This is the speech I gave last Monday (15th August 2016) at the Launch party for our
series of Underground Music concerts.
Thank you Billawarra. Your welcome to country means a great deal to all of the performers and organisers of TUNNEL NUMBER FIVE.
And we extend a welcome to every one here tonight.
I’d like to respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Larrakia people, and the land in which the tunnels resonate, and seek the blessing of elders past and present in the making of our music over the coming week.
We are here tonight to celebrate the glorious acoustics of Tunnel Number Five.
Constructed during World War 2 in response to Japanese bombing raids, these oil-storage tunnels never achieved their intended purpose, which is just as well. Who would want Australia’s most magical concert hall to reek of fuel?
Over the next 5 evenings, we have a fabulous line-up of musicians eager to perform within, and with, Tunnel Number Five. We have a huge variety of musical offerings, from traditional Yolngu songs of the land to contemporary and improvisatory string music. From shakuhachi meditations to West Papuan cultural songs, and Sarah Hopkins’ mesmerising harmonic whirlies.
From tomorrow night through to Saturday, Darwin audiences will have a chance to practice Deep Listening in a most remarkable venue. Audience members are invited to place their own chair within this resonant 172m x 4m venue; each location having a unique pattern of reflected and direct sound, and all of them delicious. Some performers will move through the tunnel as they play, others will locate themselves at certain points within this enormous, horizontal flute.
For each of the performers in Tunnel Number Five, our music is an expression of something deep and beyond the personal; an expression of something that lurks at the edges of our understanding of ourselves and our place within this small planet. Music allows us to connect with our environs and our inner space.
There is a power in the act of communal stillness. Attending a concert of quiet music gives all of us this opportunity.
I was recently interviewed for Radio National and was asked why the acoustic space I am performing in is so important. For me, and for all musicians – whether we play improvised and spontaneous music or composed and deeply rehearsed music – when we walk into a space (especially one as resonant as Tunnel Number Five) we are acutely aware of the sonic reflections around us; the “aliveness” of the space, and how it will modify and affect our sound, as well as the way in which we play…
Just as a visual artist is concerned with the way light bounces off surfaces, creating impressions of colour; or the way a surfer is able to assess the refractions of ocean swell and wind-whipped waves around headlands.
We invite you to enter into Tunnel Number Five, and join us in Deep Listening this week.
There are many people to thank and acknowledge when putting together an event such as Tunnel Number Five.
We give our thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian government’s arts funding and advisory body who have assisted in covering some of our costs in putting on this Underground Music series. We are honoured by their assistance and sincerely hope for their continued and vibrant existence.
This festival of Underground Music would not have been possible, however, without the generous assistance and enthusiasm of Robert Marchant of Darwin’s WWII Oil Storage Tunnels and Wallaroo Tours who has made Tunnel Number Five available for our use. Our heart-felt thanks, to Robert and his team, for your generosity. Robert can’t be here tonight but he is represented by Colin Bird, Karen Marchant and Nellie.
We would also like to give our thanks to Michael Anthony, the owner of this hotel, for conceiving and hosting tonight’s launch in his rooftop penthouse, and very generously accommodating the out-of-town performers in Ramada Zen. Thank you so much, Michael.
I would like to give my enormous thanks to our project and production manager, Anisha Angelroth Stitfold, without whom this festival of Underground Music would have been impossible to bring together. Anisha and I have been working on this project since late last year, and I know Anisha has had very little sleep in the last few weeks doing all the last minute details that inevitably arise in a project of this nature. Her networking within the Arts community of Darwin in indispensible, and her cultural sensitivity and respectful way of dealing with all the artists and a huge range of people involved in getting us to this point, is hard to convey in a brief speech such as this. Thank you Anisha. Know that you are deeply appreciated.
Of course, there are many other people who have assisted in promoting our concerts. We thanks Carmen Chapple for her graphic design skills in creating posters and handbills; Darwin journalists, radio presenters, and owners of shopfronts who have displayed our posters; A big thank you to Eve Pawlik of ArtBack NT who picked up Jason and Sebastian from the airport this afternoon; Rob Gayne and Mark Teaskle of Zip Printers for discounted printing rates; Rachel Groom and once again, Robert Marchant for personally sponsoring the airfares of our Nhulunbuy singers; Sachi Hirayama of Darwin Community Arts for making origami boats for opening night…
I am going to miss mentioning many people by name, but if you received an invite here tonight, know that we are grateful to you for the assistance you have given, and for assistance you will give in spreading the word about our concerts to all your friends and colleagues.
Tunnel Number Five is a truly magnificent concert venue here in Darwin; one of Darwin’s architectural treasures. I don’t know of any other place with an acoustic quite like it. If you have not been in the tunnel when the exhaust fans are shut down and a musician is in full flight, you are in for a treat this week.
Many of you have learned about Tunnel Number Five via our website: TunnelNumberFive.com This was built over many weeks and late nights by David Matthews, who originally joined our project as location sound recordist. At my request, David flew up from Melbourne last year to document our first two pilot performances within the tunnel. There are several archive recordings, photographs and information about last year’s tunnel shows on David’s website: altsoundings.com But this year, when Anisha suggested we needed an official website, Dave jumped in and made it a reality. Phenomenal. Thank you so much David. David is also recording this year’s concert series and hopes to put together a second CD of live music from Tunnel Number Five.
The first CD, “Beneath the Surface” has only just arrived, hot off the press, a week ago. This CD features solo shakuhachi works as well as improvisations with the violin of Anja Tait and Hobart violinist Emily Sheppard, who was up here in Darwin with ACO2 last August. “Beneath the Surface” is testament to just how magnificent the tunnel acoustic is, and I hope it helps to put this new Darwin music venue on the international music map.
And now let me introduce each of the musicians in this year’s Tunnel Number 5
At the suggestion of Michael Anthony, we are inviting each of the performers tonight to give a small musical offering. While the acoustics of this penthouse suite are lovely, and musically far better than my lounge-room at home, with respect, they don’t hold a candle to Tunnel Number Five. Tonight is a chance to experience snippets of our music up close and personal (sans tunnel) and compare it (throughout this week) with the sound of our tunnel-amplified and tunnel-enhanced music.
Firstly, let me introduce those who have just flown in this afternoon:
Sarah Hopkins, a renowned and celebrated Australian composer of music for cello; of choral works; and of music for handbells, harmonic overtone singing, harmonic whirlies and much more. Sarah comes from a musical family, her father, who passed away not long ago, being the much loved orchestral conductor and music educator, John Hopkins. Sarah now resides in Brisbane, but lived in Darwin in the 1980s. We welcome you back, and look forward to hearing your musical offerings.
Music item I: Sarah Hopkins…
And now our two songmen, who have just flown in from Nhulunbuy. Jason Yuwalara Gurruwiwi and Sebastian Guyundula Burarrwanga.
Jason Gurruwiwi is a respected senior Yolngu songman also from a famous musical family, and has a long and illustrious music career, including coaching Yothu Yindi’s first yidaki player, and more recently writing songs with Gurrulmul. Jason started singing manikay (traditional songs) at the age of 12; by the time he was 20, he was recognised as a full-blown songman. Now he is a leader, teacher and songman for the Gälpu Clan.
Sebastian Burarrwanga an up-and-coming songman of the Gumatj Clan. I had the pleasure of jamming with Sebastian and the Bärra (West Wind) band last year in Nhulunbuy, and I was blown away by the quality of Sebastian’s voice. The Bärra Band has a new Gospel album coming out soon that features Sebastian’s voice. His singing is gentle and pure and I can’t wait to hear him sing in the tunnel with Jason.
Music item II: Jason and Sebastian…
Ernie Gruner has just flown in from Melbourne to join his string colleagues Anja and Netanela of Darwin to perform in the second concert of the series entitled STRINGLINES. Ernie is a violinist with a passion for improvisation and world music. He is a member of klezmer, middle-eastern, balkan and celtic bands in Melbourne and has improvised for over 15 years with Melbourne Playback Theatre Company, as well as creating music for other theatre productions. Ernie tells me he was inspired to join the spontaneous music theatre trade by hearing Anja years ago.
Netanela Mizrahi is a composer and multi-instrumentalist and one of two principal violinist of Darwin Symphony Orchestra. She is a member of many ensembles here in Darwin, including the Ad Hoc Ensemble which is performing in Darwin Festival this coming Sunday, after the end of our Tunnel Number Five. Netanela works with youth and community directing music and theatre camps in Darwin, and working with young people on the Tiwi Islands and in the Immigration Detention Centre, and as a music therapist. She joins us in Tunnel Number Five as a violist.
Anja Tait is an inventive and truly fearless improviser on violin, with many years experience in contemporary music ensembles and collaborative performances throughout Australia. She is also a researcher and assistant director of the NT Library, combining her knowledge of NT oral history with her music making in Wednesday’s Underground performance.
Music item III: Stringlines: Ernie, Netanela and Anja…
Henk Rumbewas is a singer and dancer from West Papua, and has performed with his traditional Papuan Drum “SIBER” across the globe since the early 1980’s, advocating Papuan issues through music, language and culture. He has a beautiful voice and is currently the Cultural and Sports representative for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and lives here in Darwin. Please welcome
Music item IV: Henk & Amanda Runbewas
My name is Anne Norman. When not on tour, I reside in Mornington, Victoria. I initially studied flute at Melbourne Conservatorium, many years ago, followed by a period in Japan studying three lineages of shakuhachi (bamboo flute), including performance studies at Tokyo University of the Arts under living national treasure Yamaguchi Goro. I now tour as a soloist and love performing in collaboration with a diverse range of artists.
Tonight, considering we are gathered in the Ramada Suite Zen Quarter, I’d like to play a quarter of a sweet Zen meditation that has been played in Japan for 300 years…
Music item V: Anne Norman
… Of course, the most magical performer is not with us tonight for you to hear: Tunnel Number Five – a huge musical instrument in its own right. Please grab some handbills, and check out our concert details and chose a concert or two, or buy a season ticket, and know that the final night on Saturday is an evening of collaborations. All of the performers will participate in combining our sounds and musicianship to create music born of this wonderful sonic “birthing canal” (can’t believe I said that).
Join us in a place of resonance, deep under the hillside, and open yourself to fall, with us, into the moment, into the sound waves… into the magic of Tunnel Number Five.