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Experimental sound work

Created while on residency in Mpartwne, 2023

with support from Watch This Space ARI

and with funding support from Arts Tasmaia

Scrubland, by Alex Last
00:00 / 13:08

In May 2023 I went on an eight-day residency to Mpartnwe, or Alice Springs. On my flight, as the landscape below morphed from green plains into red sands, a strange and hostile feeling overwhelmed me. Entering this world so suddenly felt like a transgression; I was already extraterrestrial, hurling 900km/h into the depths of the central desert.


I stayed in an off-grid hut twenty minutes out of town. The hut was surrounded by spinifex and an inexorable layer of invasive buffel grass. I applied suncream and climbed the red quartzite peaks and gorges of the nearby mountainside, stumbling haphazardly into the sprawling webs of Golden Orb Weavers, gazing dumbstruck at the intricate forms of craggy termite mounds. Never bored but often aimless, I practised my woodwinds and recorded the local birds and insects.


The terrain was a new language, a dry cradle of xeric scrubland with its phonemes buried in the morphology of trees, rocks, soil, flowers; the geometry of spiderwebs and gnarled branches; the favoured tempo and timbre of bird caws and clamor. I manipulated the overdub function on my field recorder and contributed my own articulations, piping away on soprano recorder and clarinet in a broken dialect of the surrounding realm. Gradually, with each walk home, I recognised the Orb Weaver webs and swerved beneath them. At night, in a dark room on a laptop with a rapidly-dwindling battery, I stretched and folded the sonic traces of the day; soundlines unrolled to a crawl, others compressed and forced into higher speeds and pitches. I lost track of the original files; was ‘screech2.wav’ a flute or a bird? Cricketsong leaked into my dreams. As the days passed, this lumbering composition accumulated, a ball of dung rolling across the terrain picking up strands of fibrous intraterrestrial chatter. I too accumulated; a swollen endo-parasite pickled alive inside the parched and humming terrain.


By the final day, this recording is what remained.


The Hut (off-grid residency location)

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