Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grain of the Voice

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square, Melbourne, is hosting through four Sundays in October a retrospective of Arthur and Corinne Cantrill’s 50 years of cinema entitled Grain of the Voice; a unique opportunity to view the Cantrill’s films.

I first came to Arthur and Corinne Cantrill’s films through their soundtracks rather than their images, specifically Arthur’s early work with electronic/tape techniques, whilst researching the first volume of Artefacts, and then earlier this year when putting together Arthur’s CD Chromatic Mysteries: soundtracks 1963-2009. I subsequently discovered further the sublime manipulation of natural sound in Cantrill soundtracks that to me are a hallmark of Cantrill soundtracks, particularly in their landscape films. For me, the sound just as much as the images are parts of the landscapes these films convey.

The soundtracks for films like The Second Journey (to Uluru) and Corporeal contain subtle development of themes and motifs, almost as if they were painstakingly composed in advance. Whilst composition in some form (if not dots on paper) is no doubt a part of Arthur’s sound work, it is his choice of field recordings and their subsequent juxtaposition against other sounds and the accompanying imagery, that is one of the most extraordinary aspect of my experience of Cantrill films.

In several instances, including Meteor Crater – Gosse Bluff, the aural source materials used come from different times and locations to the images. Yet as the films screening as part of the Terra Australis programme (screening at ACMI on Sunday 17 October from 3pm) are testimony to, the Cantrills seamlessly fuse the visual and aural elements together to give us an experience of place that is alternatively impressionistic and yet steeped in the stark realism inherent Australian landscapes.

Arthur Cantrill’s sound work is featured on both volumes of Artefacts:
Volume 1 – Soundtrack for “Eikon” (1969)
Volume 2 – The Second Journey (To Uluru) excerpt (1981)

Arthur Cantrill’s Chromatic Mysteries: soundtracks 1963-2009 CD is available from Shame File Music.

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