The lyrebird does not remember, it only performs. (John Gould)

The Lyrebird Project is a collaboration between – so far – Josephine, me, sound artist Tom Kazas and actor David Adamson. It feels hard to write about, because the beginning has ended and we are in the middle (which I we hope will inhabit us for some time…). We have a radio play (written by me), which will soon be available for listening here, and a sound poem (written by Jo), also for the listening soon. These are now three dimensional sound objects which now live and cannot be slain.  I speak here as a writer of scripts, some of which cross a clearly defined border to another country called ‘production’, but many others of which are deemed not to be of good character and are left behind without rations.  So for me, the chance to ‘make’ rather than just write is a rare miracle.

But the lyrebird…What is it? Okay it’s this:

But, it is also the wonder of performance. That is, I can’t know where the consciousness of the performer resides while all this is going on.  I know the mechanics.  I’ve whistled up a lyrebird and watched the way it listens, though I think my inept offerings were not worth the spit to repeat them. But I don’t know how it deals with the concept of ‘magpie’ while it sings the magpie song.

It is also an exemplar of mimesis, or perhaps a metaphor of mimesis.  Aristotle, in Poetics, offers us mimesis as a far simpler concept than the subsequent thousands of volumes might suggest: actor gets up on stage, does a performance which creates some sort of imitation/commentary/deeper insight of the human condition. That is, we get it through experiencing performance, not through reading/listening to text. Not better or worse, just difference.

Our Lyrebird is also a book, The Land of the Lyrebird, which was first published in 1920 by Gordon and Gotch for the Committee of the South Gippsland Pioneers’ Association.  The book is a powerful kind of mimesis, a sort of sanctuary of memory, and perhaps – in a very Australian way – a melancholy of destruction and erasure.   I will write more on this in subsequent posts. Paul Carter has written extensively on this text in his The Road to Botany Bay.

So, for us – given what we are doing – the lyrebird is sonic.  Let’s go with that next…








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