release date: 15 June 2021
listen on soundcloud
This episode is a virtual visit to The Centre for Deep Reading retreat, an annual event staged at a property named Tyraman, on Wonnarua country north west of Sydney in the Hunter Valley between the rural towns of Dungog and Gresford.
The CDR is a labour of love, social relations and experimental cultural enrichment devised and sustained by writer, activist, humanities teacher and fellow pedestrian explorer Nick Keys.
I visited Nick at his apartment in the Sydney suburb of Northbridge to talk with him about the project. In the episode, excerpts from our conversation are interwoven with excerpts from field recordings I made at the 2018 and 2019 CDR retreats, giving some sense of the soundworlds there.
For the retreat I’ve developed an activity we call ‘Deep Listening’ – with deference to Pauline Oliveros of course – wherein I invite groups of five people to sit quietly together in the forest, firstly listening unaided, then for 20 minutes listening under headphones to the amplified presence of whatever sounds occur. The autonomous sounds of creatures, distant rural activities and that moment’s weather are delivered to the listening party via stereo microphones set up out of sight.
It’s an exercise in aural attention that participants report as opening their ears to the complexities of everyday natural sonic production, and instilling a sense of deep calm. Importantly, people report that what and how they hear in subsequent days is altered or heightened.
This episode of sonic sketchbooks features the voices of Vanessa Berry, Kathryn Bird , Ross Gibson and Nick Keys along with incidental, less discernible voices of other Centre for Deep Reading participants. The poetry recitations partway through and multi-voice event toward the end are excerpts from recordings I made of Barbara Campbell’s ‘Out Loud’ collaborations with CDR participants in 2019.