Tuesday 20 December 2011: Coober Pedy

Last day recording. Captured both cemeteries in Coober Pedy. Very windy. Again.


Then rerecorded the candles burning. No one entered the church today until the very end when there was barely any candle left.  I continued recording after they had burnt up so hopefully there’s some beautiful quiet in there.

In the meantime Ezra interviewed me. We spoke for almost two hours and had a very interesting conversation.

And that was QUIES the film.


Thursday 15 December 2011: Lake Eyre, William Creek

We spent all day on and along the track to Lake Eyre. The track itself was rough and hard work to navigate but we passed a couple of interesting spots.


First stop was at a water tank and cattle enclosure. No cattle or anything else in sight. Visually stunning setting but very windy. Luckily the gate came with a very musical chain. I spent quite some time trying to capture it rattling and banging but the wind got in the way all too often.


After another hour’s driving, we came upon an amazing stretch of landscape, as far as the eye could see. I walked out, away from the car, for about 15 minutes, trying to get as far away from the camera. Then recorded the landscape, or rather, the wind blowing through this barren emptiness. No trees, no plants, no nothing in sight. I’m sure it looks better than it sounds.

Back at the car, we noticed the wind whistling and howling through the holes in a road sign. Yes, a road sign in the middle of nowhere. It sounded amazing but let’s see whether it works as a recording.


Lake Eyre is visually stunning. Sonically, there didn’t seem to be much else than wind. Until I let the microphone hang down in despair… and noticed a sizzling sound of the salt melting and evaporating in the sun. Quite intriguing and hopefully the recordings are good enough. Without any visual information, they sound very similar to what the decomposing road kill sounds like. It’s tempting to do an Eisenstein with both recordings, but also a bit obvious.

We spent a second night at the William Creek Hotel. Ezra filmed me talking to Amber and playing with the dog. He says it’s very interesting. I believe him.


Tuesday 13 December 2011: Lake Torrens, Andamooka, Marree

Our first destination of the day is Lake Torrens. The track is very rough and patchy but that makes arriving at the lake all the more satisfying.


Lake Torrens is not a big salt lake. There’s always land in sight. A vast expanse of whiteness or pinkness that might look monotonous at first. Until you pay more attention and notice how the sun and light are continuously changing the landscape.

If only the same could be said about the sound. Or wind, as that was the only sound on the lake. Rather fascinating to experience, but near impossible to record.


I don’t see how these recordings can be interesting other than as an illustration of failure.

You could argue that I should get better wind screens. Fair enough. But what if the wind screens already eliminate as much as the human ear? What about realism? How truthful should these recordings be? Soft winds are eliminated almost entirely by the wind screen and so the recording no longer reflects the reality of the lake. And hard winds are a noise fest to the ear, but sound horrible to microphones. 
But maybe that’s ok. Lens flare was once considered poor technique in cinema. So maybe that typical wind sound blasting into the microphones, isn’t too bad after all…

When the wind does settle down, the air sounds beautifully pregnant. And when the wind rises up again, soft and subtle, is very fascinating and mesmerising too.

I realized today that I’m faced with an interesting dilemma in this project. Or rather, this chapter of the QUIES project. In previous chapters, I was out recording sound for sound’s sake. And whether it resulted in a recording on an album, or as part of a composition or score, the focus was on the sound. Now there’s someone filming me. In other words, I am no longer alone in the sound space. And even though the other person manages to stay inaudible for the microphones most of the time, he’s there. And no matter how hard I try, I don’t manage to ignore this. Even more, I listen and record differently, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, of course. It will be interesting to see whether I can distill another desert album though. I should (try), definitely, as it will inform or even direct the post production of the film in a certain direction.


All thinking and conceptualizing aside, after Lake Torrens we drove back to Andamooka and stopped at the cemetery. I wanted to do a quick recording but we ended up spending a fair amount of time there. It was very quiet, especially when the wind settled down. At some point the quiet was shattered by a child’s voice coming from far away. Have a good feeling about this one.


The day ended with a long recording session around the Marree Hotel. First right outside, but then a bit further on the railway platform. An odd sight, the size of this platform in a town that is just 5 people short of being a ghost town. It isn’t really, as I could hear faint tv sounds off in the distance. This created a very eerie soundscape though. Especially in combination with the insects and bugs Ezra discovered a bit later. Crashing into a wall, dropping to the ground, flying up again and crashing again. Kamikaze bugs. A very odd phenomenon, but very musical.

And that was Tuesday.

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