We unpack the car, walk to the western paddock and set up next to the local weather radar which is situated in the highest point of the field. We have a number of objects we’ve bought with us to perform (small zithers and autoharps, violin bows, wire and a snare drum), but we also pick up found objects as we walk.
Leonards Hill, the site of the turbines and the local weather radar, is 740m above sea level and on the ridge of the Great Dividing Range. Because the hill is over 650m, it creates its own climate and weather system – one of the reasons it’s unusually cold and windy for this area (and the perfect site for the wind farm).
Standing close to the turbine, a heavy metallic clunking is heard from within the structure as its blades pick up momentum and power generation begins. At times the turbines fill the environment with sound. But in other moments, their presence seems almost absent except for fleeting slivers of whirring and whistling.
The mist turns into a thin veil of rain. Over the next hour we experiment with a number of mic placements around the base of Gusto until the rain starts to soak through and we decide to find some shelter.
It’s ten degrees but the wind chill makes it feel more like two. We crouch down on the highpoint of the hill with our back turned against the wind, as we attached our mics to the thick metal lines that buttress the tower.
The turbines are slowly turning in the fog. The blades cut through the air above with a rhythmic heaviness that punctuates the stillness of the surrounding fields. As an experiment I place the snare drum on the metal steps that lead up to the entrance of Gale to see if I can catch a different rendering of the sounds of the blades.
I attached a pair of contact mics to an old fence that is strung across a section of the field. I listen to the breeze connecting with the wires – there’s a low hum emanating across the fence that rises and falls with the movement of the wind.
The inside of the Gale is small and loud. I can’t hear the details of what I am recording in the midst of the noise, except for moments when strong transients puncture the blanket of sounds. Or when the sonic mass shifts dramatically in texture or density in response to the wind outside.
The turbines are barely moving by mid-morning as the wind continues to drop. The heavy hum of power generation suddenly stops with a clunk. A strange quiet permeates the air as the turbine blades hang still above us.
The heat of the day burns down on the tin roof. In moments a faint breeze seems to float through the shed, punctuating the hot and dark stillness.
Leaving the track to make our way towards the spring, we trace more open contours of ground, in which rippling roots, broken down structures and veiny mounds form an uneven but clear path.
Digging into the volcanic soil around the base of Gale, we fill the separate holes with water and lower the hydrophones into the muddy pools. Thick and dense vibrations fill my ears as the earth mediates the force of the turbines.
I connect a Preizor electromagnetic mic and walk over to a nearby fence on the south side of the paddock that looks possibly like its electric – the mic immediately picks up the metallic zaps and clicks of the electrical current running through the fence. I move the mic over and around the wire almost like a Theremin, playing with the different frequencies and distances of the current.
As we walk along the periphery, their howls reverberate through the trees – a sonorous event that continues to haunt the forest long after it’s ended.
I listen to the heavy bellowing of the heard through the mist. The cows move slowly, watching me through from a distance as I set up my camera.
Occupied by listening at a close proximity, my attention splits and wanders away partially. A dawn chorus has begun to settle down amidst a heavy fog and the turbines are silent and almost still.
I quietly walk amongst the hives, put down the mic and slowly back away. At first the bees seem disinterested. But slowly, as time passes, they begin to swarm around the parabolic dish like a cloud of white noise.
As we walk deeper into the forest, tiny micro bats dart around me. Soft echolocations pulse in all directions as they acoustically imprint their surroundings while they fly. It suddenly occurs to me that bats are true listening bodies – they produce sound purely to listen and see. I wonder how I look as a sound imprint. Are they listening/seeing me as a foreign object? Or am I just another body in the world to navigate?
As soon as we get settled and start recording the surrounding acoustic environment intensifies almost immediately. I become aware of the sound of bats wings as they fly closer and closer to me.
I am recording with a microphone that has a self-noise under 12dBA. This is considered quiet enough for field recording in quiet environments, but I still often find trying myself listening through layers of noise and distance.