Denley’s performance at Studley Park was one of my favourite music events of the year. I hesitate to call it a ‘concert’, for it was something more than that. There were times when Denley finished playing and a trained audience knew that it is time to applaud, but it seemed wrong to clap because the music was continuing: in the birds, the wind, and the river, all which Denley had been sensitively playing along to with the ear of an expert improvisor. Everyone who was fortunate enough to be present knew it was a very special afternoon.
I loved the Out Hear event with Jim Denley.I noticed more than I ever had about the nature of our hearing.I could see grass bend under people’s feet, as we walked together, but not hear it. Or hear it quite loudly under my own feet – or see Kayaker’s paddling on the river but only HEAR the splash as they past then SEE the wake but not hear it. And the sounds from Jim Denley punctuated the sounds from the bush. I noticed how birdsong carries vast distances (though they themselves were invisible) while my vision ‘stopped’ at the horizon (which could be quite near when the ground dipped in the distance). And I noticed how Jim Denley made sound by breathing into his instrument. How there were physical pauses and connections. And everyone else in our group seemed happy to have their listening heightened like this.
Thank you Dale and Out Hear
////////////CD review: West Head Project
Featuring Out Hear artists on Maria Island National Park, Tasmania, as part of Ten Days on the Island Festival
A Closely Woven Fabrik
Auditory transmogrification of Tasmanian terrain onto disc, Closely Woven Fabrik adds improvisations from three Australian musicians to field recordings, subtly altering the real-time resonance as it’s captured.
While recordist Anthony Magen encapsulates the wild and domestic sounds resulting from a guided soundwalk taking place on Maria Island, near Tasmania’s east coast, reedist Jim Denley, accordionist Monika Brooks and Dale Gorfinkel’s prepared trumpet, roots percussion and automated sonic contraptions add ingenious grisaille to the proceeding. The three-track CD creates a soundworld which is so complete onto itself that applause from the assembled audience, heard on the final track, comes as a shock.
All three Australian improvisers have been involved in undertakings like this before, as well as playing in more conventional setting. A veteran radio artist, Denley sees no clear distinctions between his roles as instrumentalist, improviser and composer. He has recorded with fellow sound explorers such as Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach and British hurdy-gurdy player Stevie Wishart. Besides placing solo and in combos, Brooks is part of the large Sydney-based Splinter Orchestra; while Gorfinkel regularly works with such fellow Aussies as drummer Robbie Avenaim and bassist Clayton Thomas.
“Spruces” is literally the most organic track since the gentled timbre of bamboo flute, spinning accordion textures and the swelling hums from Gorfinkel’s devices appear as generic to the environment as the lapping wave flutters, percussive footfalls, murmuring children’s voices and the gargles and caws from obstreperous geese and other fowl heard. Isolating the “real” instruments from field recording sounds is possible only because instrumental pulses and gasps possess tempered intonation. This sonic conception is confirmed on the final “Glade”.
“Roots” on the other hand contains the most upfront instrumentalism. The ruffs, glissandi and hollow pops which Gorfinkel extracts from roots create marimba-like intimations, while Denley mercurially exposes alto saxophone lines. As the reedist pitch-slides upwards with diaphragm vibrations and humming growls, the resulting counterpoint recognizes each player’s efforts without any one blending with the other’s textures.
Innate wild life tones on “Glade” take the form of the odd goose honk and aviary twitters that are given additional melodic tonality from Brook’s intermittent pulsing. That isn’t her only role however. Ingeniously she roughens the aural picture with overtone friction. Meanwhile the saxophonist exposes the inner workings of his horn with unaffiliated breaths, reed percussion and spetrofluctuation and is matched by bellow pulsing from the accordionist. Meanwhile the trumpeter’s strained capillary brays and watery spits make common cause with intermittent aviary twitters.
Careful listening confirms the musicians’ sympathetic interaction with the captured natural sound. This also substantiates why the overall session works as well ecologically as musically.
Notes on Out Hear event at Studley Park with Jim Denley
by Dale Nason
Arriving to the gathering amongst the grass and trees,
off the track was like arriving at a surreal picnic. It transported
me to a timeless place where I could slow down and notice the
tiny things, like the waves of breeze, the birds cutting sharp
trajectories, the other people walking up and choosing their
The notes, sounds and textures being played by Jim Denley
were both responsive and intrusive into the landscape, but
seemed to create a shared space that connected the listeners in their
abstract, humanness to the ‘natural’.
Walking in silence with Jim and Dale was odd, but actually
refreshing to be with a group concerned with the subtle, the actual.
Resting at a final place, facing a lovely set of rock facades across the
Yarra River, Jim played intermittently revealing islands on which
to clutch, as passersby cut though the group, following the trail we
were all sitting either side of. It was nice to see people approach,
discover then leave the event respecting the silence that the
listening group had maintained. This was a large part of my
enjoyment of the experience, the random human interventions,
into what might be described as a musical connection, forming the
in-betweenness from human to nature.
A final memory was of the absolute depth of the event being the
distant sounds of our urban nature, the bass drones of cars,
and the reminder that we were in fact in a city. This created
a multiple layering that crept into my visual imagination,
as if the ‘nature’ we were sitting amongst might be swept away.
And maybe this is the power of the event, in its willing connection
to the remnants of a bush that if listened to might grow back to be more
than a mere buffer.
But on a the level of music appreciation I am looking forward to the
future events that might take in the more extreme locations of both
bushland and of the urban environment.
If I have the chance, I will bring my friends and family. I especially
think that my family would love this as something a bit odd to do.
The notion of serious music being in a natural, outdoor setting makes
the experimental and avant garde much more accessible. Having this type of
music away from the serious art scene, or also away from the entertainment
venues with alcohol consumption, makes it more real somehow…
Dale Nason 2011