Ollie Bown and Ben Carey: artists-in-residence June 2016

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey on the Gunyah jetty, June 2016
We arrived at Gunyah with winter setting in. Soon we had our makeshift digital music studio set up in the living room, facing out to the harbour: two laptops, a pair of studio monitors, a few mics, a small array of synths and Ben’s alto and tenor saxes. The winter-hideaway atmosphere of the wood cabin instantly announced its offering of creative juices — a roaring stove, bangers on the grill and a stock of wine and whiskey, a short descent to the jetty through the crisp winter air and crackling fallen leaves. Working into the first night we knocked up an array of raw material for our composition, and by the end of day two we had spread this out into a full 45 minute skeletal arrangement, puzzled at the possibility we might really produce 45 minutes of studio music in two weeks. This flow continued; essential ‘regular’ work during the day, dinner and intensive studio work into the night, some sax lines recorded against the warm acoustics of the timber cabin, a couple of essential work trips back down to Sydney, getting intimately familiar with the wrinkles of the M1 whilst making ‘field recordings’ of rumble strips, or listening to draft mixes of the track, to make best creative use of the time.

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, Sound recording gear on the Gunyah jetty, June 2016

Our residency was punctuated by the 2016 East Coast superstorm. Plans for mind expanding winter hikes and kayaking during the weekend were replaced by an all out weather warning lock-down, nervously pondering the stability of nearby trees and the building’s very own foundations. We were reassured by the documentation of its construction by hardy bare chested Aussies of the 60s or 70s variety in faded photos on the kitchen wall. Another trip down the M1 was rescheduled to avoid the Sunday night brunt of the weather, the skies cleared, and lunches on the jetty were resumed. One moment of harbourside ultra-serenity, biting into a ham sandwich, was taken to perfection by the sudden splash of a dolphin fin, meters away, then a scattering of others at 20 second intervals drifting into the distance, all set against a backdrop of pelicans and a hovering eagle. We fumbled our phones and pondered the possibility of putting our land-based microphones into the water to capture dolphin talk, before settling for this as a perfect memory, like people used to do. At other times the extraordinary silence of this region provided a source of great spiritual refreshment. 

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, North Arm Cove at low tide, June 2016

The track was carefully chiselled away in countless pass-throughs and we did indeed produce an LP-length work by the end of the residency. This is now going through continued listens and fine-combed edits before we book in a final mix. The piece develops through four quite diverse movements with the aim of maintaining a steady rhythm and seamless continuity. Pacey vibraphone and synth layers sit behind multi-track sax riffs, giving way to jittery breakbeats and plateauing in a prog-inspired modulating synth array. From this studio work our plan is to pull apart the composition and pitch it as a large-scale, long-form interactive performance piece combining instrumental musicians, digital interactive and mechanical elements, portraying vignettes of different industrial eras.

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey 
Gunyah residency report June 2016

Ollie Bown and Ben Carey, Working at Gunyah June 2016, video - link

To find out more about Ollie Bown's and Ben Carey's work see olliebown.com and bencarey.net