Noise Intercepted Collaborators

Cath Clover - Artist


Melbourne, Australia

Why do I want to participate?



Noise Challenge #9Noise Challenge #9: The Free For All

I have started collaborating with Johanna Hallsten here at St John’s Church in Bethnal Green in the east end of London. Creating a site specific response to this John Soane church (1826) we are looking at the mix of communities in the area both human and nonhuman through voice, song and language.



Noise Challenge #7Noise Challenge #7: The Cues

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Listening to other animals’ voices locate us geographically and temporally. This is a Torresian crow calling in the afternoon heat at Watarru Rocks in remote central Australia. Noise Challenge #7


NOISE CHALLENGE 6: THE EAVESDROPPERNoise Challenge #6: The Eavesdropper

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The remote Aboriginal community of Watarru, central Australia

Noise Challenge 5Noise Challenge #5: The Senses

American philosopher Arnold Berleant (2005) writes ‘Aesthetics, as a discipline, retains a bond with its origins in the 18th century, when it was named the ‘science of sensory knowledge’…and he notes ‘Much has come to supplement this sensory base – factors such as meaning, memory, metaphor, symbol and history – but it is important to reaffirm the central place that sense perception holds in aesthetic experience, for the senses are essential and indeed central to the study of art and natural beauty…the early emphasis of aesthetics on beauty has changed with the evolution of the arts, and today the field embraces a wide range of qualities and features of perceptual experience that may be termed in some fashion ‘aesthetic’. These include the ugly, the grotesque, the comic or playful, as well as the conventionally pleasing.’

NOISE CHALLENGE #4: THE SOUNDTRACKNoise Challenge #4: The Soundtrack

I don’t listen to an mp3 player (should I admit this?) but rather listen actively to the world around me. This is something I am writing at the moment about active listening (draft):

As I listened I began to hear the calls and songs of the birds not as pleasant musical sounds, nor even as the sound of a species, but as distinct communication between individuals living their lives in close proximity to mine. I started to transcribe these calls using the phonetic words that naturalists use in field guides. I couldn’t understand the content, but I could attempt to transcribe what I heard. We don’t tend to think of animals as individuals unless we have a specific relationship with them, as with working animals or domestic pets. Through recording and transcribing these individual voices I became aware of sharing space with wild animals, and how our different lives crisscrossed each day, both physically and aurally. I became aware of how our lives and voices mix, come together, overlap, intersperse and part again. Through attentive listening I became aware of how living things, myself included, share the space available, how we adapt, and how we find particular areas that suit our needs. I stopped just hearing birdsong and I started to listen to the materiality of a call: I heard the beginning, middle and end; the pitch, timbre and tone; the repetition, emphasis and variety. I listened out for answers and I heard the responses. I heard the web of communication that was taking place all around me, and, like listening to a foreign language, it was a web that on many levels I did not understand. As Sam Thorne, associate editor of Frieze magazine writes, in ‘Talking Shop: How do you define jargon?’ I felt I could ‘understand how the words signify without always understanding what they signify’. As the original 14th century meaning of ‘jargon’ referred ‘to the warbling of birds… Jargon as chatter that is incessant and unregulated but somehow soothing’ the analogy with jargon – as almost a foreign language – seems appropriate. One aspect of this project, however, is to give the birds’ communication skills the credit they deserve as complex language users.

Noise Challenge #3 The EmptyNoise Challenge #3: The Empty

Jawbone Park Nature Reserve on the west side of Melbourne is reclaimed land, an urban wetlands that merges with beach (at low tide) and sea. It’s a peaceful place full of birds, a huge cloud covered sky and low green grey coastal scrub. Still, quiet, the odd birdcall reaches us. It’s a dynamic place too, with container ships moving on the horizon, an oil refinery to the west, and new ugly McMansions behind us with enormous gaping windows looking out to the flat sea. Not ‘empty’ as such, but the enormous sense of space gives a great feeling of a kind of dispersal of self, an easing and emptying out of inner things so that they merge with the enormous air and flit away. A feeling similar to how the desert in central Australia absorbs and purges inner turmoil and a great sense of peace descends subtly, quietly, fully. My only act of transformation was to visit this place, watch the birds and make a bird list from Le’s comments, observation and extensive knowledge.
Silver gull
Little raven
Chestnut teal duck
Black swan
Pied cormorant
Black cormorant
Red necked stint (migratory)
Sandpipers (migratory)
Plover (Masked Lapwing)
Royal spoonbill
Pacific black duck
Great egret
Purple swamphen
Australian native hen
Hoary-headed grebe
Australasian grebe
New Holland honeyeater
White faced heron
Welcome swallow
Willie wagtail

NOISE CHALLENGE #1: THE PULSENoise Challenge #1: The Pulse

Cars, trucks, motorbikes, vans, buses, utes, the muted low thudding of car stereos along Elizabeth Street, Coburg in the northern suburb of Melbourne. The exchange of the two men as one is dropped off most mornings at about 5.30am outside the house, non-English speakers. The Harley rider leaves home at 6am. The sighing double squeak of the doors opening on the bus, the bus idling, voices, doors close, the bus pulls away. The incomprehensible shouting man who walks along Elizabeth Street. Cop sirens, the heaving weight of the trams on their tracks, tram bells ting, single church bell west over the valley of the creek, train horn chords from the west; ravens call along Elizabeth Street, from tall trees, street lights, electricity pylons, a parliament of ravens:

Wah wah wah!
Wah wah wah!
Wah wah wah!

Emphatic. Forte, brio, grandioso.

Cop choppers overhead periodically screen out the chink chink chinking crickets and loud pervasive greengrocer cicadas during these hot evenings.

50 pigeons live in the structural elements of the bridge that carries the six lane highway of Bell Street over the Merri Creek, a northern tributary of the Yarra River, Melbourne’s main river. The noise of the constant but pulsing traffic above is sonically filtered through the bridge itself and becomes a muted and irregular low booming which contrasts with the soft chorusing voices of the pigeons’ constant exchanges.

The turtledoves in the back garden have a different rhythm to their voices and their sounds are rougher than the pigeons’. Rainbow lorikeets fly over in groups of one, two, six, eight, squawking loudly on the wing, west east west again, over the cemetery. Wattlebirds screech their ‘ah okk okk okk’ calls. Sometimes sulphur crested cockatoos, red tailed black cockatoos and kookaburras venture this far into the city.

British musician/composer David Toop writes

“What is typical in modern cities…is a homogenisation of sound. The volume of motor traffic blocks out a certain frequency range and prevents anything close to silence…Add the sound of aircraft passing overhead, loud music, police, fire and ambulance sirens, and a proliferation of machines for construction and destruction, and the more personal or unusual sounds are drowned.”

Little Ravens, the local corvid in Melbourne, have a vocal pitch that competes with the frequency range that Toop describes. Numerous times I have witnessed single individuals calling from streetlights at busy intersections in central Melbourne during the rush hour. Pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses and trams fill the area and the ambient soundscape is loud and pervasive. Yet a single raven’s calls clearly penetrate this sonic blanket, the bird seemingly undisturbed by the commotion below, and possibly even stimulated by it. The birds continue their various calls for periods of up to 20 to 30 minutes at these intersections.