we’d like to

sit and listen


The Geophone is built and undergoing some last tests at Tactical Space Lab. The spectrograph readouts are looking beautiful. Josh Harle has done an amazing job on what he has called a James Bond villain kit.

geophone in pelikan case geophone on pelikan case with readout showing logfile geophone spectrograph

geophone underway

geophone circuit
Geophone construction is underway by the wonderful Josh Harles of Tactical Space Lab

A geophone is a device that converts ground movement (velocity) into voltage. This one will be able to detect low frequencies, around 10Hz and convert that to data.


07/10 meeting

We will collate a database of our sound recordings and compositions so far.
VB will try using our sounds in Abelton for more midi synth.
Perhaps we can compose a choir of rock sounds?
JB & LD will record more sounds, including contact mic sounds of rocks under pressure and grinding or scraping.

We like the idea of together sitting in a rock formation and staying still, listening, not extracting or recording or doing anything, just listening. We may be able to arrange this in December? Future performance within an installation of this work is also a possibility, performance about listening, events of listening, stillness and long duration.

We imagine an installation with super slow video of falling rocks and low low felt sound.
We imagine being all together in the same space to work.
We imagine particulate matter within the rock bodies.
We imagine crushing our bones to powder and letting it blow on the wind.
We imagine what it could mean to be non-extractivist, to reject linear time.

sound from the ground

contact mic on concrete, much edited & slowed. Like a wave or a breath in a rock body

further experiments with geo sounding

Playing around with sound in ableton, further to thinking about machine learning. I made a simple keyboard synth loaded with sounds converted from images (rock rubbings from the goldfields area, rocks from Hallet cove). The first result was the following piece. This piece was made using only 2 sounds, one from rocks in the goldfield area, the other from a shale slide at Hallet Cove. It’s made me think about data alot ond the uses to which it is put, and how data can be interpreted. How do we get to really pure data? I think that is an impossible question, and kind of a ridiculous one, but nevertheless, it plays on my mind, knowing that these sounds emerge from sites that are systemically skewed (the softwares, the codes, the composition – all are pre-loaded with certain values)

I’ve been using some commercial applications to do these experiments. I hope we can do away with some of these and create sounds that are less inflected with aesthetic ideas.

Both Jessie and Linda have been working with the recording side, using different microphones and capture devices. Will be nice to have a library of field recordings to load into a synth (one idea).

Also I wonder how the resulting sound can function to alter time, which I think is at the heart of the project.

Anyway! here’s the sound!

image > midi

A couple of experiments using images as midi information, playing through a synth.

We will look more at this, particularly using our own sounds gathered via geophone and other recording methods to create a “rock synth”.

Very interested in machine learning, wondering if we can use certain machine learning platforms trained on geosounds (like deepmind wavenet) to audibly express something like geolanguage.

These were made from this image:

rock sounds

Recordings from rock against body

Goldfields legacies

In ‘Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World’, Marcia Bjornerud states -in relation to large-scale mining processes- “Understanding the lingering effects of sudden topographic change is important because we ourselves are now agents of geomorphic catastrophe.” The effects of mining, which involves the massive derangement of topographies and natural systems will be “wide ranging and long lasting,” she says. “Worldwide, humans now move more rock and sediment, both intentionally through activities like mining, and unintentionally by accelerating erosion through agriculture and urbanization, than all of Earth’s rivers combined. It can no longer be assumed that geographic features reflect the work of geologic processes.” (p 90)

I (Jessie) live in the Central Victorian goldfields region- on Dja Dja Wurrung country- where the landscape has been turned over by thousands of hands, picks and shovels, buckets of blood and booze, violence and poverty- it has been made anew by a rabid search for gold. It is hard to imagine this land un-scarred by the quest for wealth and the dispossession of  Aboriginal land. All mining-scapes feel scarred, some more profound than others. Here, admist the box-ironbark forest, we have diggings, mullock heaps, gullies and shafts completely covering the topography, and, as I explore this landscape with my children, we see almost no place untouched by the events of the 1850s.

I’ve been to a lot of mines… I’ve worked on numerous projects exploring the legacies and impacts of mining in Australia and overseas. I’ve walked around large mines in places like Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Western Australia, I’ve descended into the ground 500 meters below the surface – I’ve felt the rumble of the mining blast, and heard it’s warning sirens… but still I wonder how big those caverns are under there – miles of holes – millions of tonnes of minerals extracted – leaving… what in their place? Surely the earth shows, or will show, its geotrauma somehow…. I wonder… just how solid is the ground we are standing on?

While reading Speculative Research; the lure of possible futures, I began to think about how we can really not think about the future only as an extension of the present, and how that might relate to massive geotraumas that have occurred, or, are occurring. How can the future not be an extension, or not yield the impacts of, the present? I think about the below proposition and what it might mean to ‘participate in eventful temporality’.

“Participating in the eventful temporality forces us to come to resist the temptation of reducing futures to presents, of entering futures backwards, and requires that we come to terms with irreducible futures that come into existence through processes of path dependency (Sewell, 2005),  temporally heterogeneous and emergent casualties (Connolly, 2012) and global contingencies (Serres, 1995). In other words, an eventful temporality assumes that ‘contingent, unexpected, and inherently unpredictable events can undo or alter the most apparently durable trends of history’ (Sewell, 20015: 102), enabling a swerve of possible futures and creative alternatives to be explored and harnessed.” (Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures, p. 7)

I’m not sure how we lure these possible futures into imagination/into being… but I wonder if the rocks might have something to teach us here.

Keeping Faith with Rocks

This project has more than a little discourse with phenomenology. When we speak about perception and entanglement, apprehending the self in the world, and embodiment, we necessarily connect with the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, among many others (Gregory Bateson, Jacob Von Uexküll, Vicki Kirby, Kate Wright, Lynn Margulis, Mary Beth Dempster et al).

We are collecting some resonant quotes, and this is the repository for their collection.

Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it is one of them. It is caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But because it sees and moves itself, it holds things in a circle around itself. Things are an annex or prolongation of my body; they are incrusted in its flesh, they are part of its full definition; the world is made of the very stuff of the body. These reversals, these antinomies, are different ways of saying that vision is caught or is made in the middle of things, where something visible undertakes to see, becomes visible for itself and through the vision of all things, where the indivision of the sensing and the sensed persists, like the original fluid within the crystal.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind, The Primacy of Perception. Evanston, USA: Northwestern University Press. pp. 159-190 (1964)

Here, Kate Wright, a writer, academic and maker, discusses Ponty’s idea of “flesh” in her essay “An Ethics of Entanglement for the Anthropocene”:
“Maurice Merleau-Ponty built on von Uexküll’s work to describe the way organisms are interlaced with their surrounds. He used the term “Flesh” to describe the open and permeable embodiment that allows us to make contact with others and with the world. For Merleau-Ponty, the boundaries of the living body are like membranes that open possibilities for metamorphosis and exchange (Abram 1996: 46). The body in this sense is an “open circuit” that is complete only in contact with others and with the earth, with the world, with things, with animals, with other bodies” (Abram 1996: 46).

By “Flesh”, Merleau-Ponty is referring to both the flesh of the body and the flesh of the world. He writes (1968: 248):

[M]y body is made of the same flesh as world… and moreover that this flesh of my body is shared by the world, the world reflects it, encroaches upon it and it encroached upon the world.

Flesh is not skin, but an extra dimension to the elements of life on earth. Flesh “is the element that makes being possible” (Buchanan 2008: 140). Glen Mazis applies Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of Flesh to help understand the cause of speciocide. He argues that processes of anthropodenial, like the denial of the lived experience of rabbits, detach human beings from the flesh of the world. Mazis writes “If we are part of the flesh of the world, then our interconnection with other species is part of the depth of our perception” (Mazis 2008: 75), and “anthropodenial” ( De Waal, 1997), the cutting off of interspecies ties which reverberate with us” (Mazis 2008: 77) detaches us from our emplacement in a multispecies world.”

And here, in her short read “A Manifesto for Creature Languages”, she discusses modes of attunement and relational becoming:

As a conceptual frame and an embodied political tactic, ‘weathering’ is a mode of attunement that attends to this relational becoming. In this immanent, affective, viscous approach to the living world, the more-than-human kin that surround us are part of a semiotic ecology – their own affective and responsive bodies reverberating with difference as they communicate shifts in time and place. Nonhuman bodies are both signals and agents because everything in the world “is a kind of immanent process of mediation or… communication,” and an active participant in the world’s becoming (Murphie, 19).
A manifesto for creature languages

She has a book out which I am keen to get a hold of called:
Transdisciplinary Journeys in the Anthropocene: More-than-human Encounters from the Routledge Environmental Humanities Series (2017)

One more note, a podcast!
Called For the Wild, this podcast discusses the critical ideas of our time and parlays them into action for the defense and regeneration of natural communities. Key topics include the rediscovery of wild nature, ecological renewal and resistance, and healing from the trauma of individualistic society.

This one is particularly great:
Marcia Bjornerud on finding humility in our geological past


That’s all for now!