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Breath

By Ryan on January 12, 2020 8:50 am

As I am sure a lot of you are aware Australia has very literally been on fire this week and although I am very fortunate not to have experienced this disaster first hand, the effects of it have been inescapable.


Just 2 days ago my partner was ushered off of the road to make way for dozens of military vehicles travelling to fire zones amidst a smokey twilight. She described feeling as though it was the end of days. The closest fire to us is 150km (that's about 100 miles in the old language), yet the smoke is strong enough and thick enough that we have to close up our house at night in order to sleep without coughing up a lung. I can't even imagine what it is like for those who are living through this on the frontline. I don't think I have the facility to comprehend this.


Earlier this week I was contacted by local musician and former weeklybeater Tristan Louth-Robins who was putting together a compilation of experimental South Australian music and was taking submissions. The purpose of this compilation is to raise funds for those effected by the fires and I'll post details here as they become available. This piece is my submission to that compilation.


Breath is a collab between my partner Kelli Rowe and I, it comprises 6 free-running tape loops whose volume, pan, and eq are defined by a number of random processes and evolve and change over time. All of the material contained in the loops was created/collected during the turmoil of the last week.


I was inspired to write this piece by a trip to the supermarket. While packing groceries in my car I overheard two men discussing the recent bushfires and within minutes both men became violently angry towards each other. Their anger was not aimed at the fire, climate change or our lacksadasical government, their anger was directed squarely at each other. Both men felt as though they knew how they personally could have prevented such a disaster and both men disagreed with the others idea. I found their disagreement to be pointless, ignorant, even disrespectful. I mean, can you imagine losing an entire farm, watching thousands of livestock burn to death, shooting those who were unlucky enough to survive (very true story) and then be told by some useless luddite that he had the answers all along! Disgusting.


So what is the right response? I have no idea. My partner and collaborator, Kelli Rowe, works for a suicide prevention organisation here in Australia. Day in day out she is supposed to help people in crisis, talk to people who are at the end of the line, in situations and circumstances that most of us (who have the luxury of composing music in our spare time) will never even get close to. The model used by Kelli's organisation is built on one idea, sitting with the pain. You listen, you offer no support, no encouragement and definitely no solution (as if there is one) and by doing this you take on some of this trauma. It is a surprisingly simple idea to just listen to someone but so many of s find it so hard to do.


I like tape loops because they are chaotic and unpredictable but hidden inside there is music if you want to find it. Kelli and I wrote breath so that you could spend a little time listening and sitting in the pain.

This submission is licensed by author under CC Attribution Noncommercial No Derivative Works (BY-NC-ND)

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January 13, 2020 12:42 am

Well said and well executed with the piece.

January 13, 2020 1:51 am

I think it's definitely worth taking a moment to contemplate the unimaginable devastation taking place there.  Some really cool sounds good for getting into that listening headspace.  Stay safe!

January 13, 2020 7:19 am

the field recordings are haunting... Thank you for sharing your story.
I'm living in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne, We are pretty far removed from the actual catastrophic fire zones, occasionally we get some haze over the city - But ultimately anyone closer to the very real disaster, especially those breathing in the very air probably feel like they are in a constant oppressive environment, not even able to breath in the air.

Would love to hear the release - Hope you post it to the forums too

January 13, 2020 1:06 pm

Thanks for this, and for the stories, it's great to be reminded of how this disaster is affecting ordinary people every day. Great sound effects, the chattering animal soundscape in particular is really eerie, especially in the context of the devastation to the animal populations.

January 13, 2020 3:26 pm

I'm on the opposite side of the globe but I have been having nightmares about what's happening in your part of the world. Thank you for creating this track, it helps me reflect on the reality while awake. Keep us posted on the compilation, I will share news about it around when it's released!

January 13, 2020 3:46 pm

This is gorgeous and haunting. I don't even know how to approach it critically because the backstory is so heavy. Those men arguing are like so many of us observing a disaster from far away, unwilling to help but also in denial about it. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience. Stay safe.

January 13, 2020 7:28 pm

Unreal. It feels so restrained but chaotic at the same time. The way it all fits together reminds me of the soundtrack for the movie Sunshine. Very well done my man.

January 16, 2020 3:12 pm

The warble and ambience of the tape loops give off a very cinematic and surreal feeling.  The lows of the track put you right in that moment.  Like in a movie where the character sustains a blast injury.  Excellent job! Stay safe!

January 17, 2020 3:57 am
rdomain wrote:

Well said and well executed with the piece.

Thank you sir.

CosmicCairns wrote:

I think it's definitely worth taking a moment to contemplate the unimaginable devastation taking place there.  Some really cool sounds good for getting into that listening headspace.  Stay safe!

Couldn't agree more, thank you for listening.

Aday wrote:

the field recordings are haunting... Thank you for sharing your story.
I'm living in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne, We are pretty far removed from the actual catastrophic fire zones, occasionally we get some haze over the city - But ultimately anyone closer to the very real disaster, especially those breathing in the very air probably feel like they are in a constant oppressive environment, not even able to breath in the air.

Would love to hear the release - Hope you post it to the forums too

I'll be sure to share it once everything is up. Thanks for listening.

hieme wrote:

Thanks for this, and for the stories, it's great to be reminded of how this disaster is affecting ordinary people every day. Great sound effects, the chattering animal soundscape in particular is really eerie, especially in the context of the devastation to the animal populations.

It is terrible what has happened to the wildlife here. Loss to wildlife is being measured in the billions which is heartbreaking.

Gab Manette wrote:

I'm on the opposite side of the globe but I have been having nightmares about what's happening in your part of the world. Thank you for creating this track, it helps me reflect on the reality while awake. Keep us posted on the compilation, I will share news about it around when it's released!

Thanks Gab Manette, I'll be sure to let you know once everything is finished i think it will be a good collection local music.

license wrote:

This is gorgeous and haunting. I don't even know how to approach it critically because the backstory is so heavy. Those men arguing are like so many of us observing a disaster from far away, unwilling to help but also in denial about it. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience. Stay safe.

Thank you for your kind words.

onlyjokinen wrote:

Unreal. It feels so restrained but chaotic at the same time. The way it all fits together reminds me of the soundtrack for the movie Sunshine. Very well done my man.

Thanks for listening.

Tone Matrix wrote:

The warble and ambience of the tape loops give off a very cinematic and surreal feeling.  The lows of the track put you right in that moment.  Like in a movie where the character sustains a blast injury.  Excellent job! Stay safe!

Thank you. The filter in the Digitakt is really nice for big low end I love what it does to pretty much anything.

January 17, 2020 5:06 pm

This track is haunting and we'll executed considering the context. To me this is a fine demonstration of how music can vastly convey human experience. ❤️ For Australia and I wish y'all the best.

January 19, 2020 4:56 pm

Our thoughts in the U.S. are with you all!  We had a ceremony in our tiny urban orchard garden on old 12th night where we sang to the tree's & put toast in the branches for the wildlife & poured a little wassail into the ground as an offering... we designated some of the trees for healing hopes, hopes for friends, & wishes for ourselves & tied them to the tree's... my friend wanted a special note for the koala's & all the suffering right now where you are - you are all very much in our hearts & on our minds... please keep us posted on how to help

this track is really powerful & moving

January 19, 2020 5:21 pm

forgive the extra post but i'm feeling really haunted by your partner's ordeal & what you witnessed between your neighbors... and overwhelmed at the thought of how  many wb friends in this global community are going through such an active & post apocalyptically scary experience right now....  thank you for sharing your thoughts about sitting with the pain with each other - this feels like a really helpful/hopeful act

sitting with all of you wb friends

January 20, 2020 12:29 am
kaedo sevaada wrote:

Our thoughts in the U.S. are with you all!  We had a ceremony in our tiny urban orchard garden on old 12th night where we sang to the tree's & put toast in the branches for the wildlife & poured a little wassail into the ground as an offering... we designated some of the trees for healing hopes, hopes for friends, & wishes for ourselves & tied them to the tree's... my friend wanted a special note for the koala's & all the suffering right now where you are - you are all very much in our hearts & on our minds... please keep us posted on how to help

this track is really powerful & moving

kaedo sevaada wrote:

forgive the extra post but i'm feeling really haunted by your partner's ordeal & what you witnessed between your neighbors... and overwhelmed at the thought of how  many wb friends in this global community are going through such an active & post apocalyptically scary experience right now....  thank you for sharing your thoughts about sitting with the pain with each other - this feels like a really helpful/hopeful act

sitting with all of you wb friends

Thank you for your kind words and thank you for listening. Sometime tomorrow I should have a link to the compilation on which this track features. All proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to Australian CFS. It's not much but it's a good start.

January 20, 2020 4:14 am


Thank you for your kind words and thank you for listening. Sometime tomorrow I should have a link to the compilation on which this track features. All proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to Australian CFS. It's not much but it's a good start.[/quote]

super - thank you!

January 20, 2020 12:17 pm
Aday wrote:

the field recordings are haunting... Thank you for sharing your story.
I'm living in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne, We are pretty far removed from the actual catastrophic fire zones, occasionally we get some haze over the city - But ultimately anyone closer to the very real disaster, especially those breathing in the very air probably feel like they are in a constant oppressive environment, not even able to breath in the air.

Would love to hear the release - Hope you post it to the forums too

Gab Manette wrote:

I'm on the opposite side of the globe but I have been having nightmares about what's happening in your part of the world. Thank you for creating this track, it helps me reflect on the reality while awake. Keep us posted on the compilation, I will share news about it around when it's released!

kaedo sevaada wrote:

Our thoughts in the U.S. are with you all!  We had a ceremony in our tiny urban orchard garden on old 12th night where we sang to the tree's & put toast in the branches for the wildlife & poured a little wassail into the ground as an offering... we designated some of the trees for healing hopes, hopes for friends, & wishes for ourselves & tied them to the tree's... my friend wanted a special note for the koala's & all the suffering right now where you are - you are all very much in our hearts & on our minds... please keep us posted on how to help

this track is really powerful & moving

As promised here is this compilation link https://tristanlouthrobins.bandcamp.com/album/waves-for-kangaroo-island

January 20, 2020 6:27 pm
Ryan wrote:

As promised here is this compilation link https://tristanlouthrobins.bandcamp.com/album/waves-for-kangaroo-island

Thank you! I'm going to share the link on Twitter smile

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