Audiosketch S2 EP1

An art date with Aviva Endean

Listen to the episode here

Credits and notes

To discover more about Aviva Endean’s body of interactive sound works, including Vibrato Virtual, A Face Like Yours and Stranger visit her website here.

Aviva Endean’s critically-acclaimed debut solo album, cinder : ember : ashes (SOFA Music, 2018), is available on Bandcamp here.

The ‘audio sketch’ Aviva shared with us, was recorded at Kata Tjuta Valley of the Wind (NT) on Anangu land, with Justin Marshall playing rocks.

The sound-based art crush Aviva nominated was Aarti Jadu. You can find her album L’Ecole De La Caz on Bandcamp here.

Our Audiosketch podcast title music is by Fia Fiell. All in the Same Room, is from Fia Fiell’s 2018 album of the same name, which you can find on Bandcamp here.

Additional sound design by Roslyn Oades, using the following sample courtesy of Wind_blowing_gusting by Astounded Sound (Christopher J Astbury), licensed under the Creative Commons 0 Licence.

Full transcript

{Signature title music by Fia Fiell}

Welcome to Audiosketch, a Chamber Made podcast dedicated to innovative artists working across performance, sound and music. I’m Roslyn Oades and today I’m joining you from the lands of Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation, also known as, the City of the Melbourne. This episode’s art date is with composer, musician and performance-maker Aviva Endean. Having originally trained as a clarinet player, Aviva’s interest in embodied sound, intimacy and interactive compositions has led her down some very interesting creative pathways, which I’m very curious to hear more about…

Roslyn Oades Hi, Aviva.

Aviva Endean Hi. Thanks for inviting me.

Roslyn Oades It’s so nice to be chatting with you. As per Audiosketch tradition, I’d like to start by asking, if you were a sound right now, what sound would you be?

Aviva Endean I love this question. It’s so fun and playful. I feel like the sound I would be right now is, kind of the sound of the wind when you’re in a really intensely windy place, and it’s just like blowing at your face. And you can kind of play with it, by moving your head from side to side. Yeah, there’s something kind of intense about it. But with this playful quality.

{AUDIO: recording of strong wind blowing}

Roslyn Oades Why that sound today?

Aviva Endean It just feels intense at the moment. It just feels so full on. There’s everything happening after we’ve been in lockdown, and I’m just not used to this pace I suppose. But I guess there’s something kind of enjoyable about that as well. You know, that feeling like when you’re like on the beach, and you’re getting blown through? It reminds me of my dog. When we were kids, he used to like, always stick his head out the window when we’re driving down the highway. He’s was a cocker spaniel and his ears would like press back against his face. And, you’re kind of like, Oh, that looks weirdly enjoyable.

Roslyn Oades Yeah, it looks exhilarating. And a very appropriate choice of sound for someone with a background playing clarinet.

Aviva Endean I have actually been doing a little bit of experiments with cars and wind with Bec Jensen. So maybe I’ve been thinking more about these kinds of high-velocity winds sounds too.

Roslyn Oades My first experience of your work was in the middle of lockdown, where I had the unexpected pleasure of participating in your online interactive piece called Vibrato Virtual. And at the time, I remember feeling totally exhausted by all the Zoom events, as we all were, and so I was totally surprised by how delightful and communal that experience was. Can you describe that work for listeners who haven’t had that experience?

Aviva Endean Yeah, so Vibrato Virtual is a sound work which invites the audience to become a temporary collective of sound makers. And the way that they’re doing that is by manipulating the sound that’s coming out of the speaker of their mobile phones. So, they’re provided with an audio track that I’ve made and then they follow the gestures that they see on screen, physical gestures, which manipulate the sound that’s coming out of the phone. So, they can kind of get rhythmic pulses or different kinds of distortions or manipulate the harmonics of the sound coming out of the speaker with their mouth by opening and closing and creating different vowel shapes. So, the speaker of the mobile phone becomes this instrument.

Roslyn Oades Yeah, I felt like I was having this intimate experience with my phone. Experiencing it as an object as well, like it was somehow singing to me. And phones are, like, especially during lockdown, felt like these real, like, lifelines of like, almost appendages to our bodies…

Aviva Endean Yeah, in the work, there’s a lot of, yeah, really pressing the speaker up against your skin, almost massaging yourself with it. Or, it might’ve felt sometimes, like you were almost shaving your face with the vibrations. And I think that that was something that I wanted to play with as well, aside from just the sonic outcome of playing with the phone in that way. Playing, I guess, with the meaning of what we’re actually doing and the absurdity of our intensely intimate relationship that we actually have with this object already. Yeah, I feel like most people just always have it within arm’s reach, 24 hours a day. We often think about it as an object, which causes distraction, or a sort of lack of attention, but the piece was actually quite long and quite meditative and quite focused. This object, was actually allowing everyone to join together and do something, which is kind of the opposite of the function that it usually has. So yeah, playing with it as a very embodied experience of sound I thought was kind of an interesting subversion of that object.

Roslyn Oades I feel like we should just play a little bit of, of that sound, just so people understand the textures that you were composing from in that work?

Aviva Endean Yeah, sure.

{AUDIO: excerpt from Vibrato Virtual}

Roslyn Oades So where did this seed idea for Vibrato Virtual come from?

Aviva Endean I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted to return to an idea for a format for a work, what I was calling a kind of ‘video score’. Quite a few years before that, I’d made A Face Like Yours, which is a really simple piece that basically leads the audience through a series of actions. Kind of, tapping on foam earplugs that they have in their ears, so they’re sort of hearing through bone conduction. And the work just never stopped being presented. It just, people kept on asking me to put it on. And it was so simple. And it was this really intimate, personal experience of sound, hearing through the bone conduction from the ear plugs into your bones, but also this really collective experience. And this experience that went from a very internal sound world to eventually breaking out into a world that you could hear through the air in the space. And, I had for a long time been kind of going, How did that just work so well, and so easily? And, Could I ever make something like that again? And then, Chamber Made actually put out this invitation to, to apply for a commission for the Hi-Vis Practice Exchange, which is a really beautiful gathering of people annually. And their invitation was around liveness and digital. And, yeah, sometimes people just ask the right question, and then it just arrived in my mind. I’d always been fascinated by that sound of what it’s like to sort of manipulate the sound of a mobile phone with your mouth, or just play with it. The kind of thing that you would do when you’re bored. I feel like a lot of good sound ideas come to you when you’re just mucking around, and you know, I always knew that mobile phone speakers did that but then to kind of think about a way that that could be, like, a very embodied way of interacting with sound, that felt very accessible and something that an audience of general public would be able to do.

Roslyn Oades I can totally see the thread from A Face Like Yours. And I should mention to listeners that you can experience a little bit of A Face Like Yours on your website.

Aviva Endean Yeah, actually, the whole score is up there. All you need is a pair of foam earplugs.

Roslyn Oades And I highly recommend it. I tried that yesterday, and it’s a great experience. It reminded me of being a child. The childhood wonder of, you know, blocking your ears and unblocking them. But to have someone composing that and allowing us to be part of an interactive composition…

Aviva Endean I’m not even that concerned about, that I’ve composed the sound. It’s really just an invitation to enter that curious play-space with sound, and I think that’s what I’m doing in a lot of my works. In a way, I almost don’t want to call them ‘video scores’ anymore, because it’s not really a score, it’s just a kind of invitation. It’s a vocabulary of movement that will hopefully elicit interesting sounds. But if you decided to do something else, that would be totally fine.

Roslyn Oades I think you should do it, though. It’s a really focused- I think that undersells it. I think it’s a really beautiful, focused, crafted experience actually. Like, it feels like it’s a very crafted journey. Having just performed that work on myself.

Aviva Endean Yeah, yeah. And it’s a nice thing to do together as well. There’s something nice, again, about the collective experience of doing it with a group of people.

Roslyn Oades It’s so internal though. Can you hear other people when you’ve got earplugs on? Or is it more just you experience a group of people going through the same micro-choreography?

Aviva Endean Yeah, so the work is actually composed so that the first part of the piece is in the auditorium, let’s say, is completely quiet. Like you could hear a pin drop. You can’t hear anything but people would be able to hear it in their own bodies. But there is a point, about halfway through, where it opens up into this more percussive space where people are tapping and eventually vocalising.

Roslyn Oades Beautiful. Looking at the list of interactive audio projects on your website, this intimate embodied approach to sound-making is obviously a pathway you’ve been exploring for some time. What draws you to this inclusive way of working?

Aviva Endean I think… I came from a very formal classical training…

Roslyn Oades That’s why it’s so curious. It’s like, you’re giving away so much. Come play with me.

Aviva Endean Yeah, I guess there was something about working in that world, you know, there was parts of it that I loved, extraordinary music and wonderful instrumentalists and craftspeople. But there’s a sort of preciousness that I got quite tired of. I felt like I would often perform these pieces that I loved and would have spent a really long time practicing. And then you would perform them, usually once, after eight months of rehearsal and, it was almost as though the audience didn’t feel entitled to have an opinion about it. And I kind of really wanted to bypass that: What did you feel? What did it do to you? I was, if anything more interested in what my mum thought about it, or my friend from primary school, because I wanted to know if it meant anything to other people. And I felt like that was really hard to do. And I guess I did have other ways of dealing with that, within the classical music world. Kind of trying to really engage with site-specificity, or like how we worked with lighting or movement or installation elements to kind of give people a way in. But yeah, I guess I kind of just have been going further and further down this path of like, How do I share my experience of curiosity for sound? Or like, a joy in listening with other people? And I’m kind of interested now just in seeing how far you can take that. This handing over of the experience, I suppose. Like a work like A Face Like Yours, is really just going, Hey, have you ever listened to what it sounds like to have earplugs in your ears and play with them? Because that’s more or less how, you know, what I was doing. Or a piece like Space Guitar, which I made with Dale Gorfinkel. A similar idea, stethoscopes attached to elastic strings. And that just came from, I used to have this sun hat that had this elastic string that went around my chin and I would just be going on bushwalks and just playing on either side of my head and thinking, This sounds really cool

Roslyn Oades A hat guitar!

Aviva Endean You know, That sounds really cool, how could you make this something that other people can play with?

Roslyn Oades Yeah, there’s a lot of childlike wonder, isn’t there? In those concepts.

Aviva Endean Yeah. So yeah, I guess I’m kind of wondering like, how far can you go with that? And at the moment, I’m actually making a work, which you came to the creative development of.

Roslyn Oades Ah, Stranger.

Aviva Endean Yes, very early workings of it. But it’s, I guess that’s the work where I’m going, How far can you take this? Could a group of strangers come into a space and collectively be responsible for creating the sound themselves? And I’m really just there as a host, or as a guide. It’s actually up to them to engage with the work and to follow their own curiosity to create the sound.

Roslyn Oades To paint a picture, kind of at the heart of that work was an invitation to walk into a room full of sound-making objects that you were invited to play with and record. And then the things that we, as the participants recorded, were then recomposed, or put together in a composition that we got to hear back at the end. So, we become part of a communal composition. Is that an accurate description of the invitation?

Aviva Endean Yeah, the invitation is basically to collectively generate a sound work. You essentially band together as a temporary collective. A sound-making collective.

Roslyn Oades Mmm… I wanted to ask, is community-building part of what you’re interested in?

Aviva Endean Yeah, I think that there already is a community. There’s actually an extraordinary community around experimental music practice. And-

Roslyn Oades I guess, I’m referring more to your participants… When you’re inviting participants who may not be part of an experimental practice they’re just, you know, someone that’s been invited along. And you, you’re inviting people into the room, like you said before, people that you may not know anything about classical music, or in this case, experimental forms, like, is something you’re trying to build in the room, about community?

Aviva Endean Yeah, well, I think it is. And it’s actually, kind of, the central idea of this work, Stranger, which is coming up. It’s trying to give a bit of a sense of something that I feel like I’ve experienced a lot in my life. The sort of generosity of that outsider position or that stranger position, and actually how, sometimes when you clearly don’t know anything about, say, the culture of someone’s home or their culture of, you know, a language or a particular scene, that it can elicit this extraordinary generosity from the host. So that rather than kind of going, Oh, you’re not one of us, you don’t know. They kind of go, Oh, you don’t know, come in, let us show you. Because we want you to join in and we want you to have a good time. And actually, it’s good for us if you have a good time as well. And I guess I feel like that’s something I have got to experience quite a lot as a musician. Also, as a touring musician, you know, where you find yourself in these extraordinary places and situations. And, yeah, I definitely feel like my life has been so much richer for those experiences. So, I suppose I feel like the experimental music world, like that is my culture and that is the thing that I want to share with people. Like that curiosity and that opening out of practice, to go, Oh you, you know, you can engage with this too. It’s, in many ways, really simple. It’s following your interest and following what you’re hearing. That’s kind of what we’re all doing. At the same time, I don’t want to discount the fact that it’s also extremely complex. Stranger is also bringing into the work quite a range of different other artists who are collaborating with me who have extremely developed beautiful, lifelong practices that they’re generously also sharing. Carolyn Connors and Dale Gorfinkel, Clinton Green and Laura Altman, who have shared these installations, which are kind of part of their improvised music practice, and very generously tried to think of ways that they could modify them so that they become instruments that anybody can play.

Roslyn Oades I’m really looking forward to seeing how that work continues to develop. And I imagine a big part of creating that work is having the right invitation. You’re giving permission. And what sort of permission are you giving? Like, being a host or a guest, there is a, there is an art to the hospitality. There’s a lot of thinking around just how to create the invitation, the right invitation, in work like this.

Aviva Endean Absolutely. And I feel like it’s the balance in making, I guess, participatory work is finding that space where… Well, first of all acknowledging that you’re not going to please everybody, and that everyone has different personality types and they need different things. But yeah, trying to find the space so that the person who’s the most worried about doing the wrong thing is going to feel comfortable and the most anarchic doesn’t feel stifled. It’s always a tricky balance and I feel like that’s the thing that needs to be refined, always.

Roslyn Oades Lots of test audiences, I imagine, in this process, to get that right. Yeah, great. After experiencing Vibrato Virtual, the first work I experienced of yours, I started following you on Instagram during lockdown, as you do with your new art crushes, and I came across two little audio experiments you posted of yourself playing with one of those binaural-head microphones. And I would love, if it’s okay with you, to just share this little insight into your lockdown activities with our listeners.

Aviva Endean Sure. I can’t remember exactly what it sounds like.

Roslyn Oades So, the first post you put up involved using the binaural-head, almost like a Theremin. Like, moving your hands across the head and the microphones to create a little feedback composition…

{AUDIO: excerpt from Aviva’s first Instagram post with binaural head}

Roslyn Oades And then the second post you put up with the head was you blowing air through what looks like fish tank tubing into and around the ears of the head…

{AUDIO: excerpt from Aviva’s second Instagram post with binaural head}

Roslyn Oades And I kind of fell in love with your mind after watching those. I was like, Oh yeah, she’s having a really creative lockdown. Did those Instagram posts grow into anything? Or are they growing into something?

Aviva Endean Yeah, well it’s funny, things always grow into other things, don’t they? But yeah, actually, I did end up making a whole track on my new album, which is working with the sort of binaural feedback. Kind of almost as this weird electronic layer in a track. But then also used the same head to overlay several tracks of very up-in-your-ear, close, kind of wind sounds. So yeah, I was kind of interested in that, the possibilities of that kind of recording, I suppose. You know, there’s all kinds of rules about binaural recording. Apparently, it’s terrible for listening back to in speakers and all this stuff. But I was just really excited about it, and I was recording my album, on my own, during lockdown in a kind of strangely transient experience of lockdown actually. Cause last year I was a resident at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks home in Sydney. So, I was supposed to be there for the whole year but then during lockdown I had tried to escape to Victoria, and did quarantine for two weeks at my mum’s house, who was extremely generous and let me stay there for two weeks. And I sort of found myself not with all the things I needed, but I did have that binaural head. And so, I sort of just started mucking around, and it was a total mistake that I forgot to change the audio preferences in my DAW, and then suddenly, my laptop was creating this feedback. And I was like, You know what, that’s actually pretty cool.

Roslyn Oades Wow, I love those happy accidents.

Aviva Endean Yeah, it’s weird. The whole album actually feels like these, sort of, strange gleanings of things that I found then, or things that I found that I’d never done anything with before, but sort of found myself with a bit more time to play with them or explore. Or, you know, instruments or speakers that became available to me in the various places that I got stuck. So, yeah, I sort of actually, weirdly, created it in a lot of different places, even though it was largely in a year of lockdowns.

Roslyn Oades Wow, I can’t wait to hear that. That sounds like a really exciting, unexpected pathway again. And I love that you’re so open to following, you know, what the environment you’re in offers. I also know that between lockdowns and going back and forth between Sydney and Melbourne, one of the joyful things that came from being in Sydney was swimming in the ocean. And knowing you’re a bit of a harvester, do you feel like there’s something that you’ve harvested from your experiences with the ocean while you were in Sydney, on that residency?

Aviva Endean Creatively, I feel like I’ve always been really excited by water. Looking at the reflections and the light patterns on the surface of water is just my go to place for being able to access, I suppose, a bit of a meditative mindset. I find the sort of seemingly constant repetition and patterns, but actually constantly shifting is really, really stimulating at the same time as really hypnotic. Yeah, being able to experience that a bit more from within the water was really incredible and also to experience light from underwater. Just something that I just find really fascinating and beautiful and inspiring. Just, just as a space to kind of visually imagine when I’m playing. And there is another track on my upcoming album, which is as yet untitled, but it’s basically influenced by that feeling of watching the water.

{AUDIO: excerpt from Luminosities, Jazzwise compilation CD}

Roslyn Oades Great. Yeah, I should also mention that you are a critically acclaimed clarinet player and composer. In addition to the new album you’re working on, your solo album, cinder : ember : ashes, was described by reviewers as “captivating, sophisticated, stunning and trance inducing”. How does your background as a clarinet player inform your approach to the more cross-disciplinary work we’ve been discussing?

Aviva Endean Yeah. Well, I love the clarinet. It’s a beautiful instrument. But I also love that it’s, I guess, it’s a real instrument. As an acoustic instrument it has its limitations, so it’s always going to be connected to your breath, your fingers, what you can do with it. You know, it can’t do lots of things that other instruments can do. And I think that that does carry through with me now, even as I start to work more with electro acoustic composition. And, I feel like I’m always trying to find the parameters of what I’m working with. I find that there’s kind of almost nothing more creatively unstimulating than like every possibility being open to you. And I feel like sometimes electronic music can feel a bit like that. Like there’s just endless doors that can be opened, and you just have to choose whether you’re going to go through it or not.

Roslyn Oades Nice pun there too. DAWs. Digital Audio Workstations. Favorite lingo.

Aviva Endean Actually, one of the swimming groups I was swimming with in Sydney was a whole bunch of women who were sound engineers and artists and it was called, The DAW-sals.

Roslyn Oades Ooh, that’s good.

Aviva Endean Yeah.

Roslyn Oades I like what you said about yeah, having restrictions. I think it’s a really creative space, the boundary of things.

Aviva Endean Yeah, and sometimes I just do think about that as a composition like, particularly on cinder : ember : ashes, that you mentioned earlier, that basically was the composition. It was essentially improvised music but the composition was the instrumentation or the limitation that I’d put on myself. So, in one track I’m playing the clarinet through a tiny pocket amplifier, and then it’s kind of like, what can I do with that, I’ve got to hold this with one hand so then I only have one hand to play different notes. So, suddenly my instruments limited in this one way but this whole other sound worlds being opened up.

{AUDIO: excerpt from the track vapour, on Aviva Endean’s debut solo album, cinder : ember : ashes}

Or, you know, there’s another track where I’m playing the clarinet into a timpani, so the only way I can get the timpani to resonate is if I’m playing the particular notes where the air is coming out of the bell of the instrument. So again, I’m kind of limiting my pitch material of the instrument, but then opening up this whole other world.

{AUDIO: excerpt from the track apparition, on Aviva Endean’s debut solo album, cinder : ember : ashes}

I’ve noticed now, as well, I’m working a bit more in theater and dance, it’s like the material has to come from the work somehow. It doesn’t feel like I could just bring in any track I’ve just been working on and just say, Oh, yeah, I made this track. It’s really cool, you should put it in the show. It feels like it’s got to come from the factual material, or something that happened in the room, in the rehearsal room. Or from the voices of the performers.

Roslyn Oades That responsiveness.

Aviva Endean Yeah, responsiveness. And, using that as a generative element.

Roslyn Oades This feels like a good time to share the audio sketch Aviva has recorded for us. On each episode, I invite our guest artist to contribute a draft audio experiment or field recording that offers a little insight into something they’re exploring or thinking about at the moment. Aviva, did you want to tell us a bit about this recording before we hear it?

Aviva Endean Yeah, so I’ve been doing a bit of playing outdoors or, as Jim Denley would put it, in weather. And yeah, I find it a really interesting process. I’m still finding my way with it and yeah, trying to figure out what it is to play my sounds, my instruments, in landscapes. In sonic environments. But yeah, endlessly kind of curious about how it interacts with acoustics. How it interacts with who else is living there, what else is happening. And it just feels like a journey that I’ve got a lot further to go with.

Roslyn Oades Great, let’s have a listen…

{AUDIO: 1.47min excerpt of Aviva’s audio sketch: a sound-making improvisation she recorded at Kata Tjuta on Anangu land, accompanied by Justin Marshall playing rocks}

Roslyn Oades My last question is, in terms of sound-based artists that you find inspiring, who do you have an art crush on at the moment?

Aviva Endean I love this question, too. I love the idea of an art crush. Well, there’s so many people, but I feel like something about the idea of a crush is that there’s still something a little bit unknown because after that you’re just in love with them. So, I would say I have an art crush on local artist, Aarti Jadu. I don’t know if you know her?

Roslyn Oades No, I’d love to. Tell me more.

Aviva Endean She’s an amazing- I feel like we’ve kind of been spiraling around each other for a little while. And yeah, she’s an incredible musician, but she’s also doing some really interesting things in the sort of participatory sound art world as well. And it’s like I don’t quite fully understand what it is, which is probably part of my intrigue. And, you know, also just as a musician, she’s incredible. She’s just released this album, L’Ecole De La Caz. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it entirely right but it’s just incredible. She’s working a lot with a vocal practice informed by Hindustani vocal practice but with intense, really obvious auto-tune, which I just find such an incredible, intriguing sound. It’s a really, really well-made piece of work. And she makes incredible film clips as well. She’s just an all-round legend.

Roslyn Oades Great. Well, we will put a link to that album you mentioned in the notes for this episode so that everyone can have a little listen to your crush. It’s been so nice to talk to you. Thanks for being so generous and sharing your thought process and practice. Yeah, I’m sure our listeners will really get a lot out of that, as I have. So, thank you very much Aviva

Aviva Endean Thank you.

You’ve been listening to Audiosketch, a Chamber Made podcast hosted and produced by Roslyn Oades, with title music by Fia Fiell. This episode’s art date with Aviva Endean was recorded in Melbourne, on the lands of Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. All musical excerpts specific to this episode were composed by Aviva Endean and are provided courtesy of the artist. Audiosketch has been made possible by the Australia Council and was commissioned as part of Chamber Made’s Hi-Viz Practice Exchange. Hi-Viz is supported by the Helen Macpherson-Smith Trust and The Substation. Chamber Made receives multi-year funding from Creative Victoria.

Thanks for listening.

{Signature outro music by Fia Fiell till end}