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Contributors (31)

  • 33EMYBW
  • Shanghai native 33EMYBW (Wu Shanmin) has been an active member in the Chinese music scene for over a decade. She has also performed at CTM and Sinotronics in Germany, China Drifting Festival in Switzerland, and SXSW. Her 2018 album Golem, released on SVBKVLT, was met with critical acclaim and voted one of the best electronic albums of 2018 by Bandcamp. In 2019 she released DONG2 EP under Merrie Records Beijing, and will premiere her sophomore album Arthropods (SVBKVLT) at Unsound 2019.

  • Alexander Garsden
  • Alexander Garsden is a Melbourne-based composer, guitarist and electroacoustic musician, working across multiple exploratory musical disciplines. Recent work includes commissions from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Speak Percussion, Michael Kieran Harvey and Eugene Ughetti; alongside performances with artists including Tetuzi Akiyama (Japan), Oren Ambarchi, Radu Malfatti (Austria), Julia Reidy, David Stackenäs (Sweden), and with Erkki Veltheim and Rohan Drape. From 2014 to 2019 Garsden was Co-Director of the INLAND Concert Series. He has taught through RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.

  • Allanah Stewart
  • Allanah Stewart is an artist from Aotearoa/New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as her work in various experimental music projects, she is the presenter of a monthly podcast radio programme called Enquiring Minds, hosted by Noods radio, which explores old and new, lesser known and well known sounds that loosely fit under the banner of experimental music.

  • Annika Kristensen
  • Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.

  • Arben Dzika
  • Arben Dzika is an artist whose practice involves working with various media including, but not limited to: sound, image, word, and performance. His work primarily seeks to reflect on, interrogate, and play with technologies, systems, and human senses. Within his practice, he works as a producer and DJ under the moniker, Dilae.

  • Audrey Schmidt
  • Audrey Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor to Memo Review, co-editor the third issue of Dissect Journal, and has written for various publications including Art Monthly, Art + Australia and un Magazine. She co-founded Minority Report with Adam Hammad in 2018 and released one online issue that was available until the domain expired in 2019. Audrey sits on the FYTA (GR) Board of Advisors.

  • Autumn Royal
  • Autumn Royal is a poet, researcher, and teacher based in Narrm/Melbourne. Autumn’s current research examines elegiac expression in contemporary poetry. Autumn is interviews editor for Cordite Poetry Review, and author of the poetry collection She Woke & Rose. Her second collection of poetry is forthcoming with Giramondo Publishing in 2021.

  • Bianca Winataputri
  • Bianca Winataputri is a Melbourne-based independent curator and writer researching contemporary practice in Southeast Asia, and relationships between individuals and collectives in relation to history, globalisation, identity and community building. Currently working at Regional Arts Victoria, Bianca was previously Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGA. She holds a BA (University of Melbourne), and BA Honours from the ANU where she received the Janet Wilkie Prize for Art. In 2018 Bianca was selected for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s Curators’ Intensive.

  • Brian Hioe
  • Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. Hioe is a freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as an occasional translator.

  • Chi Tran
  • Chi Tran is a writer, editor, and an artist who makes poems that may be text, video, object, sound, or drawing. Chi is primarily interested in working with language as a means of coming-to-terms. Their work has been published by Incendium Radical Library Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry and Liminal Magazine and exhibited at galleries including Firstdraft, Sydney; Punk Café, Melbourne; and ACCA, Melbourne. In 2019, as a recipient of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund, Chi spent three months in New York developing their practice with renowned poets including Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Fred Moten, and Jackie Wang.

  • Chun Yin Rainbow Chan
  • Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a Hong Kong–Australian artist, living in Sydney. Working across music, performance and installation, Rainbow is interested in the copy and how the ways in which it can disrupt Western notions of ownership. Central to Rainbow's work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the counterfeit as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production.

  • Dale Gorfinkel
  • Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.

  • Danni Zuvela
  • Danni Zuvela is a curator and writer based in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Her research is informed by interests in feminism, activism, ecology, language and performance. With Joel Stern, Danni has led Liquid Architecture as Artistic Director, and continues to develop curatorial projects for the organisation.

  • Eric Avery
  • Eric Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist. As part of his practice Eric plays the violin, dances and composes music. Working with his family’s custodial songs he seeks to revive and continue on an age old legacy – continuing the tradition of singing in his tribe – utilising his talents to combine and create an experience of his peoples culture.

  • Fjorn Butler
  • Fjorn Butler is an artist, researcher, and event organiser. As an artist, she works primarily in sound and performance under the name Papaphilia. As a researcher, she interrogates how biological discourses are used in neoliberal/colonial governance structures to shape the political. Fjorn's research informs her writing on sound-poetics and the challenges this framework poses to anglophone notions of property. She is also co-director of Future Tense and co-curator of Writing and Concepts.

  • Freya Schack-Arnott
  • Freya Schack-Arnott is an Australian/Danish cellist who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist and ensemble performer of classical and contemporary repertoire, curator and improviser within experimental music, electronics, popular and cross-disciplinary art forms. Schack-Arnott regularly performs with Australia's leading new music ensembles, including ELISION Ensemble (as core member) and Ensemble Offspring. Her curatorial roles include co-curator/founder of the regular 'Opus Now' music series and previous curator of the NOW Now festival and Rosenberg Museum.

  • Gooooose
  • Gooooose (Han Han) is an electronic music producer, visual artist and software developer based in Shanghai, China. His current releases include They (D Force, 2017), Dong 1 (D Force, 2018), Pro Rata (ANTE-RASA, 2019). Gooooose's 2019 SVBKVLT–released RUSTED SILICON received positive reviews from media including boomkat, Resident Advisor, Dusted Magazine, and The Wire. Gooooose has performed live at CTM (Berlin, 2018), Nyege Nyege (Kampala, 2019), Soft Centre (Sydney, 2019), Unsound (Kraków, 2019) and Recombinant (San Francisco, 2019).

  • Harmony Holiday
  • Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.

  • Haroon Mirza
  • Haroon Mirza is an artist who intertwines his practice with the role of composer. Mirza considers electricity his main medium and creates atmospheric environments through the linking together of light, sound, music, videos and elements of architecture. Regularly showing internationally in group and solo exhibitions, Mirza’s work has also been included in the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, China (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011), where he was awarded the Silver Lion.

  • James Rushford
  • James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts, and was a 2018 fellow at Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow. James has been commissioned as a composer by ensembles including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and regularly performs in Australia and internationally.

  • Jen Callaway
  • Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.

  • Jessica Aszodi
  • Jessica Aszodi is an Australian-born, London-based vocalist who has premiered many new pieces, performed work that has lain dormant for centuries, and sung roles ranging from standard operatic repertoire to artistic collaborations. She has been a soloist with ensembles including ICE; the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; and San Diego and Chicago Symphony Orchestras’ chamber series. Aszodi can be heard on numerous recordings and has sung in festivals around the world. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium, an MFA from the University of California, and is co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival (Australia), and artistic associate of BIFEM.

  • KT Spit
  • Kt Spit (Katie Collins) is an artist and musician based in Narrm (Melbourne). Lyrically and visually her work explores subcultural narratives and challenges dominant representations of loss, grief, and true love. In 2015 Kt independently released her debut album, Combluotion, and in 2019 will release a visual album entitled Kill the King.

  • Lucreccia Quintanilla
  • Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, DJ and PhD candidate researcher at Monash University. Her writing and art have been published and exhibited both within Australia and internationally. Quintanilla’s practice is a collaborative one that manifests into outcomes within galleries and also as events and performances outside of that context. She regularly speaks at panels and symposiums on themes within her research, has received grants for her projects and residencies, and has taught at university level.

  • Mandy Nicholson
  • Mandy Nicholson is a Wurundjeri-willam (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation. Mandy gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now a PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, Off Country.

  • Mat Spisbah
  • Mat Spisbah is a New Media curator with a unique portfolio of programming that seeks to integrate non-traditional artistic methods and emerging technologies. Having lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, he is connected to the region’s art and culture, and has created professional networks with artists, curators, galleries, promoters and industry professionals across Australasia. Portfolio highlights include the debut Australian performances of north Asian artists including: Howie Lee, Rui Ho, Meuko Meuko, Pan Daijing, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tzusing, and Gabber Modus Operandi.

  • Natasha Tontey
  • Natasha Tontey is an artist and graphic designer based in Yogyakarta. She is interested in exploring the concept of fiction as a method of speculative thinking. Through her artistic practice she investigates the idea of how fear, horror, and terror could be manifested in order to control the public and how fictional accounts of the history and myth surrounding ‘manufactured fear’ might operate as a method of speculative fiction that determines expectations for the future.

  • Neil Morris
  • Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung man. He is well known in Narrm/Birraranga for his musical project DRMNGNOW, a project built on subject matter tackling the colonial nature of the Australian construct and how that affects contemporary society upon this land. The work is unapologetic, clear, and deeply poetic. It hints toward Morris's extensive experience as a spoken word artist in Narrm since 2015. Morris's work is triumphant in the face of severe adversity often imbued in a quite fortified melancholy, a powerful marker of the survival of First Nations peoples in the now.

  • Sam Peterson
  • Sarah McCauley
  • Sarah McCauley is a Melbourne-based music producer, editor and writer.

  • The Convoy
  • The Convoy conjure illustrious soundscapes from the abyss of chaos, revealing hidden worlds of the imagination as the performance takes form and infuses with subjective experience. Using instruments of sound, light and smell, The Convoy enchant space with themes of tension, evolution, entropy and regeneration. Sensorial immersion transports audiences through highly dynamic environments that shift and blend into one single, breathing moment. As entity, rather than singular, Immy Chuah is a guest within The Convoy on unceded land.

Artist Title | 00:00 / 00:00 (Play)
Disclaimer is a journal for new thinking and writing on listening and sound. Published by Liquid Architecture.

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Index


Dale Gorfinkel: Listening as a way of knowing by Jen Callaway with audio by Allanah Stewart

<p>Dale playing Switches and Hose in a Sounds Like Movement performance for MoreArt<br> Merlynston Community Hall, Narrm/Melbourne 2018. Photo: Lana Nyugen. </p>

Dale playing Switches and Hose in a Sounds Like Movement performance for MoreArt
Merlynston Community Hall, Narrm/Melbourne 2018. Photo: Lana Nyugen.

‘The documentation of Australian music has been and is relatively poor when measured against other artforms such as the visual arts or literature. The documentation that does exist is mostly of an ephemeral or transitory nature, and the discussion of musical issues is by and large not a mainstream activity. There is a view that music must speak for itself and needs no additional explanation. Yet for a community of composers and musicians involved in experimental activity, as well as for the audiences of this work, the opportunity for discourse can be a motivating force.’ 1
— Rainer Linz

I first noticed Dale Gorfinkel and his work at the National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition of The Instrument Builders Project in 2014, featuring Australian and Indonesian artists. Dale contributed collaborative pieces featuring bird cages and swaying shells, in addition to an interactive version of his foot-pump powered synthesiser constructed from garden irrigation materials and balloons: the Lotek Exercise Machine.

These interactive and automated instruments have impressive sound-making capabilities, but they are also visually delightful, suggestive of their maker’s unshackled imagination. A sense of effortless and relaxed yet thoughtful ingenuity consistently seems to pervade Dale’s work. I find this positively stimulating.

I felt compelled to take a bunch of photos at that exhibition. This was the beginning of my photographing everything that turns my head. Dale’s work continues to have that effect. Dale seemed very approachable upon this first meeting, but also somewhat impenetrable, or at least a slow revealer of his inner workings. I had no clue at that time that we’d eventually become collaborators and good friends.


  1. Rainer Linz, ‘Publishing the Debate’ 

For me, the word ‘engaging’ doesn’t feel quite right as a descriptor of Dale’s work. I’m wowed yet daunted by much of what he produces; intrigued but confounded; pushed and pulled. How can Dale consistently create such unexpectedly fitting, effective, exquisite sounds as spontaneous play? How can the instruments and props he builds in an unconventional, improvised, DIY fashion be so visually spectacular, unusual, and playful, yet also function brilliantly in a technical sense?

I still can’t fathom the level of insight and skill which facilitates all of this. Sometimes the ineffability overloads me to the point of disengagement — just for a while — then I’m drawn right back in once again.

One long term collaborator of Dale’s, Jim Denley, recently shared his impressions:

‘Thinking back … The Frequency Lab, a small artist run space Sydney, early 2000s. I loved the solo vibraphony that night, but was plunged into a deep worry state. I’d always thought of the Conservatorium of Music as ‘death to music’, and here was a con artist, stuffing around, who I found inspiring — had I lost my edge? Hanging with Dale Gorfinkel I realised his education went way beyond what an institution like the Con supplied, he was an amazingly intelligent sponge. At a cellular level he demanded new ways of thinking about music. Maybe he is a sponge? Or an octopus? (There’s something octopus-like about Switches and Hose). Something deeply alien; the way sound works with him. I never totally get it (whatever ‘getting’ is?), which keeps me totally interested.’

When forming our band Snacks, along with Allanah Stewart, in 2017, Dale’s generous spirit also became evident. He encouraged an organic work ethic, which included spending hours becoming acquainted with us, while sharing our sounds and home-made snacks (a welcomed allusion to our future name). And Dale also facilitated jams with potential new collaborators. On occasion, we now perform with some of these additional allies as Snacks Orchestra.

Dale’s solo release Switches and Hose (2014, Splitrec) features four radically diverse and joyous tracks, evoking for me the rhythms and sensations of the natural world. The title pun refers to the garden irrigation materials used to build the instrument featured in the first track. The album was widely welcomed and as such reviewed. In a review for the Sydney Morning Herald, John Shand wrote that Dale: ‘…will open your ears to an improbable array of sound-as-music possibilities…’ Shand also noted ‘the Dadaist nature’ of Dale’s practice and how this provides ‘a clue to a keen sense of humour being at work amid the elements of surprise.’1

Aside from creating improvised music of many different styles and instruments, sound art, performance art, and installations, Dale is also an arts facilitator and educator. Dale has a long history of working collectively, including with the masked troupe Prophets; the Ethiopian band Music Yared with Haftu Reda, Anbessa Gebrehiwot and Evelyn Morris; Sounds Like Movement with Peter Fraser; Snacks with Allanah Stewart and Jen Callaway; BBGG with Peter Farrar, Splinter Orchestra; installation partnership with Ross Manning and Caitlin Franzmann; West Head Project with Monica Brooks, Jim Denley and Anthony Magen; Appiah Annan’s Asanti Dance Theatre; extreme vibraphone duo with Robbie Avenaim; and the jazz/improvisation band Farfinkel Pugowski. Dale has been deeply engaged with many other experimental and improvised music communities around Australia as well as internationally, including: Aviva Endean, Amanda Stewart, Peter Blamey, Cor Fuhler, Laura Altman, Rod Cooper, Ernie Althoff, Shani Mohini-Holmes, Mike Majkowski, Henry Mills, Tim Green, Clinton Green, Matt Earle, Nicola Morton, Adam Sussman, Rory Brown, Fina Po, Jon Rose, Clare Cooper, Gerard Crewdson (New Zealand), Heddy Boubaker (France), Andeas Siagian and Life Patch Collective, and Jompet Kuswidanato (Indonesia).

As a subjective collaborator, onlooker, and ‘non-writer’, I posed the following questions to Dale to allow him to speak for himself and reveal more about what makes him tick, both as a person and within his artistic practices. Initial interview material was recorded as audio on a walk from Dale’s kitchen, along Merri Creek, and then back to Dale’s garage — where he keeps most of his instruments. The recordings throughout this piece were recorded and edited by Allanah Stewart.

<p>Music Yared (from left to right: Dale Gorfinkel, Haftu Reda, Anbessa Gebrehiwot, Evelyn Morris)<br>Bar Oussou, Narrm/Melbourne, 2017. Photo: Eric Jensen.</p>

Music Yared (from left to right: Dale Gorfinkel, Haftu Reda, Anbessa Gebrehiwot, Evelyn Morris)
Bar Oussou, Narrm/Melbourne, 2017. Photo: Eric Jensen.

Jen Callaway

For someone who might wish to start from the very beginning, what instrument(s) did you first learn to play, and when?

Dale Gorfinkel

When I was young, we had a piano at home, so I would tinker on that when I could reach the keys and got some lessons with a neighbour later on. My mum likes to retell a story about when she went to take a few beginner clarinet lessons: she was struggling to get a sound out of it and put it down in frustration. According to her, I then picked it up and blew a note straight away. I was probably four at the time. Now, while that’s a proud mum story, I do still enjoy figuring out how to play instruments. I began playing trumpet when I was eight, and when I was in my teens I began playing the vibraphone. I called myself a vibraphone player until about 25. I also played a bit of saxophone as a kid, and more recently I’ve been playing drums, too. I can’t imagine not having instruments around me.

JC

I’m very taken with your built instruments, having seen them lying around your shed, and also venturing out for performances and exhibitions. When did you first begin instrument building?

DG

My instrument building was initially mainly related to the vibraphone. I made a portable xylophone with a milk-crate frame which I could take busking. I started making small versions of experimental things that I was doing with the vibraphone. I was using whatever materials were on hand, for example, frames made with a meccano set or with coat hanger wire. Other than learning how to solder wires onto little motors, it was all pretty lo-fi technically. Considering that the vibraphone is heavy and requires a car to transport, my instrument building was primarily concerned with making things that were portable. I wanted to be able to take my instruments with me on a bush walk. This desire for ‘portability’ resulted in the creation of a family of small automated instruments which later opened up possibilities for me to make spatialised performances and sound installations. I also rediscovered my trumpet that I had as a kid, added a few extra tubes, and sawed off the bell so that it would fit in a backpack.

Over some years, my trumpet modifications has led to my Switches and Hose setup which is constructed using items from the garden irrigation section at Bunnings Warehouse. Given the absurdity of Aussie DIY home renovation culture, and Bunnings’ monopoly over it, I reckon the Sunday punters might enjoy their sausage sizzle with an in-store experimental music gig.

JC

Have you had any formal training in either music or technical production, or have you been more inclined to research skills and knowledge informally as required?

DG

I have always enjoyed discovering things myself, but I’ve also had various kinds of formal and informal music education. In high school there was an extra-curriculum jazz program which inspired me and a bunch of friends to pursue music more seriously. I completed a bachelor’s degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Jazz Performance. During this time, I played vibraphone. The library at uni had a pretty amazing collection of recordings of all sorts of music. I was particularly interested in the jazz, ‘world music’, and 20th century avant-garde. Actually, even when I was in high school, I had a membership to the Conservatorium library, and I would borrow 20 CDs at a time to take home (and perhaps dub onto cassette or CD-R). I learnt a lot through listening and trying to figure out what the musicians were doing. One of the best things about my time at uni was having the opportunity to play and practise for hours on end with fellow musicians. I had a couple of inspiring teachers (especially the ever-passionate Mike Nock) but I found that the course itself didn’t cater too well to my curiosity. I was disappointed that particular histories of jazz were hardly mentioned, for example artists such as Sun Ra, AACM, and Ornette Coleman. I also felt frustrated that the pedagogical approaches weren’t conducive to encouraging the development of artists who could become creative contributors to a living music. Perhaps the real issue though, was that the course wasn’t guiding curious young Australian musicians to important cultural questions such as: why are you spending years learning to imitate predominantly African American avant-garde expressions from 50-plus years ago?

I felt very fortunate to have a great informal education through the Sydney experimental and improvised music community, especially artists like Clayton Thomas, Amanda Stewart, Jim Denley, Jon Rose, Robbie Avenaim, Matt Earle, Clare Cooper, Monika Brooks, Peter Blamey, and Ben Byrne. I became more aware that the social and community side of music was a rich space for learning: not just about music, but about the ethics of it, too. Through activities such as The now NOW’s regular event series and annual festival, and particularly the Splinter Orchestra, I was introduced to artists who had very different musical backgrounds and approaches to my own. The opportunities to meet, and sometimes collaborate with, experimental sound artists and musicians from other parts of Australia and overseas, helped to foster a sense that my creative contributions were also valued within a broader community.

JC

For many years you’ve worked as an arts facilitator with people who have varying experiences to your own, such as people seeking asylum, people with different abilities, and children. Are there particular learnings you’ve taken from these experiences?

DG

It’s not just work. As you open up to being with people, it alters your perceptions of the world. I’m wary of lumping cross-cultural collaborations and inclusive arts collaborations into the same answer, but the thing that connects them all is that music is an incredible tool for listening and connecting deeply with people. This can be especially true for those who may not share much spoken language.

I think everyone senses and perceives the world differently, and my engagement with other people continues to expand my own understandings and values. As a facilitator, I’m always learning about patience, developing relationships over time, and being open to emerging possibilities. It’s essential to try to be aware of any power imbalances, privileges, and personal agendas. But I reckon there’s also a simplicity in listening to and valuing each individual and the specific interpersonal relationships that arise. I suppose some people worry about saying or doing something inappropriate (particularly in politicised spaces) and that can stop them from engaging at all. I feel very enriched by the friendships and the challenges I’ve encountered. Particularly in the context of working with artists with disabilities, I’m often totally blown away by people’s unique and surprising artistic expressions.

I think non-idiomatic and multi-idiomatic improvising skills are very useful in these contexts. In fact, I feel that experimental practice can have a really broad value in encouraging inclusivity, and the open mindset required to value that which is different, and perhaps unconventionally awesome. It can help bring into question any idea of social or cultural norm. Non-classist, inclusive, and community-focused attitudes have been at the root of work by influential experimental sound artists such as Cornelius Cardew, but of course we can do a lot better to make creative environments that feel accessible and welcoming to everyone (it’s not just the stairs at Make It Up Club).

JC

You have many long-term collaborators; are there some that you’d like to mention or elaborate on? What draws you to particular collaborative projects?

DG

Yes. I feel fortunate to have many long-term collaborators who I really respect. I feel like I’m learning all the time, so I’m continuously grateful for those collaborators who share that understanding. These are people who don’t seem to mind playing with me, even though I’m sure I’ve stuffed up many times! I try to listen deeply in the hope that something of their essence rubs off on me. I suppose I’m not too singular in my approach to music, so I think I would feel lost if I wasn’t making stuff with others. My creative identity is very much entwined with the artists around me and even when I’m experimenting by myself, I’m often thinking about creating instruments and sound worlds that could be used in specific collaborations.

I first met Peter Farrar when I was around sixteen or seventeen-year-old. We were in a small jazz band in Sydney made up of kids from different schools. Later, we were at the Sydney Conservatorium together (a year a part) and we became very close friends through our obsession with music. I have always deeply respected Peter and his musical integrity and I think most musicians who meet him feel similarly. We would play and practice for hours, go to gigs, talk about music and associated philosophies. We were kind of inseparable for a long period of time and shared the journey through our formative years in Sydney’s jazz and experimental music communities. To be honest, I was nervous when moving to Melbourne in 2008, as I wasn’t sure what artistic sense of my own I had away from Peter! (I’m still not sure?!). Again, I’m so grateful that our friendship and collaboration continues with our duo BBGG and in the collective, Prophets.

Jim Denley is another long-term collaborator. I really appreciate the way Jim continues to value and validate younger generation improvisers. His influence is kind of immeasurable! He’s really been a crucial figure in encouraging a culture of creative, critical, social, and ethical thinking. Through Jim, I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about how to be a person! He also introduced me to Amanda Stewart many years ago now, and we used to play and hang out regularly when I lived in Sydney. Conversations with Amanda are always illuminating.

My duo Sounds Like Movement with Peter Fraser started around 2009, and it’s been one of my favourite artistic partnerships. Peter’s curiosity and eagerness to play is continuously inspiring.

JC

‘Stylefree’ is a concept/movement/planet introduced to the world in 2007 via Prophets, a collective of around 15 masked performers based in both Melbourne and Sydney. Your Prophet colleague BirdBrain once defined Stylefree’s philosophy as: ‘Music and art without constraints on style, genre and medium [it’s a] perspective is to value and respect all music and all cultures, without a notion of “this music is superior to that music”’. When considering BirdBrain’s continued explanation that ‘a Stylefree philosophy could be applied to many issues we find in the world outside of music’, this philosophy seems very much aligned with your earlier mentioned preference for non-idiomatic and multi-idiomatic approaches to improvisation, as a way to foster inclusivity and ‘unconventional awesomeness’. I’m very taken with this idea so please feel free to further elaborate!

DG

Stylefree embraces ambiguity. With regards to the Prophets, the masks help with that. It’s serious and playful. When asked ‘what kind of music do you play?’, the answer ‘Stylefree’ helps to avoid putting myself in a box. The questioner might say ‘ah ok’ as if it were a genre that they’ve heard of before. Other times they say ‘what’s Stylefree?’ and that opens up a conversation. Identity is often formed via exclusion and any scene risks deeming certain creative expressions to be ‘uncool’. There’s a challenge in being idiosyncratic, discerning, but also not closed off to creative possibilities. Particularly in a large collective interested in improvisation, such as Prophets, it may not be beneficial to be making judgements on what is beautiful, ugly, old, new, bad, good, relevant, irrelevant, raw, or amateurish. It’s best just to try to come up with something more than the sum of its parts. Stylefree is kind of an anti-dogmatic dogma, suitable for a bunch of dubious masked characters who call themselves Prophets. I think Prophets are still figuring out what their message is, but they reckon it might be a really important one!

JC

You established Out Hear in 2011 to facilitate immersive outdoor events. These outdoor performances and sound walks tend to further enrich the acoustic environment, adding sensory ambience and a sense of expansiveness. Can you tell us about Out Hear and what other aspects of experiencing sound outdoors appeal to you?

DG

I started Out Hear as a way of contributing to the culture of listening and making music outdoors. Jim Denley had started West Head Project — a flexible line up, but mainly with Jim, Monica Brooks, and myself. We had some remarkable opportunities, including playing at the top of Mt Wellington as part of MONA FOMA, and a residency on Maria Island (the documentation was released on CD). That group also began collaborating with Anthony Magen from the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology, who had led my first — and quite profound — experience of a sound walk at a now NOW Festival around 2006. A couple of years later, when I moved to Melbourne, Anthony and I became good friend and his influence helped to shape my listening attitudes.

For a while with Out Hear, I was organising almost fortnightly events, finding spaces to take audiences into, and engaging a number of artists as performers. Most of the events involved a sound walk with performers embedded along the route. One of my favourite events was a ‘soundpaddle’ in which Alice Hui-Sheng Chang led a participatory performance up the Yarra, with everyone in row boats. I also curated and co-produced the Out Hear Festival with Footscray Community Arts, which featured some amazing artists including Joyce Hinterding, Ernie Althoff, and Ross Manning. It was also during that time that I met Uncle Larry Walsh and we later put on a couple of events in which his storytelling was a powerful part of the experience. These activities can be a strong reminder that people have walked, listened to, and created culture on this land for thousands of years. In the last couple of years, I haven’t been putting on many events, but it does remain present in my mind as a very important task to figure out how to create culture that is inclusive of the non-human world.

JC

You seem to enjoy cooking; do you see a link between cooking and sound making?

DG

Yes! I like just getting in the zone and improvising with the materials at hand. I’m not great at following rules. Over the years, my home has been a place where artists meet, jam and rehearse. Our group, Snacks, has obviously bonded over snacks and tea. The informal conversations over food (and around the music making) are really valuable in sharing ideas and values, building trust and community, and developing collectively made art forms.

JC

Do you see yourself as being part of an experimental music/sound lineage?

DG

Yes, I do. I’m not making work in a naïve bubble. I suppose jazz is a tradition in which each successive generation or instrumentalist was expected to make a unique contribution to the music. So that’s an attitude that I probably absorbed as did so many in the history of experimental and avant-garde music outside of the African American tradition. For example, I understood from Thelonious Monk that if I was to be truly influenced by him, I couldn’t sound like him, despite the impossibility! In developing an idiosyncratic approach to the vibraphone, I was conscious of the way it had already been played, and I was influenced by contemporary and historical artists who had expanded the idea of what music could be and how sound could be made. These included European and American free jazz and free improvisation artists such as Cecil Tayler, Anthony Braxton, Derek Bailey, Jim Denley and Axel Dorner. As well as John Cage and the prepared piano, including versions by Anthony Pateras, Cor Fuhler and Magda Mayas. And also electronic noise artists Merzbow, Sachiko M, Stasis Duo, Peter Blamey, David Tudor, and Alvin Lucier and his approach to acoustic phenomena. But, importantly, I was wanting to contribute to the local Australian community of experimentalists who I regarded as unique contributors to music internationally. Having said that, I also see experimentation and improvisation with sound and materials as something that humans have always done and so it’s good to remind ourselves that creative histories and lineages shouldn’t intimidate our ability to play.

JC

Does making art feel in any way spiritual to you, for example, making use of or connecting with an altered or ‘higher’ consciousness?

DG

I feel that something fulfilling may be found in the space between meaningfulness and meaninglessness. If I try too seriously to feel ‘spiritual’, then I think I might miss ‘it’ completely. Sage Pbbbt’s playful and somewhat agnostic approach to spirituality is something that resonated with me recently. I thought her entity of the Spirit of Plastic was cool and maybe it’s been present in some of my work which features polystyrene cups and PVC tubing.

I’m definitely attracted to spiritual music and certain listening experiences powerfully move me. But to be deeply moved by recordings of 1960’s Albert Ayler free jazz, or Marvin Gaye or Moroccan Sufi music also raises a lot of interesting and confusing questions. What am I responding to in this music if I’m not personally connected to the culture from which the music originates? How does my cultural upbringing and the culture around me today — mostly secular capitalism — play a role in shaping me, and how do my ideals, romantic or otherwise, negotiate that? Mostly for good reason, those thought processes over the years have made it very difficult to trust intuition. I suppose I’m now trying to find an intuition that feels right in today’s world.

I feel that some collaborations more easily drop into a deeper shared spirit than others. Perhaps that’s got to do with how people experience time. Or maybe how much we’re willing to let ourselves be guided by a collective spirit. There’s some music that I don’t like, and when I’m trying to figure out why I don’t like it I think maybe it’s because it’s got an agenda that doesn’t allow space for the unknown.

The context for music and art also plays a role, whatever spiritual qualities are present in it. In the ‘experimental music scene’ it’s common to see spectacle or showcase type gigs that expect a performer to turn it on for a waiting audience and then stop after 20 to 30 minutes. But this scenario doesn’t encourage a whole range of other kinds of expressions and experiences, such as an all-night session of the Master Musicians of Joujouka in Morocco, an afternoon into evening unfolding of Indonesian Jaranan, or jamming through an afternoon with Snacks.

JC

Have you taken part in performing already composed works much?

DG

No, not really, but I also wouldn’t say that what I do is completely improvised because there are a lot of considerations involved in developing an improvised language. For example, I see instrument building as being a form of composition, as I’m making some decisions in the building process about the parameters for the music. Peter Blamey is a huge inspiration in this regard. I love the poetry of the indeterminate systems that he creates.

I also regard some of my recording work as being compositional. For example, in ‘I’m walking in a room with two vibraphones’ (Switches and Hose) I set clear parameters but left some elements indeterminate.

I’ve also really enjoyed the occasions when I’ve composed music for another function, such as the soundtrack to a dance performance. For example, with Asanti Dance Theatre and Tess De Quincey Company, or on video such as Caitlin Franzmann’s Foundry, which uses recordings of improvisations by Ross Manning and myself.

JC

Some of your work includes a theatrical element, and you’ve also made some videos. Tell us more about that…

DG

I think these theatrical elements have mostly come about through challenging the contexts in which music is made and experienced. A cultural or sub-cultural group may have particular conventions at a gig or concert and these things can have a big impact on how the sounds are received by the audience. A formality or normality might make one listener or performer comfortable, but it might make another really uncomfortable. At times I’ve felt unable to present my work with the spirit that I’ve intended, as I have felt overcome (or stifled?) by the atmosphere of a context –– too stifled, too serious, too whimsical, too something! You could reduce these things to personal anxieties, but I think it’s often more than that. I’ve tried to see experimentalism with music (as distinct from ‘experimental music’ –– the genre or scene) as a forum for playing around with these kinds of contexts. I have tried various things over the years including performances with audience participation, playing in the presence of food and tea (Snacks), playing outdoors (Out Hear), house gigs, and performing in masks and costumes (Prophets, Sounds Like Movement) or combinations of these things (I’m thinking of one soundwalk with Jim Denley and I dressed in ghillie suits).

My own performance and installation setups can be visually or kinetically engaging (modified trumpet, tubes and balloons, styrofoam, spinning stuff, etcetera) and I’m very aware of the theatre of these things. However, the sound is what I foreground, and the sculptural elements are generally a result of my improvised interactions with materials. People have perceived my work in their own way –– as sculpture, visual art, performance art, live art and so on –– and that has also helped me to see my work outside of the prism of experimental music. The theatre of using visually familiar materials may be an accessible path for some audiences into an otherwise uncompromising music.

My duo Sounds Like Movement with Peter Fraser explores how bodies, objects, vibrations and sounds are intimately connected. We work together to break the distinction between dancer and musician. Our last few performances have been hour long theatre shows, but I think there is also room to read our performances as a music gig. For example, in one segment of the show, there’s the absurdity of us playing a miniature drum kit with seven-metre-long wobbly drumsticks. We don’t shy away from the theatre of it; but we are mainly interested in the improvised and indeterminate nature of playing without full control and creating something which sounds good to us. A recording of this may sound like some weird free jazz band, but the experience of our live audience is completely different to being at a free jazz gig.

Of course, the other theatrical thing is Prophets! The masks and costumes change the way the music is played and received but it has also opened up worlds of creative possibility including video and animation. We’re currently developing ideas for a kids TV show.

JC

You mentioned recently that you find audio recordings of live performance unsatisfying as documents; why is this?

DG

There were a couple of years a while back when I didn’t really want to listen to recorded music. I was a bit bored of the stereo format. It’s such a specific way of diffusing sound — either in headphones or through speakers. The illusion of a band or a saxophone (or whatever) was lost on me — I just knew that magnets were causing a couple of bits of cardboard to flap back and forth. I was similarly bored at gigs in which each band or artist played through the same sound system. There are some who use the ‘PA-instrument’ well and many who don’t consider it at all. Imagine if visual art were only made on a canvas or on a TV screen? I’ve since rekindled my friendship with recorded and speaker-based music, but I see it as just one of many sound experiences. Actually, I think that documentation of a gig can be a satisfying artefact (I think that’s paraphrasing Derek Bailey via Jim Denley) but it can be complicated to judge a live performance based on a recording. Some music simply doesn’t translate well on a recording as it takes badly to sonic and spatial compression.

Having expressed that, I also feel that recording can be a valuable educational tool. There’s a feedback loop of listening to recordings of an improvisation, and then bringing those awarenesses to future improvisations. Perhaps upon listening back, I might recognise a missed opportunity or a particular section that has potential for further exploration. I also love certain music in which the whole way of playing is entwined with unique recording processes. Matt Earle is a great example.

JC

I have to ask, what does it feel like having a ‘profile’ written about you and your work?

DG

I feel honoured, embarrassed, vulnerable. I’m not in this position very often, so I’m trying to fight the pressure of it being a definitive biography! I think about all the things I’m not saying and I worry about accidentally leaving out people who have been dear collaborators and very influential figures. I’m often changing my mind about things, so documenting thoughts especially in written format can make it seem like I have a definitive view on things. This activity has also made me think about some of the things that I thought about years ago but I’m not sure if it’s good to be reminded about the reasons for doing the things that I do now.

JC

What new things are you currently drawn to exploring?

DG

I love that music is a never-ending path of psychological, spiritual and perspective-altering learnings. I hope that I’ll always be drawn to the beauty and simplicity of playing music with others. I’ve always had a sense of urgency around creating music or art. If I have an idea, I want to start working on it now, or tomorrow at the latest. I think that attitude and work ethic has been very valuable but I’m also starting to consider longer periods of time in art/life and that some ideas require many years of work. For example, with Prophets I’m currently exploring making video art and abstract narratives with plans to make a kids a TV show, and I think learning about business and organisational things might help with realising those artistic visions. That kind of longer-term and ambitious thinking is a bit of a departure, which provokes both excitement and trepidation.

<p>Dale Gorfinkel with Aviva Endean and Heddy Boubaker (not pictured), Pli Festival, France, 2016. Photo: TBC.</p>

Dale Gorfinkel with Aviva Endean and Heddy Boubaker (not pictured), Pli Festival, France, 2016. Photo: TBC.

Contributor/s

Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.

Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.

Notes

    Score: Eric Avery. ‘‘Ancestory Play Ancestry’’, 2019
    Liquid Architecture acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the sovereign owners of the country where we live and work, and recognise that sovereignty has not been ceded. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
    Score: Natasha Tontey ‘Church of Xenoglossia’, 2019