her composition but wondered if she had gone too far.

Victoria Pham said she chose ‘butterflies in iraq’ by Tim Heffernan because of its strong environmental concern about climate change. She said she had initially tried to emulate images in the piece—like the noise of a crowd watcbutterflies in iraq scorehing a one-day cricket match—but this hadn’t been effective. ‘I adapted and interpreted the text in a more abstract manner and focused the soundscape on the use of a combination of waves, helicopter blades, acoustic violin and my own voice to ensure the interplay of natural and transformed sounds to convey the mood of the writing.’

Ms Mehan said the students had been given 18 works of micro-literature from the 40 pieces which Out of Place editors Kirsten Tranter and Linda Godfrey had chosen to include in the anthology. Soundtracks composed by the students from The Con will be used as part of the Out of Place video screen project, a collaboration between Spineless Wonders and Melbourne video artist and writer, Richard Holt.

The students’ soundscapes were all created for the ‘Electroacoustic Composition’ course taught by Sydney Conservatorium lecturer and award-winning composer, sound and digital media artist, Dr Daniel Blinkhorn.

Dr Blinkhorn said working with Spineless Wonders and the micro-literature from Out of Place had been—and would continue to be—significant for his students.

Victoria Pham

‘The opportunity to engage in this type of cross-disciplinary, industry-led project provides manifold insights into the creative, as well as technical concerns vital to the development of aspiring young composers. With an ever-burgeoning array of creative ideas, impulses and urges percolating in their minds, students are typically poised to use the skills they have developed in a broader, professional sector context. The Spineless Wonders Out of Place collaboration provides one such opportunity, enabling gifted, aspiring artists to garner invaluable insights into the many and varied dimensions available within their art form.

‘Given the scope of the collaboration, it will be extremely enriching for all the artists involved to experience how their work radiates across disciplines. The project is sure to be immensely rewarding in and of itself, moving from strength-to-strength as all those involved witness the various parts coalesce, interacting across space, place and audience!’

Ms Mehan said that, as well as featuring at the Out of Place launch in July, the cross-disciplinary works would be screened in Federation Square in Melbourne later this year.

She had also approached Sydney City Council, the Beams Festival in Chippendale and the Newcastle Writers Festival in 2016 to screen the works and these opportunities would enable the collaborative project to reach a wider audience.

Dr Blinkhorn said the ‘Electroacoustic Composition’ course was offered through the Composition and Music Technology Unit at the Conservatorium and that the Unit’s collaboration with Spineless Wonders had been welcomed by the Unit’s head and chair Professor Matthew Hindson AM and course coordinator Dr Ivan Zavada.

Ms Mehan said she was looking forward to strengthening the collaboration with the Unit and was pleased more of its emerging composers had expressed an interest in being part of the project.

‘Some who have already composed a piece are enthusiastic about further collaboration with Spineless Wonders on a second work,’ she said. ‘I think this is a true indication of the exciting and worthwhile nature of this creative project.’

Text and photographs supplied by You Need A Writer, the dynamic team behind our newsletter, Sluglines.

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