In 2019 Melbourne sound artist Bridget Chappell composed a piece for the Federation Bells, electronics and cello at Birrarung Marr as part of Knowledge Week. The Bells are 39 upturned bronze bells on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra river that can be controlled via midi.
This excerpt of ‘Freshwater Falls’ comes from Chappell’s debut album Undertow (Heavy Machinery Records), which explores local water management and water colonisation sourced from the City of Melbourne’s Open Data Platform, which has then been utilised to compose the sounds. I’m not going to pretend to understand it, but it is fascinating. You may know Chappell in another life as the hardcore gabber, jungle, breakbeat, and techno project Hextape, but this is a very different world.
This is what they have to say about it:
“One of the best examples of data sonification we have is one that’s been practiced on this continent for thousands of years – the Indigenous use of songlines, or a musical method of both navigation over vast distances, and reflection on the creation histories of the landscape. My method of sonification is nowhere near as sophisticated. Nor is it my place as a settler to try and sonify the landscape, as though it could be objectively represented by me. The idea of data is a loaded one. Things like maps, which are easy to mistake for some kind of neutral representation, have played powerful roles in colonisation and gentrification. The idea of “data” prioritises certain kinds of information over others, and downplays the emotional parts of information and how we convey it. So I set out to develop a process of sonification as a compositional tool, for discussing histories of the Birrarung River that are not talked about very much in settler Australian narratives. They are all things that have been done to the River since European settlers began colonising it”
Video director/creator – Henry Pyne
Undertow will be released October 30th by Heavy Machinery Records. You can find it here.