Mention 'art' to the average person, and it'll conjure images of oil paintings in the national gallery, or century-old sculptures. Not many think of sound art, a creative phenomenon that is growing in popularity in Australia. But what exactly is sound art? Electroacoustic artist David Brown defines it as "the systematic organisation and transformation of visual and sonic phenomena that may include musical elements, random sounds, noise, light and field recordings through the use of formal procedures, improvisatory techniques, chance and studio practice."
"I'm predominately an instrumentalist," tells Brown. "As well as the prepared string instrument stuff that's approached with extended techniques, I perform on electric guitar with an array of stomp boxes. This is more about using the guitar and pickups as sonic generators and then manipulating the tones with the pedals."
And the weirdest thing he's ever used as an 'instrument' to make noise? A little something known as a 'ukelin', an obscure, tiny instrument originating from twenties America. "It's a 32-string instrument you can pluck or bow which crosses the Hawaiian ukulele with the violin and was originally used to play hymns, popular and folk tunes," Brown educates us.
Brown has been heavily involved in the Melbourne experimental art rock scene since the mid-seventies as a guitarist, but his solo sound art work under the guise of candlesnuffer is completely unrelated to conventional music. Prepare to have your expectations of conventional electroacoustic methods of noise turned on its side. "The endeavour is to systematically undo all the effects of musical indoctrination, even if only for myself." Brown paints his own music as "a world of tiny sounds enlarged outside their normal context to rival the volume and density of the loudest rock band."
Brown will be appearing at the upcoming sense-specific festival Liquid Architecture, a trailblazing series of sound events devoted to the experimental art form. The festival has seen the likes of the world's top sound artists, avant garde composers and experimental musicians over its twelve years, with names like Lionel Marchetti, Yoko Higashi, Asmus Tietchens and Jason Kahn appearing on line-ups.
"Liquid Architecture is a pioneering sound arts festival that has introduced Australian audiences to some of the most groundbreaking sonic conjurors," Brown gushes. "The festival has given me the opportunity to experience live performances by some of the gods of experimental and electroacoustic music. Personal highlights have been the multi-channel sound diffusion of French artist Bernard Parmegiani along with Pierre Bastien's mechanical orchestral and film performance. Liquid Architecture also premiered the high volume, tonal, violin sawing of American minimalist Tony Conrad in Australia."
For the curious, Liquid Architecture is featuring one of Brown's compositions on their website. "There are remnants of fucked up blues buried in it, played on prepared, fretless banjo," Brown explains his sonic offering A Film Over Horrible Shin (III-Jazz). "I adopted an approach were I accompany myself in a sort of blinded trial designed to extract surprising accompaniments from similarly prepared stringed instruments." The end result fuses "literary references with mundane artifacts while evoking everything from the Australian coastal world and outback to a bizarre take on psychedelia, along with stoicism, astronomy, melancholy waste, urban ordinariness and beer-drinking." Brown also lists a "naive fascination with Asian sounds" as an influence on the composition. "The driving impetus behind this self-accompaniment was to create impossible performance and sonic combinations."
Liquid Architecture runs until Saturday July 2 at venues around the Melbourne CBD and East Brunswick. Catch David Brown unveil his candlesnuffer solo project at the 3RRR Performance Space on Thursday June 30 at 7pm with Marc Behrens, Pascal Battus, Luka Simonis, James Rushford & Joe Talia. More information at www.liquidarchitecture.org.au
***NOTE: "candlesnuffer" is all small letters *******