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27 November 2009

Laughing Waters Artist in Residence Program

Kate Moore's sound sculptures captured and amplified the sounds of the Laughing Waters property Image: Kate Moore's sound sculptures captured and amplified the sounds of the Laughing Waters property  

During her Laughing Waters residency in September-October 2009, Kate Moore designed and built a series of mini sound sculptures that captured and amplified the sounds of the Laughing Waters property. Also featured were works by her colleague, installation artist Kath Fries, who built fragile miniature installations featuring thread spider webs, mirrors and copper spirals.

Being attracted to apply to this residency by its title, 'Laughing waters', stems from a fascination with the relationship between the audio qualities and emotive aspects of water, music and the temporal question of time. Much of my work over the past year has been in pursuit to understand these elements from a fundamental level, as a means to define my art practice of music and musical composition. As the greek letter 'Mu' developed from the phoenician word for water 'mem', and the muses were water nymphs, it is fitting to parallel the concept and philosophy of music with the melodic qualities of water.

Coming from this stance, the project that visual artist Kath Fries and I have embarked on, whilst residing at Laughing Waters Road, has been productive on a number of levels, primarily in the development of a method of working together that is directly related to our surroundings and the subject of water and time.

The first quality, found at Laughing Waters, is the humble quietness of the surrounding bushland. Little sounds of various creatures near and far rhapsodise over the steady percussive sound of drips in the pond, accompanied by the occasional counterpoint, provided by blowflies and the distant spectral cantus firmus of jumbo jets to and from Melbourne. The sound of the place has so much presence in its quiet harmony that any additional sound brought in from the 'outside' is by law required to pay respect and find its own quiet place in the acoustic landscape.

The house is built of mudbricks, which immediately implies a balance between the day-to-day activity of people in harmony with the surrounding flora and fauna, by suggesting that the material from which it was built is from the earth beneath its floor and one day it will be returned. Earthy, spartan and rustic, cold in winter, hot in summer, the house does not hide from the sun, wind and rain.

From the front studio, surrounded on three sides by walls of glass, a pond, divided into three and the colour of tea, is as still as a mirror, providing the home for a metropolis of invisible frogs, their being made corporeal entirely though their giant acoustic outcries every night as the sun sets behind the house over the Yarra River.

As it rains, which it did for the first two weeks, the front window turns into a giant waterfall.

At every hour of the day, like clockwork, various communities of wildlife appear as though they banded together to form a roster. Currawongs, drongos, ants, mosquitos, kookaburras, rosellas, bunny rabbits...they all came to visit us at the pond at their appointed time. We even noticed that, as the season changed, the snakes and spiders came out of their hiding holes. The drongos made their presence felt, as they had no shame in being curious about us. For about half a day, they ran around the outside guttering of the house, peering through the windows to see what we were up to. One even took it upon himself to fly laps of the verandah as though training for an olympic event.

At about twelve o'clock every night, another animal made an audio appearance outside the kitchen window. To this day we don't know what it was. It sounded like a horse. Maybe it was a kangaroo, maybe very loud possums, maybe a ghost. Neither of us were game to find out.

The work that we produced acknowledges the qualities of the property. Each sculptural piece is like a haiku, pure in form and essence, balancing the fragile sounds of nature, debris and found objects with the minutest visual details, such as a tiny rainbow, a spiderweb, a drip of water. By pointing these out, reflecting them with mirrors, distilling their essence into a musical instrument, or imitating them on a large scale, they are amplified. Tiny details that might otherwise have been missed or disregarded.

All the pieces blend into the surrounding landscape rather than imposing themselves upon it. The material used comes from objects found around the property, such as hose reels, wood, metal wheels, fenceposts and other items that, like the house, could return to the ground from whence they came. The sounds, too, emphasise materials from the property: broken pieces of porcelain, wire, tiles, nails, pipes, stones, shells, gumnuts, a whistling teapot, pipes, sticks and the rain. Each little sound sculpture is to be played by visitors and audience as a means to engage, like a photo album for the ears, with what we found and thought beautiful and meaningful.

Further links

Kate Moore - AMC profile
Laughing Waters Artist in Residence program

Kate Moore lives and works as a composer in the Netherlands and Australia. She has written for ensembles from all over the world including Ensemble Syntonia, Ensemble Klang and The Song Company. Her works have been performed in venues including the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Modern Art Massachusetts America, De Ballie in Amsterdam and Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris.


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