The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

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Near and Far

Near and Far was composed with recordings made during several nights at a billabong by the Nicholson River in the Gulf country of Northwest Queensland in late November 1997. It was on the cusp of the wet season; each day dawned bright and clear but by late morning, the sky would be overcast with heavy storm clouds which constantly threatened but only broke locally into heavy rain.

The opening sequence was recorded at 10pm while the atmosphere was still very humid: the mid ground choruses of frogs, fruit bats and insects were at their most intense. The next sequence cuts suddenly to the small hours, when the sky had cleared and the temperature cooled. The sounds now are of individuals: insects, fruit bats, Barking Owls, Brush and Koel Cuckoos, distant Willy Wagtails and Brolga Cranes, as well as many strange noises of the tropical night which I have been unable to identify. The final sequence follows the build up of sound over a wide area as the night moves towards the first light of dawn. Notable amongst the close sounds are the calls and songs of Variegated Fairy Wrens, Bar-shouldered Doves, Coucal Pheasants, Blue-winged Kookaburras (a wild cacophony, very different in character from the jovial choruses of their better known relatives, the Laughing Kookaburras), and closes with the chatter of a Dollar Bird and a fragment from the song of the Rufous Whistler.

I’ve always been fascinated by the exploration of distance and perspective in field recording, but in all my published soundscapes, this interest has been disciplined to the necessities of documentation. However, as the title implies, this piece is primarily a study in textures and perspectives and I’ve allowed myself the luxury of judicious mixing of close solos and distant panoramas without allowing them to disrupt the integrity of time and place. In fact, the greater number of dramatic contrasts of perspective (such as the resonant calls of a Koel about halfway through the piece) are present in the source recordings. In this kind of work, composing begins with the way one’s ears direct the microphones.

Near and Far was originally composed in stereo. At the suggestion of Michael Clarke, and with his assistance, I made an eight track version at the Huddersfield University Studio for the first performances at the Electric Spring Festival, 1999. I didn’t want to gild any lilies, so there are no special effects. My aim was to explore the simplest ways by which we could use the information in the original stereo files to fill a three-dimensional space with those evocative sounds—large and tiny, close and distant—of the billabong and surrounding plain at night.

DL, 1999