Timor projects – field recordings and songs

I’m thinking a lot about what musical outcomes I’d like for this Timor residency.

Field recordings

This week I’ve been thinking about some of the people I am likely to meet and music they may be able to share with me. I imagine I’ll be recording a lot of things – songs, conversations, sounds. How might I use this recorded footage? In the past I’ve created soundscapes and recorded textural pieces that weave together field recordings of people and environmental sounds as a backdrop to onstage performance. For this project I’m thinking about using instrumental solos as a foreground over this kind of background.

Tiny will be joining me in Timor from December. He has his own musical priorities for this visit, but he will be bringing his sax with him, and is keen to build his own interactions with local musicians. One thing I am imagining is that Tiny could improvise over the field recording ‘ sound beds’ and that this could become a further performance and/or recorded outcome.

Children’s songs

Something I keen to get stuck into in my first weeks there is building up a collection of children’s songs in the local languages. These can be a mix of songs that I learn from people there, and transcribe/record, and songs that I bring with me that are in English or other languages that can be translated into Tetun and Fataluku. Songs formed a major background of the children’s music projects I worked on in Bosnia in the 1990s. Songs were a way of drawing children together, and introducing them through lyrics to people and places in far-off countries, and to concepts that were supportive of their well-being and happiness. Nigel Osborne is the musician and humanitarian who established the project in Mostar that I was involved with, and I remember him explaining to me:

We started with songs from the local area, as a way of saying to them, Yes! You have a culture and it is a rich musical culture, worthy of celebrating! The River Neretva runs through Mostar, so then we followed the river out to the Mediterranean and introduced songs from countries that have a Mediterranean coast – Dalmatia in Croatia, Italy, Greece, Albania, Tunisia… and many others. The Mediterranean led us to other oceans, and with each new ocean we learned more songs from those countries the ocean touched, until we found ourselves back in Mostar again.

This song project had been running for at least two years by the time I joined the program. When they ran out of oceans, they started with themes, such as Animals. In this way, all the school workshops had a shared focus for activity, and the musicians and teachers could use the songs and the general theme they supported, as a jumping off point for more creative work.

Therefore there is huge currency in songs. My contacts tell me that there is only a very limited range of children’s songs that are sung in Tetun language (and even fewer in Fataluku) so a detailed song resource is something that many people could make use of. It feels like a solid starting point for my residency, and is a project that can be ticking over, a little at a time, throughout the 12 weeks I am there. I also hope to expand outwards from songs into clapping games/songs and dance. I hope that the children there can teach me the games and songs they already know, and that we can enter into an exchange. Earlier this year at the Language School I asked the students to teach me some of the clapping games, songs and rhymes from their country. I filmed their demonstrations, then taught some of them to student teachers at Melbourne University. Those students (who are all younger than me) then taught me clapping games that they remembered from childhood. These kinds of exchanges can stretch very far, very quickly!


2 comments so far

  1. Hanne on

    Hi Gillian,
    Your project sounds wonderful. I am wondering how you went with building your resource of children’s songs? I am a student educator spending time in Maliana in November/December 2015 and am interested in learning children’s songs in Tetun before the visit.
    Thank you,

    • Gillian Howell on

      Hi Hanne, In the end I wasn’t able to collect many songs. Lots of reasons for this. The book ‘Lian Husi Klamar’ that you can buy in Dili (at Arte Moris, you could buy it), has some children’s songs included in it. I posted a lot of videos to my Youtube channel and some of these included children’s songs. Have a wonderful project! I have a friend heading to Dili and Lautem to do music projects in Nov-Dec, maybe you will cross paths.

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