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ClassicsOnline Home » CLARK, David Antony: Australia Beyond the Dreamtime
Interview with David Antony Clark for his album release 'Australia Beyond the Dreamtime':
Q: What were some of your impressions of your travels in Australia's Northern Territory?
David: It was absolutely stunning, like coming home - knock you out stuff. It was quite unlike anything I could have expected or imagined; the barrenness, the dryness of the landscape, the gigantic termite mounds, like strange architectural structures on the landscape. But what was most overwhelming was the age, you could almost smell the age. The land is so worn, so ancient. And there is an unbelievable quantity of wildlife, so dense. At night the noise was amazing, from crickets, night birds, frogs and creatures in the swamp areas. It 's like a sensual fiesta, almost an assault on the senses; the ears, the eyes, the nose are all going at once.
The Aboriginal art of Australia, if it is not the oldest in the world, it is amongst the oldest. The rock paintings are dated between twenty to thirty thousand years old, and when I saw them, it all made absolute sense. Ubir, one of the areas that I visited, has been continually inhabited for at least fifty thousand years, and yet it has been so little altered by its inhabitants.
You get a sense of the aboriginals' guardianship of the land, their guardianship is so apparent, you cannot separate the aboriginal from the land. I felt very much a twentieth century man, here I was with my cameras, my DAT machine. You can feel that this place has been continuously inhabited by human beings, your same species, for so long. Yet, virtually no impact shows for those tens of thousands of years. In comparison, modern man has built roads, airports, cities within just the last two hundred years. At Nurlangie, in Australia's Northern Territory, I saw areas that had carbon-dated signs of habitation going back sixty thousand years.
A large part of the ancient coastal area of Australia is now submerged. During the last Ice Age, about seven thousand years ago, the sea came many miles inland, and submerged much of the coastal areas. Originally, Tasmania was also joined to the main mass of the continent.
Q: What about the wildlife you saw?
David: You learn quickly to stay away from the *billabongs - especially at night! (*a billabong is a river during the rainy season, then as it dries out, it becomes a series of separated lakes and ponds.) The billabongs are inhabited by the crocodiles. At night, you can walk along the edge shining a torch, and see their red eyes reflecting back at you, all along at water level. There are signs everywhere, do not approach the water or you may get eaten!
By day, the bird life are amazing, hundreds of cockatoos all flying about. As we drove, I was constantly stopping to look at the spectacle. There were white bellied sea eagles, heron, beautiful doves, and very colourful lorikeets that were tame and friendly. I saw frilled lizards that were two to three feet long, and goannas that were about a metre high. There were dingoes and wallabies, but not so many kangaroos in the area that I was travelling in. I was there at the beginning of the dry season, so the land had not yet become so dry, but in the middle of the dry season, there are dry storms when lightning strikes can start huge bush fires.
The most overwhelming impact of my visit to the Northern Territory of Australia was for me the sense of such vast age, and the anthropology. This land has been inhabited for perhaps a hundred thousand years. This is such an ancient landmass, the oldest rocks in the world are in Australia, the original ranges are very, very old, and very, very worn.
My approach to my work is a bit idiosyncratic. I think for this kind of music, if the sound is too perfect, like a real drum, then it is not so convincing, so credible. So I like to create organic sounds that will fit the imagery. Mostly, I use samplers, because I like to use real sounds, ethnic instruments, like the didgeridoo, and animal sounds like the frogs and the birds. I also use the Korg Wavestation for nice warm synth washes.
During my visit to Kakadu, I tried to capture as much as possible with DAT recorder and camera. And through my album, I have tried to give a sense in the music of what it felt like to be there. My album 'Australia Beyond the Dreamtime' is an attempt to capture the feeling of the place, and to represent the ancient presence of humans in an impressionistic way. It's my tribute, but purely impressionistic, it's not meant to be historic in any way.
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