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3 August 2016

Listening Forest, an installation at Tyalgum Music Festival

Music boxes in Cor Fuhler's installation <em>Doze(n)</em> (detail). Image: Music boxes in Cor Fuhler's installation Doze(n) (detail).  

Tyalgum Music Festival (9-11 September 2016) features two interesting new works by Australian composers Cor Fuhler and Cathy Milliken. The work by the German-based Milliken will involve choirs and other groups from the Tyalgum community as creative participants, while the Dutch-born composer, multi-instrumentalist and improviser Cor Fuhler is working on a new installation work called Listening Forest. In this article, Fuhler writes about his forthcoming work as well as some recent installations.

Cor Fuhler: Lady Bell - larger view.

As a composer, I often write for traditional instruments which possess a number of real-time parameters (harmony, volume, density, etc.) for musical processes, in order to create an overall form. When making an installation, my approach has to be different. What is musical development with an inner logic during a concert, becomes a static process in relation to space and the environment during an installation. A concert is usually attended from start to finish; an installation is visited randomly for a flexible amount of time.

In my installations I aim at a sound world that is static and complex at the same time, using stochastic1 processes that never repeat, but are consistent nonetheless, and worth revisiting because both time and the environment will have changed one's perception.

At the NOWnow Festival 2016 in Sydney, I built an installation called The Rules of Lawn Bowling. On the lawn of the former bowling club at Tempe, I created a juxtaposition in the form of fishing rods with hanging vibrating machines, each randomly hitting brass objects, creating a consistent but ever-changing rhythmic and harmonic sound world. The second part of the installation was situated inside a small rehearsal room. This part consisted of three turntables, operated by a microcontroller2 which switches randomly between them. All three turntables play LPs solely with spoken word, thus the microcontroller will create random sequences of sentences and single words resulting in a form of 'instant poetry'. The listener's brain is linguistically 'hardwired' to make sense of these words which can lead to absurd, humorous and also strangely profound outcomes.

Cor Fuhler: Doze(n) - larger view.

At Sizzle 2016, Ensemble Offspring's yearly event at Petersham Bowling Club, I created Lady Bell and the Rules of Lawn Bowling in which I added a number of new elements, such as, Doze(n): a combination of musical composition and interactive visual object, shown in the picture on the left. It consists of 12 CTMBs, 'Comb Transplanted Music Boxes'. Within a music box are two music-generating elements: a comb with reeds (the notes) and a cylinder with pins to pluck these reeds in the desired order to create its classic melody. I replaced all combs with another comb from a different music box (hence 'transplanted') and therefore they now produce an 'otherly-song-that-reminds-you-of-something' instead of the classic song intended. I added rules regarding how to activate these 12 CTMBs and put them in the frame of a broken mirror.

Making a site-specific installation this year for the Tyalgum Music Festival (8-10 September) will be a joyful occasion. It is an opportunity to connect with the unique environment inside the caldera of an ancient volcano, the local people and the history of the place and the town. Listening Forest aims at creating a playful, ever-evolving experience for the senses that re-energises visitors and makes them aware of sounds and events that otherwise might go unnoticed. Weather, time of day and various birds and insects will continuously transform the sonic arena (a large field with stunning views in all directions).

Listening Forest is an open, modular installation in which the modules work together as well as individually. The main connecting element of the installation will be the above-mentioned sounding brass objects and symbolic fishing rods, guiding visitors to various new 'islands', such as turntables with automated singing bowls, computer-controlled reed organs and 'Chinese waving fortune cats' playing clock chimes. During the day a number of musicians will play along with the installation and add yet another sonic layer by directly responding to sounds and engaging with the environment in their own personal way.

Further links

Cor Fuhler - AMC profile

Cor Fuhler - homepage (www.corfuhler.com)

Tyalgum Music Festival (www.tyalgumfestival.com.au)


1 - Stochastic: having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely (Apple Inc. Dictionary, v 2.2.1)

2 - Arduino Uno board connected to a board of relays which are connected to the speakers of the turntables and thus turn them on and off in a predetermined order.

Cor Fuhler (1964) is a Dutch/Australian composer, multi-instrumentalist, improviser, instrument builder, artist, inventor, educator and scholar whose practice is an interdisciplinary one crossing into installation, dance, puppetry, comic strip, music theatre and site-specific performance.


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