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Ngannelong / Hanging Rock

Martin K. Koszolko: Director, Researcher

Affiliation: The University of Newcastle
Title of work: Ngannelong / Hanging Rock
Year: 2021
Length: 3 minutes and 35 seconds 

RESEARCH STATEMENT

Ngannelong / Hanging Rock is a music video resulting from my practice-led research into the affordances of mobile music and video making technologies. The video and field audio were recorded during one of the respites in between multiple lockdowns in Melbourne, Australia, 2020-2021. The track features samples recorded on location at Ngannelong, also known as Hanging Rock in central Victoria, Australia, where the people from the Kulin nation have lived for more than 26,000 years.

 

Ngannelong / Hanging Rock signifies the practical implementation of the model of setting-based mobile music creation (Koszolko 2021). In this model, I list a range of elements inclusive of Pre-production, Instrumental Performance, Mixing and Effect Processing, Algorithmic Composition, Sequencing and Post-production. The processes embedded in this model allow for the highlighting of the impact of the place on the creative outcome. Performative storytelling explored in my work is site-specific and relies on iOS-based technologies. The approach to production was one of relative simplicity, made possible through mobile tools. The video was shot as a single take with an older iPhone 6s, also used for audio field recordings. Video postproduction was accomplished with two iPadOS apps: Efekt, where visual effects were applied in real time by performing various gestures and LumaFusion for edits. Music was composed and arranged with the Korg Gadget app on iPad Air 2. 

 

The notion of place documented here, highlights multiple narratives and meanings, both global and personal. These include the historical significance of Ngannelong as a place associated with the traditional owners of the land where the recording took place. Another layer of meaning is reflected in the natural sounds of local birds as well as footsteps on the rocks captured on the iPhone recordings. On a personal level, the place signifies a location visited by the author and his family on several occasions where a respite from city living could be found. The personal meaning was amplified by the fact that the visit to Ngannelong was a first longer trip out of Melbourne after spending 167 days in the government-imposed Covid-19 lockdown. 

 

Music is a cultural resource that can add further meanings to spaces and places (Bennett 2022). The place of my creative activity is reflected in the title, in the location-based audio recording and, most explicitly, in the visuals. While the listener constructs the narrative “in response to available information within a track” (Harden 2019), the accompanying video is a source of a substantial amount of additional information and plays a significant role in shaping the viewers’ perception. 


In June 2022, this work was peer-reviewed, screened, and discussed at the Ubiquitous Music Symposium in Curitiba, Brazil (Koszolko 2022). Ngannelong / Hanging Rock continues my exploration of how mobile devices can be used for site-specific music-video creation. This video belongs to a series in which I have been exploring similar themes. Another example from this series is the music-video The First One (iubar project 2021), a finalist in the Eco Smartphone Films category at the 10th International Mobile Innovation Screening and Smartphone Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia.

 

PEER REVIEW 1

Which aspects of the submission are of interest/relevance and why?

The three and half minute music video, Ngannelong / Hanging Rock presents an intriguing fusion of representation of an ancient place endowed with cultural significance in Ngannelang country with contemporary consumer technologies. A minimalist and abstract piece derived from a simple mobile phone and hand-held approach has been enhanced with retro styled graphics and colour filters that evokes 1980s and 1990s music videos. Combined with the title, Ngannelong / Hanging Rock, the visuals and mis-en-scene engages in an intertextual play of meaning that positions the abstract forms issuing from electronic music as the means for sharing the significance of such sites. The overall effect is one that animates and brings forth the significance associated with this sacred place.

 

Does the submission live up to its potential?

The creator’s intention to document their own personal encounter with the site has the potential to be subsumed by the weight of the Indigenous heritage associated with Hanging Rock and how it registers an iconic Australian feature film. But employing a simple mobile phone approach organised around a single take, the artist delivers an everyday form that reminds viewers of how quotidian life is routinely represented through these ubiquitous technologies. At the same time, its relative simplicity is countered with some considered compositions that utilise negative space and careful matching of camera movement with musical tempo reminiscent of sophisticated music video techniques. Combined, the effect is trance-like and provides the basis for an innovative representation of this significant cultural site.

 

How does the submission expose practice as research?

The relative simplicity of Ngannelong / Hanging Rock belies a composite form and poses important questions on how Indigenous and western cultures may find common ground through appreciation of significant sites and places of meaning in the Australian landscape. For many, the title cannot but hark back to a milestone Australian feature film that made early efforts to acknowledge Indigenous placemaking and explore aspects of white colonialism. In the renaissance cinema of the 1970s, however, Aboriginal Australia was often consigned to an ‘exotic other’ with its customs and cultural heritage positioned as beyond the comprehension of western settlers. Such representations have become problematic in the face of understandings that highlight issues of cultural appropriation and how artistic expression negotiates it. These have become fundamental issues of representation and continue to pose important questions for research that explores mutually respectful cultural expressions.


In this work, a personal engagement with the contested history of Indigenous sites of significance is negotiated through an innovative, abstract form of music that combines simple visuals and effects to signal how the everyday can forge common ground between disparate cultures and times. Inhabiting spaces and coming to terms with site specific meanings is a universal human need and as such the work connects to the contemporary field of psychogeography. Still expanding from Guy DeBord’s concept, psychogeography continues to emerge and be explored through the kind of innovative and experimental forms echoed in Ngannelong / Hanging Rock. As research, the video explores the complexities of temporality and space in expressive and non-reductive audiovisual terms that challenges conventional western notions of knowledge.

PEER REVIEW 2

Which aspects of the submission are of interest/relevance and why?

The work has interest in its use of older technologies and mobile technologies in creating a site-specific music video. The linking between technology and place making – especially with the link to indigenous knowledge and placemaking make it relevant. 

 

Does the submission live up to its potential?

The video production is visually interesting and works well with the musical content and field recordings. The one area of weakness feels to be the narrative. There appears to be no central narrative to the piece and it more a fluid movement over a space, overlayed with visual effects from various mobile applications

 

How does the submission expose practice as research?

I can’t seem to find any particular research question the piece is exploring. The work does explore the technical and practice-based approaches to older mobile technology, field recordings, music videos and mobile music making. I am not sure if the work is innovative in its format – rather the format has been contextualised to mobile production. In the past, this may have been put together with video or film, in this instance the entire production can be situated on one mobile device. I am not sure if production platform shifting is innovation, but it is a practice and technology development.

RESEARCHER RESPONSE

I would like to thank the two peer reviewers for their in-depth analysis of the submitted work. As it turns out, each of the reviews highlighted different points which prompted me to expand on the original statement with the following information. I agree with Reviewer 1, that my work can be seen as a form of contemporary psychogeography which in my case goes beyond the realm of urban exploration and is presented as a music video by an Australian-Polish act KOshowKO. This expanded view of psychogeography is consistent with some of Sidaway’s (2022) reflections on the term, which feature examples of nature oriented psychogeographical accounts as well as related research of mobile ethnographers. As suggested by Reviewer 1, I have revised the initial title of the presented piece to highlight my personal exploration of the location where a large portion of the creative activity took place. And since both reviewers suggested revealing further details about my personal relationship with the site, I would like to expand my initial statement by briefly outlining additional background.

 

Before arriving in Australia in 2001, I was already familiar with the name ‘Hanging Rock’ after watching Peter Weir’s feature film (1975) as a teenager living in Poland. At this point in time, I was unaware of the historical significance of this place to Australia’s First Peoples and the film did not illuminate this aspect of Ngannelong / Hanging Rock. My several visits to the site in recent years, culminating with the in-between of lockdowns, December 2020, trip that led to the creation of the presented piece, have allowed me to see Ngannelong / Hanging Rock in a new light, as an adult, European migrant to Australia, now aware of the brutal aspects of white colonialism. However, my attempt at filming and field recording at the site is primarily a reflection of my own audio-visual perception, focusing on ancient rock formations seen from a perspective of a city-dweller who finds a refuge in natural settings of the place with significant cultural and natural value. The intended narrative represented an attentive walk across a small section of the site where, rather than suggesting any additional meanings visually or sonically, I attempted to portray the notion of a bush walk by shooting the footage in one take. To a small degree, this single take was later interrupted by the applied video effects, emphasising the vivid colours and light at the site.

 

In relation to my work with affordances of mobile technologies and the value of highlighting various details of my creative process, as suggested by Reviewer 2, I would like to state that the music production component is a result of an 8-year long exploration of the iOS-based ecosystem of music technologies, both hardware and software. In 2020-21, this production environment was relatively mature and able to bring multiple apps together in one of iOS’s digital audio workstations (DAWs). Nevertheless, being used to the flexibility of computer DAWs, I was aware of various editing and performative limitations that would appear when using a range of apps connected within an iOS DAW such as BeatMaker or a mixing app such as AUM. While the latter is particularly useful as a performance tool, I aimed to create a highly sequenced piece taking advantage of MIDI step programming and flexibly applied automation. For this reason, I chose to use a standalone, self-contained app called Korg Gadget. This app allowed me to overcome the challenge of fragmentation and less intuitive editing, which I would face by bringing multiple separate music apps into a production environment such as AUM, which I often use as well. Describing my iOS music creation process in more detail in a past publication, I have highlighted my desire to “to bypass iOS DAWs and focus on playing individual synthesizer apps,” as well as sequence music within the confines of a single app (Koszolko 2019). This approach was also evidenced in the piece presented here and necessitated by the production limitations of the mobile platform. However, these limitations were not a major restriction on the creative process, which was greatly aided by the immediacy and multifunctionality of used mobile devices.

Reviewer 2 has also asked about the availability of a journal documenting my creative process. While I did not create one for this piece, in the past, I recorded a video presentation outlining my musical exploration of an urban train environment, also created with similar mobile technologies (Koszolko 2020). To further explain my creative process, I would like to add that the initial music demo was in place before my arrival with a mobile phone camera at Ngannelong / Hanging Rock. This demo creation process included the implementation of the following elements of my setting-based model of mobile music creation: Pre-production, Instrumental Performance, Algorithmic Composition and Sequencing. After capturing the field recordings and video on site, I proceeded to expand the mix and musical arrangement by completing the elements inclusive of additional Sequencing, Mixing and Effect Processing, as well as Post-production.

 

REFERENCES

 

Bennett, Andy. 2022. “Sociological Perspectives on Music and Place.” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music, Space and Place, edited by Geoff Stahl and J. Mark Percival, 45–56. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Harden, Alexander C. 2019. “Narrative and the art of record production.” In Producing Music, edited by Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Jay Hodgson, and Mark Marrington, 263–278. New York: Routledge.

iubar project. 2021. “The First One.” YouTube video, 5:21. Accessed Oct 28, 2022. https://youtu.be/fYdiydXZCc8.

Koszolko, Martin K. 2019. “The Tactile Evolution—Electronic Music Production and Affordances of iOS Apps.” In Proceedings of the 12th Art of Record Production Conference, Mono: Stereo: Multi, edited by Jan-Olof Gullö, 187–204. Stockholm: Royal College of Music (KMH) & Art of Record Production.

Koszolko, Martin K. 2020. “Rapid Music: Machine Assisted Composition and Portability in Mobile Music Making.” Philosophy of Sound. Accessed 24 March 2022. https://philosophyofsound.info/rapid-music-machine-assisted-composition-and-portability-in-mobile-music-making.

Koszolko, Martin K. 2021. “Performative Storytelling: The Model of Setting-Based Mobile Music Creation.” In Mobile Storytelling in an Age of Smartphones, edited by Xiaoge Xu, and Max Schleser, 173–190. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Koszolko, Martin K. 2022. “Performative Storytelling: Setting-Based Mobile Music Creation in Action.” In Proceedings of the Ubiquitous Music Symposium ubimus2022, edited by Marcello Messina, Damián Keller, Leandro Costalonga and Felipe Ribeiro, 28–31. Curitiba: G-ubimus.

Sidaway, James D. 2022. “Psychogeography: Walking Through Strategy, Nature and Narrative.” Progress in Human Geography 46 (2): 549–574.

Weir, Peter, dir. 1975. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Australia: B.E.F. Film Distributors.

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