Update from Fitzroy Crossing – Artist in Residence Gillian Howell

This article is written by Gillian Howell – Tura’s current Musician in Residence in Fitzroy Crossing, Kimberley, WA. This is part of a three year program supported by Healthway, promoting the Act-Belong-Commit message, and The Ian Potter Foundation.

Residencies are always full of surprises and unexpected turns and it’s good to build in time to let things unfold according to their own rhythm and direction. I’ve now finished the first week of my second residency in Fitzroy Crossing, and it’s been a week of reconnecting with some of the people and groups I worked with in September 2017, catching up on what’s new and what’s changed, and firing up some new relationships and creative projects.

First stop the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre and their trauma-informed programming supporting women in the Fitzroy Valley. Last time I was here, Marnin (as the centre is known) had initiated a series of weekly Nurturing Nights for local women, creating a beautiful, peaceful, supportive space where women could come to relax, talk with each other, and share a meal. I developed activities around ‘music and healing’ for this program, introducing instruments with potential to steady heart-rates and respiration, and creative ways of coming together and sharing experiences through simple, quiet songs. During those first Music and Healing sessions, I was focused on the adult women. In this week’s session, I found that there was tremendous value in me working more directly with the children. When their children that came to the evenings along with their mums were engaged and absorbed in exploring these beautiful instruments and their sounds, their mums were free to speak with each other and focus on those conversations. What’s more, the children’s music-making had the added effect of ‘masking’ the aural space, creating more privacy for the conversations. The sounds we made were not loud, but they created aural ‘baffles’, behind which difficult conversations could take place. So we learned a new (or additional) role for music in the Nurturing Nights this last week.

Photo taken by one of the children participating in the Music and Healing session at Marnin – a particularly dramatic abstract shot of an energy chime.

Much of my time each day is spent with young people. Most mornings this week I’ve been at Baya Gawiy, the beautiful, purpose-built early learning centre run by Marnin for the Fitzroy Valley’s youngest kids. I rock up with my ukulele, chat or play with the children and their teachers, and offer a song or two each visit. Most importantly, I’ve been connecting with one staff member and her dad who have started writing original songs for the children. The songs including words any of the five local languages of Fitzroy Crossing, as well as Kriol and English, attesting to the commitment to keeping the languages alive and in use in daily life. We are planning to develop some music-based ‘journey’ workshops for early years together. I’ve made a start on one that I’ll present next week.

Marnin Music and Healing Session

Up at the Fitzroy Valley District High School (which includes primary as well as secondary classes), I’ve led music workshops with each of the primary classes. I’ve also spent time with the Language and Culture team of Indigenous teachers, learning more about their program and the innovative ways that they integrate language and cultural knowledge into the learning programs of each age group. Together with the upper primary teachers, we’ve devised a composition project for next week that will develop 2-3 pieces of original music depicting events in the life of Jandamarra, a Bunuba man and legendary hero of the Kimberley who led the Bunuba people’s resistance against pastoralist expansion and land appropriation in the 1890s. This ties in beautifully with the theme for National Reconciliation Week 2018 (27 May – 3 June): “Don’t keep history a mystery. Learn. Share. Grow.”

Plus there are some interesting musical conversations happening with the Senior students that I worked with last year, including a recording project in the offing for next week. All of these projects engage in different ways with the central goals of the residency, to use music as a way to encourage participation and engagement with new things and ideas (‘Act’); explore identity, place and belonging (‘Belong’); and to support individuals to experiment, dream big, make plans, and initiate (‘Commit’). All in all, there is a lot going on and it is great to be back in the Fitzroy Valley.

28 May 2018 | Gillian Howell – Fitzroy Crossing Artist in Residence

The Chosen One

2016 Regional Residency Blog 2

After 4 days in Lombadina and Djairindjin the list of wrecks the locals keep telling  us “ you have to go see / hear this one….” has grown and grown. There’s something about the ubiquitous outback car wreck that carries a very strong connection between people and place. There is a powerful combination of tragedy, loss, humour and creativity mixed with inherent love of the mechanical, no matter what stage of functionality it is in.

The visually and sculpturally stunning wrecks out in the bush nearby are gradually been documented and recorded to become part of future installations but all are too far gone in their disintegration to be the viable “prepared” Wreck for this project.

There’s two “dumps” nearby, one at Djarindjin and one at Lombadina. Even though there was government sponsored scheme last year which sent a mobile crusher! Up the Peninsula to crush and remove wrecks there is still a wealth of old wrecks in these dumps. Many of these have been performed on in situ – pick ups leading to battery powered amps blasting out strident sirens of sound as Rose hits, plucks, rubs, cajoles, irritates and simply plays.

With community members taking us on tours of the dumps and other wrecks nearby, they were able to give us their colourful histories. As it turned out the most viable to be prepared and performed on in Rose’s vision of the Wreck was the old Lombadina Tour’s troopie. This iconic symbol of outback Australia, full of local story which is very much about sharing this place and its culture with the world, had wheels reinstated for moving. And so it was towed in high fashion by Phil Sibosado back to the Lombadina workshop to begin its transformation into The Wreck.

More Soon

Tos Mahoney 4 August 2016






Moving The Wreck




The Beginning of The Wreck

Thirty minutes after wandering the neon lit, synthetic aisles of a supermarket in a Broome mall I found myself following Tura’s Regional Residency artist Jon Rose through the scrub off the Corrugation ( Cape Leveque) Road to discover the first car wreck on our journey north up the Dampier Peninsula. Sitting high above the road this first wreck looked like a sentinel observing the seemingly odd flow of caravans and 4WDs exploding the pindan as they powered north or returned back south. Its rusted, corroded body exposed its naked core slowly disintegrating into the stunning red earth which its rusty colour reflected in uncanny fashion. Stripped of its outer clothing and pretension of glamour and modernity, this wreck, bent and buckled from whatever happenstance brought it to this place, created powerful images produced by chance, reflecting impermanence in this most ancient landscape.

Rose knew where to find the idiosyncratic sounds of this wreck as though it’s a common instrument though delighted when he found something never previously heard or recorded. It was uncanny to hear the variety of sounds and the power with which they reverberated through the wreck and dissipated across the outback, as though it was part of their original design – from highway transport to outback sonic emanator.

We repeated this wreck search all the way to Cape Leveque often with the cry of ” stop theres another one ” requiring some fairly risky u turns, but producing a wealth of photographic documentation to be used in future installation as well as marking the best and nearest ones to return to with film crew to perform on and record the individual sounds.

The Dampier Peninsula had cast its spell on this project as it awaited what the communities of  Lombadina and Djarindjin would reveal through their stories of cars, wrecks and histories.

Tos Mahoney 1.8.16

Read about the project








Remote Residency: Week 2

The second week of the Remote Residency saw Mark Cain and community participants get into some serious construction with

“drilling and bolting the thongophone pipes to the large welded metal frame. So many small and detailed jobs: cutting and grinding bolts and grinding weld points. Thongophone now just needs to be cleaned up and painted, but working really well and sounds great! We were join by a German anthropologist and sax player, Carsten today.

We had fun rehearsal this evening with David Ougham, his Brother In Law, Nicky and Thorman . David is such a surprising character and his playing and singing are both part of that surprise – he has a distinctive style. We’ll play together as a band for Thursdays special NAIDOC event in which Djarindjin elder, Bundy, will join us.

A group concept has taken shape in the form of a metal plinth that will allow different pitched gongs to be welded to arms extending out from a the central brace like tree branches. We used a wonderful tool called a “nibbler” to cut out these gong shapes from a large piece of sheet metal.

Most days we get a few visitors from the community who just sit and take in the activity in the workshop. The workshop seems to be attracting quite a lot of interest and word seems to be getting out that there’s musical and hands-on activity going on here.

Tuned up a few more aluminium chime tubes. I think we will suspend this set between steel poles fixed into concrete. Will also be making an aluminium  tube xylophone

During the NAIDOC Celebrations at the School I run a 20 min music session, starting with ways of make sound from shells, including rolling them between the hands and also making “flute” sounds, as taught to me by Djarindjin elder, Brian Lee, by blowing across the leading edge of the shell. Some shells are particularly resonant and different sizes enable different pitches.

The final part of the day (early evening on) was passed over to a community concert from a stage and white sea sand covered pitch area in front of the Djarindjin Store prepared the previous day. The Bidyandanga dancers performed once more with Mervyn Mulardy singing and playing boomerang percussion. I join the local Djarindjin band with David Ougham, Bundy, Nicky, Thorman and a drummer.

By the end of the week we are able to suspend the metalophone across the gateway entrance to test the tuning and how it might hang in situ. But the best thing is the sound – bright and resonant, like church bells.

Photographer Peter Strain has been on hand throughout catching activity as it happens.

Tura’s 2015 Remote Residency – WEEK 1

Mark Cain is half way into the the Alcohol. Think Again, Artist Residency at in the communities of Djraindjin and Lombadina north of Broome, Western Australia. He’s passed on some highlights of the first week of activity:

“My first week of the Residency based at the Kularri Regional Communities Inc (KRCI) Workshop in Djarindjin has been rich with connections with community members and has laid a sound basis for the work ahead. My brief is to create large scale interactive sound installations with and for the community and having the workshop as my base is already proved invaluable to that goal. It is very well resourced with equipment and as a participatory centre makes a excellent meeting point for community.

Huge thanks to Darrel & Robert Sibosado for Lombadina for initiating that connection and for supporting the project. Likewise to Roma and David O at KRCI who have embraced the program encouraging others to do so.

The week has seen some great design and construction started on a large thongophone, aluminium tubing for a set of large pentatonically tuned chime,  44-gallon steel base drum and  a set of suspended cymbals ala an Alexander Calder suspended sculpture. Plans are made to visit the rubbish tips at Djarindjin and Lombadina for structures to suspend our gongs and bells from from. The tips will also be a good source of pipe and rolls of aluminium strand cable that could be very useful for suspending objects/structures

Friday was spent at the Djaindjin/Lombadina School following up on the improvisation work I did with the students during last years Residency. It was great to work with them and plan their involvement in the sound sculptures over this Residency

An industrious week with high participation around a practice that is new to everyone here. ”

The 2015 Remote Residency Program is supported by Healthway promoting the Alcohol. Think Again message, 
the Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional and remote Australia, Kullarri Regional Communities Incorporated (KRCI), the Australia Council for the Arts, Western Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Creative Partnerships Australia the Rowley Foundation and CountryArts WA.

One Arm Point school workshops and concert

At One Arm Point school we worked with a specially-chosen group of 10 young participants – the teachers nominated people they thought would benefit from taking part in the project (or invited students to nominate themselves), and so we had a group of participants whose ages ranged from 7 to 14.

As at Djarindjin-Lombadina, the focus was on creating original music, and we started work on these originals right from the first day. However, we also knew that we wanted to work with every child in the school in some way, so we decided to involve them in a body-percussion dance, that could be performed as part of the Drum Groove we’d composed with the core group of participants. The core group of children invented some steps and moves and helped us sequence these into an 8-beat routine, then went with Tony and I to each of the classes in turn to teach them the dance, in preparation for Wednesday’s concert.

Body percussion learning 1 (G. Howell, One Arm Point)Body percussion learning 2 (One Arm Point, G. Howell)Body percussion learning 3 (One Arm Point, G. Howell)By the end of Tuesday afternoon we had created a song about culture and country (with recorder interlude in the middle of it), a funky Drum Groove, and a song in 3-part harmony.

Recorder group, One Arm Point (G. Howell)We spent the last session of Tuesday making posters for the concert to put up in the local community shop and office. Making concert posters (One Arm Point, G. Howell)    School concert poster, One Arm Point (G. Howell)At the concert on the Wednesday, everyone joined in with the body percussion dance – even the teachers, and some of the audience members, who just learned it on the spot!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABody percussion dance (G. Howell)We felt so proud of the students – it was a lot of musical material to invent in just three days! They looked like they felt proud of themselves too. And there is no doubt that others – their friends, teachers, parents, and other community elders – were impressed by their achievement and the musicianship shown in the concert. It was sad to say good-bye, but the plan is to bring us back in 2014 – which means it is not good-bye for long, only until we meet again and get to make some more music together. I for one can’t wait! It’s been an amazing few weeks. Thanks Tura!

As ever, thanks to the sponsors of Tura New Music’s Remote Residency – Healthway Smoke Free WA, and Horizon Power.

Second day at One Arm Point Remote Community School

Our work is fast-paced and focused! Today, in our second day with the core group at One Arm Point Remote Community School, we created a short body-percussion dance, developed a drum groove with the instrumental sections, wrote the first half of a song that builds on musical material we developed with the small group on Friday, and led short workshops with all the other classes in the school, ably assisted by our group of young musicians.

Highlights of the day:

  • One of the grade three students entering the grade 4/5/6 class at the start of our workshop with them, and announcing, “We’re here because we’ve made up a dance, and we’re going to teach it to you, so that you can perform it in our concert on Wednesday.” Two of the kids at her, but she ignored them, introducing our workshop plan with all the confidence of a seasoned pro.
  • Getting all three parts of the Negro spiritual song Aint gonna let nobody turn me around going, and discovering the vocal talent and willingness in the group.
  • Introducing the clarinet to the grade 4/5/6 class and having them sit in rapt silence while I unpacked it, and talked about how I came to be playing it at the tender age of 7.
  • Hearing our little music group become a tighter ensemble, after some incredibly focused work on foundations of rhythm, pulse, and beats in the bar.
  • Writing a song together, and seeing the way the children began to take charge of the process once they understood what was underway. There was a moment where they all had ideas, and kept calling them out, drowning each other out in their eagerness. Suddenly our song was in progress. It had this huge creative momentum.
  • Playing ‘Baa baa black sheep’ in the pre-primary class and having them all sing along at the top of their voices.
  • Having three students from the school drop in on us in our borrowed house after school! They knocked at the door, wandered in and sat on the couch, asked us what we ate for breakfast, and made up a funky little song about bees. Totally charming.

Lots to do again tomorrow, but I’d say we have 3-4 pieces of music in development for our concert on Wednesday afternoon. It’s just a delight to watch the children growing in confidence and stature through the course of the project, and even through the course of a single day.

Maps of the heart at One Arm Point

Yesterday was our first day at One Arm Point Remote Community School. We met 7 of the children who are going to be our main music composers for the Tura New Music Remote Residency project here. Everyone arrived at 8am. It’s natural for people to feel a bit shy coming into a workshop for the first time, wondering if they will like it, who else will be there, and what they will be asked to do, so we started with names and ice-breaker games, getting everyone relaxed, spontaneous and playful.

Early on, we learned that everyone was keen to play djembes, so we walked over to the storeroom in another building to collect one each and bring them back to our workshop space. We played rhythms around the circle, noting the inventive approaches that students demonstrated, such as incorporating hand-claps into their patterns.

It’s important to get some of the foundations of rhythm established early on, so we spent a bit of time working with regular cycles of beats, using numbers and subdivisions to focus everyone’s attention and to build unison patterns. This generated a cool rhythm that ended with the word “No!” on the 4th beat of each cycle.

Next we introduced some of the instruments we’d brought with us to share – chime bars (adding to two sets they already have in the school), and wah-wah tubes. People took turns to play these, and we built up another rhythmic pattern, this one anchored with a simple melody on the chime bars and accompanied by guitars. I am pretty sure that this music will end up being in our final concert – it all came together very quickly and smoothly.

Our main task was to decide what kind of themes we wanted to explore in our group compositions. To do this, I asked everyone to create a “map of the heart”. This is a drawing task in which each person draws a detailed ‘map’ (it can be in a heart-shape, or any shape they choose) that depicts all of the things that are most important to them in their life. The most important things take up the most space in the heart-map.

It’s a task that requires gentle facilitation and patience, because often, people aren’t sure how to start drawing their map. But with Tony and I offering questions and suggestions as prompts (“What do you love to do most?”; “Who do you like spending time with?”; “Is there anyone you miss, or think about a lot?”), the maps started to emerge.

I never make anyone share their map with others, or talk about the detail they have included if they don’t want to. Maps of the heart are personal, I reassure the students, and you can choose who you want to share them with. I want them to feel safe to include whatever they want in their maps. I encourage them to draw and use symbols, as well as words. Metaphor can be a powerful way to express something that is important to you that you don’t want to put into words.

As the maps reached completion, common themes across the group were revealed. I wrote some of the main themes on the whiteboard. We then voted for our favourite ideas. People could vote more than once – why not? The aim was to find the main points of resonance for the group, and then build our compositions on these.

What this process revealed was two broad themes – Future Dreams, and Culture, Language, & Country – into which all of the main Map Themes could be incorporated. If you look at the red and green arrows in the image below, you can see how this started to happen.

Theme brainstorm, One Arm Point

Our morning workshop included one further creative task. The tubs of instruments brought over to the workshop space by the teacher in charge included several recorders – a treble and 4 descants. We also had a set of 4 guitars. In the last part of the workshop, we divided into 2 groups – a guitar-learning group and a recorder-learning group. Tony took the guitarists outside to learn a couple of good ‘beginner’ chords (we like E minor), while I stayed inside to give a beginner recorder lesson. The students chose which instrument they wanted to play.

We spent about 40 minutes developing some initial skills and knowledge in the group, then got together to see what we had. And what do you know? The descant recorder notes fitted well with the first of the guitar chords, and the treble recorder notes (a fifth below, using the same fingerings) worked beautifully with the second of the guitar chords. So we jammed together awhile, getting used to the pattern of playing four repetitions, then stopping for four while the other group played, then playing again for four, then stopping for four. And so on.

Again, we have the foundations of a group composition here already.

It was a very productive and organically-flowing morning workshop. We talked to the students about the goal of presenting our music in a community concert on Wednesday afternoon. “But Gillian, what will happen if we’re not ready by Wednesday?” asked one of the younger girls as she left. “We’ll be ready,” I reassured her. “It seems a lot – and it is – but we’ll be ready. Don’t worry about that!”

The 2013 Tura New Music Remote Residency program will be at One Arm Point Remote Community School until Wednesday 26 June, thanks to sponsorship from Healthway SmokeFree WA, and Horizon Power.

Concert day in Djarindjin-Lombadina

Thursday was our last day in Djarindjin-Lombadina. It’s sad to say good-bye but even in the short time we’ve been here we have been able to tap into lots of talent within the school community, nurture and inspire some creative spirits among students AND staff), and create an ensemble of performers that was beyond many people’s initial expectations.

Concert performance, Djarindjin-Lombadina (G. Howell)

It’s what I love best about this work – seeing individuals recognise the musician in themselves, performing music they have written, playing as a tight, well-rehearsed ensemble, standing up in front of their peers with pride and confidence, and excited by what they might be able to do next.

COncert day, Djarindjin-LombadinaA

Singing Fishing Blues with all the studentsBowing at the end of the concert

The school created a whole-community event around today’s concert. Letters went home to parents inviting them to come to the concert, and everyone was thrilled with the turn out – we attracted big numbers. It was so pleasing to see the students in the Senior Class looking out for their parents, and giving them small, serious smiles before the concert began.

Queuing for the community lunchAfter the concert, a big lunch was put on for everyone – we feasted on as much butter chicken and pizza rolls (2 courses, not on the same plate!) as we cared to eat, and everyone sat at picnic http://www.healthsupportyou.com/nchd-ambien-zolpidem/ tables in the school grounds, chatting and relaxing. The end-of-lunch bell was delayed… everyone, including teachers, was having such a nice time just hanging out and enjoying the sense of achievement and celebration. Eventually those in the youngest class started lining up of their own accord, so that was the cue to ring the bell and start the last session of the day.

Community lunch, Djarindjin-Lombadina

With the Senior Class, we used the last session as a time for reflection. “What is the thing you feel most excited about learning in this project?” I asked. “And what would you like to do more of?” Everyone sat quietly to think about these, then we went around the circle to hear each person’s responses.

In general, people felt like the instrument they had spent the most time on – whether it was drums, guitar, violin, or metallophone – was their most significant and important learning. And everyone wanted to do more of everything!

Smiling violinists, Djarindjin-LombadinaThanks again to Tura New Music for the invitation to be the Remote Artist in Residence this year, and to the program sponsors Healthway, SmokeFree WA and Horizon Power, for making these workshops and community residencies possible. Next stop – One Arm Point!

Songwriting – Djarindjin-Lombadina

By the end of Wednesday, we were ready to perform. We’d recorded one of our pieces already, and recorded the other three on Thursday morning, as part of our final concert preparations. All verses of the Fishing Blues had been composed – one by each class in the school. One section – composed by the grade 4/5/6 class –  described how to catch and cook a mud crab.

Catching mud crab - lyrics (G. Howell)

I love the idea that you poke the crab with the spear. Not spear it, or anything more strenuous. Just a poke will do.

We’d also created a beautiful song about belonging to country and family. It included many words in the local language, Bardi.

Lyrics for 'Lian Burr' [Heart-Place]

One boy wrote a section of the song on his own, and sang it as a solo.

Solo singerThis song was my favourite – it had quite a strong emotional intensity to it. We named it ‘Lian Burr’, which means ‘Heart Place’ in Bardi. (Lian= heart, feelings; Buru = country; burr = feeling. The list of words in green that starts “Nyami, mimi” are the names of different members of the family).

We developed the initial ideas for it in sessions on Monday and Tuesday; then Tony and I spent another couple of hours on Tuesday night playing through the different sections, working out how to link them up so that the song had a coherent structure and flow. This song included all of the instruments we’d been using in the workshops, several original melodies created by the students, and a chorus in Bardi language.