Listen to the sounds of the Bogong High Plains Sound Map with Dr Philip Samartzis


We just wanted highlight something really special from Melbourne based field recordist, composer, experimental artist and educator Dr Philip Samartzis. Samartzis is currently the Leader of the Cold Climate Research Lab and the Sound Art and Auditory Culture Research Lab at RMIT university.

His latest project is a sound map of The Bogong High Plains – which you can find in the Victorian Alps, part of the Great Dividing Range about 350km North East of Melbourne. You can find the sound map here.

The Bogong High Plains Sound Map comprises field recordings documenting the eco-acoustic characteristics of the Bogong High Plains and Kiewa Valley to register the effects of climate change, industrialisation, environmental dissonance, and recreational tourism upon this rarefied cold climate ecology. The website uses real time meteorological data to activate sound recordings that reflect prevailing atmospheric conditions. It also offers a variety of navigational pathways to encourage new and dynamic encounters with the archive.

Recorded over a two year period, you can hear everything from downhill skiing to snow melt water, birds, thunderstorms, lyrebirds, snowmobiles, frogs, streams, wind, chainsaws and everything in between. It’s ridiculously comprehensive and quite astounding. When you click on the site you can play a representation of the current environmental conditions or go to the archive to choose something specific. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks randomly tuning into it at various parts of the day and the recordings are universally highly articulate and evocative, transporting you to a time and place. There’s also some incredible photos from Victoria’s highest mountain range.

This is what Samartzis has to say about it:

“Sound maps provide a way of expressing the acoustic markers of place distinct from the textual and visual methods used in traditional cartography. For this project sound recordings are used to expand the way the region is represented by incorporating seasonal characteristics, and material and social encounters to enhance user experience and interaction. The website features recordings produced over two years to demonstrate ways in which the alpine environment is transformed by climate and weather, and activities such as power generation, land management, tourism, and sport. It also uses field documentation and commissioned photography to identify spatial, environmental, and topographic features within the landscape. Through the convergence of natural, anthropogenic, and atmospheric events the sound map articulates the operations and tensions underpinning this uniquely Australian cold climate ecology.”

Samartzis created this work alongside a small team that includes Jacob Agius, Aaron Claringbold, Madelynne Cornish, Amias Hanley, Rohan Hutchinson, Paul Mylecharane. If you don’t know Samartzis you can check out an interview we did with him in 2007 here, or a Cyclic Selects from a couple of years ago here.

Pic by Rohan Hutchinson


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.