release date: 03 august 2021
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The COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney continues, as does my excavation of files from the rhizomatic strings of nested folders on an old workhorse iMac.
This episode presents a mix of tracks commissioned in 2014 for automated daily replay in the Museum of Economic Botany (MEB) in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, South Australia. The sounds emanated quietly from inside a small laser-cut timber geodesic dome I designed to house an iPod and stereo speaker set. The object introduced a confined sonic field of strange ambience in the subdued space of the large open interior.
The MEB is a unique museological space, the last remaining in the world of a type once found throughout the colonies of the 19th century British Empire. They were small centres of botanical science designed to inform settler cultures of the productive uses they might make of occupied territories through agriculture – which plant species might thrive in a particular climate to yield timber, fruits, grains, fibres and other of the innumerable uses of plants required for the development of settler economies.
Adelaide’s exemplary museum opened in 1881 and through the 20th century sat like an architectural Rip van Winkle, asleep, dimly lit, a charming archaic relic. In 2008, then director of the botanic gardens, Steve Forbes, invited curator and historian Peter Emmett to think about what might be done with the building, which was being drawn into a development project that might turn it into a visitor centre or some other use. Peter convinced the government authorities of the true value of the museum and proposed to return it to its 1881 original state – mainly because half of the original collection was still housed there, and his research revealed it to be the only one of its kind remaining in the world.
I worked with Peter on the interpretation for the opening of the new space in 2009 and later made this soundscape for its interior. The tracks are mostly built from field recordings I made in the gardens over various visits.