“the union of sound and stillness, on par with all other living things. Not necessarily human.Massimo Ricci (Beyond the Dust)
The Hidden Valley is unceded Aboriginal land. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians, the Yuin people, on whose land these recordings are made. We pay respects to elders past, present and future.
Since the late 1980s Jim Denley has been musicking with the Hidden Valley, regularly hanging out there to play/record. This volume presents audio recordings and drawings co-created over a few wonderful days, with a band of human artists, critters, stones, trees, and energies.
Adam Gottlieb – stones and trees
Victoria Stolz – charcoal drawings
Aviva Endean – clarinets, plastic tubes, pocket amplifier and stones
Jim Denley – flute, gumnut, vocals and stones
Recorded in the Hidden Valley, Budawang Mountains, Yuin Nation, between November 22-24, 2021, by the artists.
Released December 12, 2022
Musicking and musickin (to use Hannah Reardon-Smith’s term) are inherently and eternally part of the Hidden Valley, and all musicians, human or non-human, delight in their special listenings and soundings. Yuin Nation musicians have been coming here to play for thousands of years, we too can show our gratitude, enter into reciprocity, and co-become with our musickin through everyday acts of reverence. With modern portable recording equipment, we are gifted this audio sourced from these playful improvisations, our Gaia songs, this geo-music. The voice of Budawang Bura is ancient beyond our knowing singing an old and novel song. The eternal orchestra is the sonic universe.
– Jim Denley.
Beyond the Dust
In Weather Volume 1: The Hidden Valley : Splitrec CD/LP/DL
Nick Ashwood Transparent Forms- Caterpillar DL
Two contrasting, magical releases by improvisers from Sydney, Australia, with Jim Denley the common factor. Since the late 1980s, Denley has played and recorded in the Budawang Mountains, south of Sydney. The Hidden Valley is the first of three “eco-musical offerings” he created there in 2021, as part of eco-improv project In Weather with Aviva Endean (clarinets, plastic tubes, stones), Adam Gottlieb (stones, trees) and Victoria Stolz (charcoal drawings). Denley is best-known as a saxophonist, but is here mostly on flute – “a sax is too heavy to trek up the mountains with”, he explains. But maybe the saxophone’s jazz heritage – which Denley wants to avoid – is another factor.
The non-tonal natural sounds here – buzzing flies and cicadas, stones rubbing together, water trickling – are heard as emanating from the physical world, but also as part of music’s acousmatic realm. They’re worked into the musical tapestry in an intuitive way. It has to be intuitive, because – unlike most jazz – there’s no rule-book and no academy for this kind of music.
Denley and Endean – who I first heard as a member of the Australian Art Orchestra at hcmf 2022 – are instrumental virtuosos. Victoria Stolz produces drawings included in the physical release. There was considerable editing, Denley explains. “Streaming” began as a ninety-minute improvisation; “Tones of Stone”is a complex mix. But “Hidden” was a two-track recording with little editing. Australia is now undergoing a revolution in its recognition of the indigenous voice, and Denley acknowledges the Yuin people as custodians of the land where the recordings were made.
Nick Ashwood’s Transparent Forms might be bucolic, but it’s entirely tonal – microtonal that is. Written in 2022 for a microtonal festival, it appears on Splitrec’s digital sub-label, and here features Ashwood (guitar), Denley (flute) and Laura Altman (clarinet). Over twenty-nine minutes, instruments dissolve to create an intense timbral unity. To paraphrase Schoenberg, Ashwood is a microtonal composer, not a microtonal composer – microtonality is just one aspect of his art. Transparent Forms is virtually a continuous performance, with brief pauses, and a careful multitrack mix. It’s a beautifully haunting work and, like Hidden Valley, a remarkable achievement.