43 years after its production, the soundtrack to prolific Australian experimental filmmakers Arthur and Corinne Cantrill’ 83 minute filmic interpretation of the life and works of Harry Hooton has been issued by Melbourne experimental label Shame File Music. Hootonics delves into the the world of early Australian tape experiments, machine recordings and sound collage and sits as an important historical document in Australian experimental music.
Harry Hooton was a Sydney based philosopher and poet, who’ philosophy evolved to envisage the coming age of technology, and the possibility of the development of what he termed as â€œAnarcho-technocracyâ€. Hooton’ 1955 essay The Politics of Things ends with the progressive and somewhat inflammatory statement:
Of course the engineers must rule. And, of course, they must rule machines. But what are the machines? … Machines in this context are only popularly appreciable symbols for electronic devices, for the cleaner, more efficient and more aesthetically appealing slaves of the future…. “We” dread this new ruling class, the technicians. But who are the technicians? The sheer use of the word, “the”, betrays the user as a drone, a philistine – as placed in antithetical and inimical opposition to the makers and masters of things. We are the technicians! We creators of the new world.
Cantrill’ sonic take on this philosophy was to embrace the machine as a transgressive tool, to be crafted and manipulated by human hands to effect a means of control over the possible dominance of technology, putting Hooton’ words into sonic effect. The audio world of Hootonics is one of industrialisation, of the blips and crunches of the then new world of computer processing which Cantrill has shaped into fleeting moments of recontexturalised soundscape. Cantrill also takes elements of spoken word and processes them through the current technology, turning them into a musique concrete sound poem, again reinforcing the embrace of technology in it’s purest form. What better way to assert creative control over machinery then to allow it to manipulate the most human of sounds, the human voice?
Over the course of the soundtrack’ fifteen tracks, the listener is plunged into an historical auditory position. Today’ seasoned avant-garde listener will be easily at home in the swirls and glitches of computerised function, but it is important to remember that in the late 1960′ this was still relatively new ground. Cantrill’ recordings of CSIRO computers in 1970 strangely connects the Hootonics pieces to the first computer generated music created by CSIRAC in Australia in 1950, emphasising Australia’ place in the global movement of avant-garde practice.
The limited edition LP comes with a bonus download which also offers the 15 minute Cicada Mix, which delves into more traditional field recordings combined with instrumentation. Not an original soundtrack piece, Cicada Mix highly contrasts against the short and rather abrupt pieces found on the LP, while still containing the same type of audio manipulations, and perhaps reflects the contemporary state of experimental music in its longer duration and extended phases.
In many ways Hooton’ philosophy has preempted the highly technologised world in which we live today. His words predicted the egalitarian utopia many hoped the internet age would usher in, and his anarchic prose similarly prophesied the coming of the Anonymous movement. Arthur Cantrill’ forward thinking interpretation of these philosophies creates an engaging document which not only serves as a remarkable piece of Australian soundtrack history, but also as a retro-futuristic signpost, embracing filmic montage editing techniques in a way that has become almost accepted in mainstream audio-visual culture.
An accompanying DVD issue of Harry Hooton would be a fantastic companion piece to Hootonics, as the sonic interpretation of the film keeps you longing to connect the sounds to the imagery which they were created to accompany. Nonetheless Hootonics serves as another important piece in the archive of Australian experimental music that Shame File Music continues to produce.