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To walk through the Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne during lunchtime is to experience a sonic journey in dynamic surround sound. From different corners come the sounds of hammer dulcimers, South American flutes, improvising saxophonists and duelling percussionists. A tram passes by as its bell is rung, while a political speech is made from the GPO steps and a preacher sermonises to anyone who will listen. This moving tapestry of sound experiences becomes a sonic organism in its own right, a gestalt metropolitan sound environment.

Nevertheless, most people are seemingly unaware of this environment, remaining alienated and estranged from it and its possibilities. At the close of the second millennium, the pace of life has grown exponentially and tensions have risen accordingly, especially in an environment such as the city centre where so many people come together for such disparate reasons. People rush through the city from one appointment to another, doing their utmost best not to look anyone else in the eye, to be noticed or to be diverted from their course for an instant.

In an era when globalisation has become a byword to justify particular economic policies of a free-market nature, the implications of this philosophy in other areas and on a microlevel seems to have been ignored. Individualism is the driving force in economic rationalist ideology while urbanisation and overpopulation, symptoms of this globalised age, are bringing together more and more people into smaller areas. Housing developments where affluent urban residents wall themselves off from outside social problems behind fences and security guards represent a rear-guard action against the creeping demands of a teetering, unbalanced economic order.

With globalisation overturning traditional notions of economic management, the overturning of social isolationism and individualism may be the unintended and unforeseen consequence, as people are forced by circumstance to confront the interlinked, intergrated and interdependant needs of people in a whole community.

Through the CITY FREQUENCIES PROJECT we wish to demonstrate that this urban communitarianism enatails an attitude of openness to the outside world, an awareness of the environment in which we exist on all its levels, social or otherwise. From this follows an understanding that we interact with and act within this environment and community, unwittingly or not, and we can therefore make decisions on how to respond to this challenge as we move into the next millennium.

This tendency towards interdependant, globalised, communitarianism does not, however, negate the uniqueness of individual communities or geographical areas. Indeed, Melbourne posesses a unique combination of geographical, socio-cultural and historical factors which are particularly evident in the central city area as expressed through its arts, music, cafes, restaurants and most importantly, activity on the streets, as individual people act out their hopes and dreams. It is through a globalised awareness of our interdependant concerns, where our actions have consequences throughout our community and through other communities, that we develop interest in and awareness of other communities' uniqueness and alternative modes of existence.

With the CITY FREQUENCIES PROJECT we choose to remain awake to the possibilities of this urban environment and aware of its moods and fluctuations. We intend to interact with it and make our own contribution to understanding and awareness through our chosen medium of sound. Sound acts not just as a metaphor for the ways in which people's actions, thoughts and means of existence within the modern city environment interact and combine, colliding and recombining. Sound is also an actual physical trace of these processes, actions and reactions, left as a mark on our perceptible environment.

To rush through the city with our heads bent down, never looking sideways lest our own path be compromised is not our intention and, as has been stated, is not commensurate with the irrevocable trends outlined above. This project will also showcase the uniqueness of Melbourne's sonic environment, giving it exposure so that it may serve as an inspiration for us as Melburnians and as an example for others.


In this project we plan to commence with a period of extensive field recordings, collecting the sounds that make up Melbourne's metropolitan sonic environment. This will involve recording the sounds of buskers, ambient sounds, musical fragments, public speakers, transport, leisure activities and, in short, anything that is taking place within the audible spectrum.

These sounds will be edited, followed by a process of experimentation as we explore the sonic potential of our source material. Studio manipulation in both the digital and the analogue domain will gradually build up sound collages, rhythms, atmospheres and urban soundtracks. We plan to use modern computer sound manipulation software in an innovative way as well as to develop new ways of using recording studio technology. Innovation will also play a part in the use we make of this unusual source material. These sound compositions will not only encourage people to think about their own interaction with their environment in a new way, it will encourage people to think about music and the medium of sound in a new way.


We will be releasing a CD of this material, structured as an audio journey through the domain of the modern metropolitan sound environment. Two record labels have already expressed an interest in releasing this work. Both these labels have recently signed distribution deals with a major Australian distributor and have potential overseas distribution deals currently in negotiation.

Secondly, we will be constructing a sound installation for the 2000 Next Wave Festival. This will be a live and improvised event where we shall set up a room or venue in which a sound environment can be constructed using the material we have collected and worked upon. For this live event we plan to collaborate with visual artists, principally photographers, who will build a visual dimension in the form of lighting, slides and images to complement the sound. The venue will be set up with comfortable chairs, drinks, etc encouraging people to relax and treat the evening as an environment rather than a concert. We will use a dynamic surround PA system, through which we can move sounds around within this virtual space. We plan to keep entry charges to a minimum, thus encouraging interest from a wide cross- section of people. Exclusivity is contrary to the philosophy behind this event.

We believe that this project will have wide interest beyond the Melbourne arts scene. Sound collage style music such as ambient music or dance music forms like trip hop and drum and bass are extremely popular throughout the world at the moment, not to mention the enormous audience for hip hop, an urban sample based street music. Recording labels, both independent and major, are broadening their artist repertoire to include these forms of music. City Frequencies will have content of interest to all these audiences.

This CD release will also be valuable in promoting the uniqueness of Australian culture and particularly Melbourne's unique cultural life, a reflection of its diverse multicultural society, to an international audience. In particular, we intend to acknowledge the buskers and people who contributed the sound sources for our work in the sleeve notes of the CD release. Those buskers and musicians whose work has been utilised in this way will receive a small commission for their contribution. In this way we wish to give something back to the community which has made this project possible, encouraging self-esteem and recognising the value of the work of these people who are often in an economically marginalised position.

Marketing will involve arranging interviews through networks such as public radio and community media. Other promotional tools such as flyers, posters and street press adverts will ensure that City Frequencies is able to access a wide and diverse audience.

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