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A Little Noise Music - James Hullick Interview

Author: Denee Savoia
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Sono Perception combines computer programs, robots and Percy Graingermachines to create soundscapes like you've never heard or seen before. 3D'sDenee Savoia talks to sound artist James Hullick.

Composer James Hullick doesn't care if you like the sounds he creates. 'When I did my masters,' he explains, 'one of the examiners said, 'I have to confess I derive no pleasure from Mr Hullicks's work', so for me, it's not really about giving the audience a pleasurable experience.'

The 32-year-old Melbournian is part of an unusual collaboration of composers behind Sono Perception, a one-off performance showcasing psycho-acoustic art from some of Australia's leading sonic artists.

What the hell is psycho-acoustic art, you ask- Well, Hullick, the event's artistic director and a PhD in musical composition, describes it as blurring the lines between sound, music and noise.

'It's drawing out the obscure qualities of sound,' he says, 'and zooming in on the unusual aspects of the normal soundscape that we listen to in the world. It's got arabesques, and a lot of silence around those arabesques, and that gives the music a gothic form, a bit like a gothic cathedral- a dark sound that has a luminance about it.'

In fact, much of Hullick's work sounds like a horror film soundtrack. It's darker than a desert night and so tense, listening for long periods will give you a sore neck. Little wonder then that Hullick dreams about redoing the score for the Alien film trilogy.

But it's not the sound that's confronting. Hullick, whose own personal influences includes Radiohead, Nick Cave and David Bowie as well as Eliane Radigue, Lucciano Berio and CPE Bach, doesn't just record music - he has spent the past few years building bizarre extraterrestrial music making machines and letting audiences watch them come to life on stage, creating sounds like a live symphony of robots.

'I wasn't really satisfying the Lego demon that had grown up in me as a child,' he says of his decade spent studying music. 'I used to love building spaceships and stuff with Lego. I build the machines in my studio. Necessity drives the design, I try to keep the structures as simple as possible, but there's a lot of sawing of aluminium and cutting up of rubber.'

In this case, the end result looks a bit like a spider, which Hullick has dubbed a Gothalin - a kind of gothic violin. 'I've tried to animalise it and give it a form, so that the idea of it being the song of a Gothalin is a bit more emphasised. It gives people a bunch of symbols to relate to, and that taps into a lot of archetypal responses, which may not be there if it was an abstract collection of metal and violins.'

WHAT: Sono Perception
WHERE: Bay 20, Carriageworks
WHEN: Friday 20 June
MORE: carriageworks.com.au

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