The Wired Lab, led by artists Sarah Last and Dave Burraston, is a rural arts organisation in New South Wales, Australia. In July early 2016 I was lucky enough to be invited to visit this unique place for a short artist residency.
“Let’s see if they are singing”, Dave says when I arrive at the lab, and takes me out in his truck to listen to his curious instruments. Slowly approaching the mechanisms, large railway sleepers stick vertically out of the grass. After closer inspection the scale of the wires becomes apparent, spanning further than the eye can focus into the distance. Though impressive as a piece of engineering, the wires visual aesthetic is not its primary function, these wires sonically resonate, a complex drone intersects with the surrounding soundscape, slowly changing depending on the wind or rain, giving the local weather a musical voice.
The newest edition to the wired instruments, named the Flying V, consists of two 80-meter wires, which Dave has used in his recent project Rainwire. Using homemade microphones he has recorded hours of rain showers hitting the wires. Check out his selected recordings here.
What I like about this work is considering it as an expanded form of sonification. First and foremost this is an artwork but Dave, through extended recording sessions, realised this could be an approach to measuring rain density. Many forms of sonification map a pre-existing data set to sound generation techniques. At times the mappings from data to sound can be arbitrary; Rainwire avoids this by its very nature and, to me, this is a concrete and exemplary approach to sound as data.
Whilst in New South Wales I also performed Murmurate at the Wagga Wagga art gallery. In this piece, a collaboration with Sebastian Piquemal, we utilise the smart phones of the audience to play sound through during a musical performance. Sebastien joined me remotely from Paris.
I managed to spend three days in the magical Wired Lab, taking the opportunity to make plenty of field recordings and also to do my own experiments on wires, this time the fences that divide the nature reserve that Sarah and Dave have conserved for natural wildlife to exist. Attaching contact and omnidirectional lapel microphones I recorded the fence wires and hollow fence posts. I extended this using feedback loops through the fence wire. Excerpts of those recording sessions, including a short cameo by a spotted grass frog, can be listened to here.
The Wired Lab, and its hosts Sarah and Dave, is remarkable. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend visiting one of there open days, you wont regret it.