Hearing distance


The atmosphere is so clear in Antarctica that you can hear sound from great distances, if the wind stops.

When ANARE radio operator Colin Christansen recalled hearing birds from a great distance on Heard Island, his voice became quite animated.

Listening to my recording of his account, moving forms suggested themselves in my mind, and I animated Hearing distance.

I began by importing the edited sound file in one layer of Flash. On another two Layers, prepared with continuous blank key frames, I annotated words and drawings to synchronized with the voice.

I was not interested in merely illustrating the spoken words, so this provided a structure within which to improvize.

These Layers were later erased and replaced by animated gestures developed as Symbols.

Words – such as ‘remember’, ‘lull’, ‘cove’ and ‘wild’ (life) were used as titles for these Symbols. I often placed them within the timeline anticipating the spoken words, rather than synchronizing with them, in the same way that thoughts anticipate words.

The idea of remembering suggested the head symbol used by Nolan:


This Symbol represents inside Colin’s head – where his thoughts gather. It also suggests my own, and yours, if you are watching this.

A horizontal line gently lowering becomes the lull in the wind, and it straddles the internal and external landscapes.
The line suggests a hand outstretched, gesturing ‘hush’.

The shape and sound of the letter ‘O’ are echoed in the circular head symbol – and the circular motion of erasing it, to draw you towards the distant place – or rather space – where the wild birds are.

A wild bird combines with an ear, the circling spool of a tape recorder, the tape itself and the wave forms recorded, and lines of ice and rock, to physically connect the wildlife, the landscape, and the listener. They merge to become one with ‘wild’ nature.


Into these moving drawings, I bring to bear some of the feelings remembered from my own experience. Standing on a still day on top of Mount Henderson, inland from Mawson, I heard penguins calling from the distant shore. Because I dance and draw, a large part of that experience resides within my body in gestural and visual form.

I have projected my own experience into my response to Colin’s words.

How objective is our listening and responding?

Movement improviser Al Wunder became well known amongst his students for advising that any response we make to the work of other improvisers is a reflection of ourselves. What we tend to notice resonates with something already within us.

Can further listening and responding move us beyond that, to extend our understanding of other people’s experience?