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Mapping Australia (multimedia work)

by Daniel Portelli (2014)

Playing with fire


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Work Overview

Mapping Australia is an experimental multimedia piece for piano, electronics, video score, live camera, and video. Archival footage of Australia's cartography practices from the 1960s are transformed into a video score for a performer to engage with by tracing the movements of the people in the video. The footage documents the prospective sale of Australian land to foreign mining interests. Land, and who it belongs to, remains a contentious socio-political issue in Australia today. The interior of a piano is 'mapped' by the performer using a variety of percussion mallets, where the piano is segregated into 'zones'. It explores the piano as geographic territory and criticises the 'terra nullius' idea in Australian history.
All sounds and actions have a strong association to the film. The man's pencil moving around on the map become the performer's movement with a wooden mallet on the strings. The crumbling bark on a tree as it falls (after being bulldozed) are converted into the crunching sounds of bamboo. And the rock pick hitting hard rock in search of minerals turns into synchronised rubber mallet strikes on the stress bars. Footage of a large printing machine continuously and monotonously prints maps of Australia, which shows a heartless, corporate view that sees land as a product, with a false proprietorial, colonial mindset. The pitch choice played on the keyboard are a distilled reworking of the original triumphant music in the film. And the recording of the narrator speaking in Dutch emerges periodically throughout the piece which sits barely audible in amougst the sound field.

Work Details

Year: 2014

Instrumentation: Piano, electronics and video score.

Duration: 7 min.

Difficulty: Medium

First performance: by Tamara Anna Cislowska — 30 Aug 14. Playing with Fire Event, Performance Space, Western Sydney University

Further details on the composer's website.

Winner of the Winston Music ECF commission at the Soundstream Emerging Composers' Forum

Performances of this work

4 Nov 14: Soundstream’s Emerging Composers Forum, Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide, Australia.. Featuring Gabriella Smart.

30 Aug 14: Playing with Fire Event, Performance Space, Western Sydney University. Featuring Tamara Anna Cislowska.

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