Acoustic Life of Sheds by Big hArt

The nature of rural life has seen dramatic change. Small farms have been under pressure from shifting markets and expanding agribusiness. People relocate, knowledge is dispersed, culture changes, ritual is lost. Farms are still dotted with handmade sheds – some tin, some slab built in timber. Australia’s leading arts and social change company, Big hART, brings together farming families and composers, musicians, sound designers and visual artists to explore the stories and aesthetics of sheds and respond to their shifting existence.

Acoustic Life of Sheds’ premiere event took place across 5 locations in Tasmania – from Wynyard to Milabena via Table Cape and Boat Harbour – on March 21st-22nd and 28th-29th as part of the 2015 Tasmanian International Arts Festival Check out the event map

Audiences took a pilgrimage through the natural cathedral of Tasmania’s North West Coast to experience the world premiere of new works by award-winning composers, presented in the locations that inspired them. Across five rural properties, sheds became performance venues, sites for installation and sound art, providing radical, new context for the creation and presentation of contemporary Australian art music.

You might like to take a listen to the Acoustic Life of Sheds radio documentary – as featured on RN’s Soundproof.

For project news and future events follow Acoustic Life of Sheds on Facebook

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bruce’s shed

“Old sheds can be delicious, mysterious things. They are creepy, private time capsules: a hint of someone’s life long past. Bruce’s shed is just like this. Exploring it for the first time, one feels like a child again: it’s the 70s and you’ve crept under your grandparent’s house to find old stuff: tools, keepsakes, papers and more. The building makes me wonder about the man, whose desire to share his collection caused him to buy six old workers huts and an ex jail block and shove them together to form this showcase. In honour of this curious man and his shed, and as a reward for those with a child-like sense of adventure, we have created a musical and visual installation: one last curious – if slightly obsessive – collection.”

– Damian Barbeler

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In it’s heyday as a local amateur museum, Bruce’s shed housed an eclectic collection of keepsakes, farm tools and shells, as well as World War and Indigenous artefacts. Its very construction is unexpected – a conglomeration of smaller pre-existing structures: including the workers huts that form the main body of the building. It is mysterious and creepy with dark, shadowy corners, cobwebs, bent old wood and left over objects hinting at previous eras and people. It triggers childhood urges to snoop. Locals apparently peek through the windows or shyly ask for a look. They are greeted by fading hand-drawn labels and mouldering torn photographs and maps. Display cabinets sit empty or partially filled. Old tin labels cover doors alongside inscriptions scratched directly on the walls by prior inhabitants.

Bruce’s granddaughter ‘Lix’ suggests he was a highly compulsive collector pottering for hours: rearranging and labelling, bringing order to his sprawling collection. In Bruce’s honour the artists will inhabit the space with an augmenting performance. A live violist will sit like a display item amongst the cabinets using modified “motor bows”, the scratchy vibrations giving the instrument a dusty, otherworldly effect to the gently unfolding musical line: a sound world reminiscent of the physical character of the shed itself with it’s dried twisted boards and clouded window panes. This will be echoed by similar music in a disembodied sound and lighting design rig hidden throughout which will react contrapuntally to the live player, driven in real-time by a computer brain designed specifically for the project, as if the original owner’s thoughts are seeping back out of the walls. Those with childlike curiosity enough to enter will be rewarded by a larger-than-life display, a fitting tribute to the passion of a man who spent so much time in that place sharing his obsession with the world.

Damian Barbeler’s award-winning compositions have been performed and broadcast around the world. He is widely recognised for his idiosyncratic, lush sound worlds inspired by textures and patterns from nature. His more recent works have included visual media and software in non-traditional contexts.

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Cnr Old Bass Highway & Dart St, East Wynyard
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Performances: 10am & 11.30am

Installation open: 9.45am to 2pm

Lead composer: Damian Barbeler

Co-creators: Nicole Forsyth, Ben Carey, John Taylor, Matthew Hoy

Visual artist: Nick Higgins

Grab something delicious to eat at Bruce’s Cafe open 9am-3pm.


table cape tulip farm

Somewhere in the process of photographing the light, I started to notice certain objects. A pair of shears lying on a bench caught my attention and I was struck by the thought that the last person who used them had put them down perhaps never realizing that this was the last time the sheers would be used. The abandoned shears represent a last moment, like so many other last moments in life that pass without our ever recognizing them as such or seeing them as shifts from one way of being, of habit, or of perspective to another.”

– Chris Gosfield

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Award winning musician Lucky Oceans and acclaimed photographer Chris Gosfield went to the Roberts-Thompson’s Tulip Farm in April of 2014 to soak up the vibes of the family’s beautifully lit shearing shed and create aural and visual records of it. What was once a state of the art building that supported the farm’s consistently prize winning sheep is now largely a storage shed for the farm’s booming tulip and Dutch Iris business. The Roberts-Thompsons, who have been on the land since 1910, realised that, to continue their success, they’d need to do something other farmers weren’t doing. ‘Lawn mowing’ sheep are still shorn in the shed occasionally and some of the old tools are there but the shed still reverberates with the rich history of successive families growing up, working and playing inside it.

Drawing inspiration from the Table Cape region and the farm’s past as a prize winning sheep farm, its present as a successful tulip farm and its unknown future, Lucky and collaborator Konrad Park created a shifting soundscape for the space, incorporating the wind, the birds’ cries, the clang of the metal implements and the creak of the boards. Lucky’s composition features Konrad as a drummer and percussionist and also as a player of the Chapman Stick, a bass/guitar hybrid invented in the 1970s. This will no doubt be the first commission for the unique instrumentation of Pedal Steel Guitar and Stick. With Lucky’s unconventional tuning and effects pedal setup on his steel and the rustic sounds of his acoustic dobro, the two will create a shifting soundscape that will echo the changing face of Table Cape Tulip Farm, inspired by the unique location of the concert.

Lucky Oceans is a double Grammy Award musician with deep roots in many musical styles and a strong desire to communicate with his audience. He is the longtime host of the Daily Planet on ABC RN and has played with Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach and Hank Marvin. He writes music for film and television, the latest being ‘The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke’, to be aired on ABC 1 in December 2014. He is committed to pushing his instrument, the Pedal Steel Guitar, into new directions.

Konrad Park (Chapman Stick, drums, percussion) is a ‘big picture’ drummer, trained in jazz and rock but musically omnivorous. In March of 2014 he returned to his hometown of Hobart where, among his many projects, he regularly performs as part of Brian Ritchie’s Shakuhachi Club. Konrad and Lucky were bandmates for many years in Perth.

Christine Gosfield is a photographer and filmmaker whose works document the powerfully transfiguring yet sublime effects of light on ordinary scenes of everyday life. Gosfield’s credits include award-winning films for the BBC, the ABC and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Kingston Springs Suite multimedia presentation commissioned by Johnny Cash; and photographic commissions for The Campaign For Tibet, Inc, Sony Music and Qantas.

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Shearing Shed, Table Cape Tulip Farm 363 Table Cape Rd
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Performances 11am & 12.30pm

Lead composer: Lucky Oceans

Co-creator: Konrad Park

Visual artist: Chris Gosfield

jack’s shed

“Many things suggested themselves as we encountered this pocket jewel on the corner of Tollymore Road. It was Lisa’s tale of driving six recalcitrant sheep up the road though, and her regretful comment that “we should have had Jack and his dogs to do this job” that fixed the parameters of our take on this shed. The former owner of the property, Jack Archer, is renowned throughout Tasmania and internationally as a trainer of sheepdogs. Jack’s legacy of entwined affection and expertise is evident as he talks about this place and the dogs he trained here.”

– Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey

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A series of sheep pens (please don’t take it personally, and remember to close the gate) and a shed full of hay and whistles prelude a personal and collective series of peepholes into the many layers of everyday use that continue to inhabit this cluster of outbuildings.

Jack Archer’s local reputation as a sheep dog trainer informs the investigations of sound horizons: calling across spaces, calling across people, calling across generations. The experience of the pathway through this group of iron and wood sheds and disused cattle yards is activated and amplified through sound: both recorded and live, including dog whistles for the audience. Together with current shed owner and portrait photographer, Lisa Garland, Madeleine and Tim work with the subtle relationships between artefact and identity, emphasising passage and future promise as much as the accretion of past experience. The work seeks to bring out a sense of the guardianship of place that Jack passes over to Lisa. Jack’s presence, Lisa’s presence, that of her family’s, and a succession of people who have made and will make this property their home, underscore this piece layering portrait, piano, electronic instruments, flugel horn, dog whistles, and the audience themselves.

Madeleine and Tim are audio artists, composers and performers, who work with the human experience of listening. Their collaborations place new music in new contexts, spanning installation, radio, public art, film, theatre, dance, and industry, and creating a unique breadth of interaction with frequently surprising outcomes. They create works that are informed by musical considerations but create new hybrid forms, seeking to evolve their artform with new audiences, imagining a future. Their excellence in this area is evidenced by the 2014 Green Room Award for Excellence in Hybrid Art and the 2012 APRA-AMC Award for Excellence in Experimental Music.

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Cnr Tollymore Rd & Bass Highway
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Performances: 12noon & 1.30pm

Installation open: 11.45 to 3pm

Composers: Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey

Visual artist: Lisa Garland

jane’s shed

“I was particularly fascinated with this shed due to a shared history between the shed’s builder and myself. As a young man, I worked underground in a mine on the west coast of Tasmania. Peter Sharp, who constructed the shed, ran a diamond drilling company that operated within the West Coast mining industry. This, in conjunction with the history of the working shed itself at Boat Harbour, partially constructed from materials used in diamond drilling, provides the context for the compositions.”

– Nick Haywood

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The composition at Jane’s shed will be performed by a musical quintet accompanied by a visual artist. All five participants are based in Tasmania and have deep connections to the broader Tasmanian landscape, and that of the North-West Coast in particular. The musicians are: Bassist and internationally recognized improvising musician Nick Haywood, Wynyard-born saxophonist and improviser Alistair Dobson, Tasmanian guitarist Damien Kingston, who has recently returned from study and performance experience in Europe, and inspired young drummer Liam O’Leary. Painter Nellie Gibson has been represented in exhibitions across Australia over the past twenty-five years. Nellies particular interest in improvisation in a visual art context has drawn her to participation in this ensemble work.

The composition enables ongoing interaction between the collaborating artists as they engage in artistic dialogue through both sound and vision, giving rise to interpretations of the piece that shift and continuously explore variations.

Audience members will be situated within the physical environment of the shed, providing a space in which all present will be a part of the development of the musical and visual work. Audiences are encouraged to come along to multiple performances, as the piece will unfold differently, both musically and visually, with each presentation.

Dr. Nick Haywood is one of the country’s most in demand bassists and educators. In 2012 he was recipient of both the Australian Jazz “Bell Award” for Best Australian Contemporary Jazz Album and the the APRA Art Music State Award- Excellence in Jazz. Nick is currently a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Music at the University of Tasmania.

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Private road, Boat Harbour, adjacent to Killynaught Cottages
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Performances: 1pm & 2.30pm

Lead composer: Nick Haywood

Co-creators: Alistair Dobson, Damien Kingston, Liam O’Leary

Visual artist: Nellie Gibson (additional photography Chris Gosfield)

black ridge farm shearing shed

“Listening, it struck me that there are parallels between a musician’s life and a farmer’s. Both occupations are vocational. You do them for love, because you need to. They rely on hugely labour intensive work. They’re craft-based, and the skills are handed through families, over long apprenticeships of listening and doing. You have to be tough and resilient, responding always to changing environments.”

– Genevieve Lacey

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Black Ridge farm provides the opportunity for an exchange between incredibly thoughtful farmers and a consort of some of Australia’s most experienced, artistically curious music practitioners. Drawing on a range of techniques from acousmatic composition, sound art, radiophonic techniques, and live, improvised performance, inter-related works create intimate, abstract portraits of a landscape and the people who inhabit it. At the heart of this exchange is the realization that a life of an artist and the life of a contemporary organic farmer hold many similarities. Vocational pursuits, both are extremely labor-intensive, and require great resilience, adaptability, and an ability to listen acutely and respond creatively to an environment and the life on it.

“The Thomsons kept a sound diary for us. We eavesdropped on feed runs, overheard quiet, meandering chats and shared jokes, gates and tractors, shearing sessions, pigs being born, birds by the creek, footsteps through a paddock, goats learning to suckle, piano practice and laughter in the living room. Recording device snug in someone’s pocket, it felt as though the family gradually forgot the microphone was there. Such beautiful portraits they lent us, of the people, animals, environment, machinery, weather and their intertwined relationships: thoughtful, funny, intimate, full of heart and intelligence.

From all the listening, we built an instrument together. An Aeolian harp-fence, from material from the farm, constructed on the oval beside the house, guinea fowl and dog a running cartoon in the background, the wind a bow to the vibrating strings.” – Genevieve Lacey

Genevieve is a recorder virtuoso who creates new possibilities for her instrument. She has a substantial recording catalogue and a high-profile career as soloist with orchestras and ensembles around the world. Genevieve’s awards include an ARIA, Australia Council Fellowship, Churchill Fellowship, Freedman Fellowship, Best Performance (Australian Music Awards) and Outstanding Musician (Melbourne Prize for Music).

Collaborators: Marshall McGuire (harps): Acclaimed for his musicality and precision Marshall has performed and presented masterclasses internationally. Phil Slater (trumpet): Phil has performed and recorded with a diverse array of artists including the Australian Art Orchestra. Jim Atkins (sound design/manipulation): Jim has production credits on over 100 major label CDs as well as designing for the Melbourne Ring Cycle, Sunday in the Park With George and Nixon in China.

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Black Ridge Farm, 829 Myalla Rd, Milabena
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Performances: 2.15pm & 3.45pm

Co-creators: Genevieve Lacey, Jim Atkins, Marshall McGuire, Phil Slater, John Rodgers

Visual artist: Neal Rodwell

Local artisan food available

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