Beneath the Surface

Putting together a new CD is a big job, but rewarding and fun (once you get over the hump of self-doubt; hours of listening to takes and impros that weren’t quite usable; dealing with coughing audience or bleeding traffic noises…)

The CD I have been working on recently is unusual in several ways. Primarily because it was recorded in a tunnel under Darwin. While you are reading, have a listen to my demo clip.

Entering a resonant space, deep under a hillside, and opening yourself to fall into the moment, into the sound waves… makes way for magic to be born. Music created spontaneously is an expression of things that one is not conscious of, and completely unable to put into words at the time.

Beneath the Surface features three musos “playing” a 172 tunnel, and the tunnel, in turn, playing sonic games with violin, shakuhachi and a field recording of the planet breathing.

Anne Norman – shakuhachi and poetry
Emily Sheppard – violin
Anya Tait – violin

In two pieces on this CD, Emily’s foot pounds the tunnel’s iron cladding while she plays violin, and Anja scrapes the rusty surface with an old credit card… just two of the interesting “violin” techniques used on this album! These sounds are just so amazing when bounced down a 172m tunnel… a very powerful and haunting journey.

So what is this Tunnel under Darwin???

Two months after attacking Pearl Harbour, the very same Japanese planes and pilots dropped an even greater number of bombs on Darwin. The extent of casualties from this bombing raid was hidden from Australia’s southern states, for fear it may cause panic. Darwin came under air attack 59 times in 1942 and 1943. The many hundreds of deaths were not made public until 50 years after the war. The construction of tunnels began following these first catastrophic air raids that destroyed fuel storage tanks, allied ships and airfields. Designed as subterranean tanks to safely store oil from future attack, many problems were encountered in making the tunnels leak proof… even the addition of iron cladding did not solve the problems. The construction budget blew out and the war ended before the tunnels were capable of actually storing oil.

Beneath the surface of our construct of reality lurk many things… and thankfully this includes mischievousness, fun and paradox! Here I am, an Australian woman who spent years studying shakuhachi in Japan, playing my little bamboo flute within a giant transverse subterranean flute, constructed in response to attacks by Japanese bombers. The world is upside down. Thank goodness there’s always a flip side. This tunnel may not be good for storing oil, but it makes a fabulous concert hall and recording studio!

If you would like to listen to the CD, you can stream the audio for free or download tracks or the complete album here: 
If you want to hear inside this tunnel in the flesh… then come to Darwin during the dry season. Here is our website:
For the archive, this was the Pozible campaign site where friends and generous strangers pledged their support in the creation of the CD in July 2016:
and the demo video clip with medley of 5 excerpts from the CD is housed here:
ALBUM REVIEW of Beneath the Surface: by Sonic Gallery:
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Empty Bottles

“Empty Bottles” is a long-winded poem on the drunkards’ middens of the Northern Territory, written in 1893 by William Aaron Millikan, my mother’s father’s father. When I first read his poem a few years ago, I was not enamoured of it’s form. It must be some kind of poetic convention of his day, I thought, and set about rewriting it to make it flow better! Rather presumptuous, but my attempts were not an improvement, so I put it aside.

Just tonight, I came across the poem The Raven written in 1849 by American poet Edgar Allan Poe, with it’s “nevermore” refrain. Aha! The form that great-granddad ripped off!  OK. Time to share William’s poem, warts and all.

“Empty Bottles” is a glimpse into a white man’s wowser perspective at the end of the 19th century in a remote part of Australia where aborigines worked on their confiscated lands for no pay, no thanks and no rights, and Chinese immigrant workers (“John”) were resented by the drunkard white population because they were hard-working, reliable, entrepreneurial and generally good citizens.

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cosmic dust

The ejected capsule will not re-enter the docking bay. If this were deep space, lives would be lost…

I give up on reassembling the space-age vacuum cleaner, and flop onto the couch. Glancing across the room, I ask, “So, what’s it like, not being able to hear conversations, or read a book?” Continue reading

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freznel fairy



a fierce and frazzled freznel fairy
flittered free of fraynel fold
fluting flying fleeting flouting…
returning once the tales were told




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Sarah Anne Rocks

what happened here
long ago
that your rocks all stand on end?

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look star!

Dave Reynolds – Photographer The view from the campsite at Frankland River, Tarkine, March 2016.
I like im.
I like im camp outside
because of course you got to sleep outside,
you got to feel im that wind and look star!


a snippet from one of my favourite poets, Bill Neidjie, from his book Story About Feeling.
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Monster Duck

… the hidden meaning of haiku

On Tuesday 5th, in South Hobart, all performances finished, I was preparing for a recording session scheduled for the next day. Having finished writing my part of a collaborative score for a new duo with Emily, I was reworking a haiku I wrote on the first day of our trip on our way to the Tarkine nearly 2 weeks ago.

Now I had two versions of the “same” poem; I liked the first, but felt the new version would be perhaps better as a freestanding allusion to my experience. Not sure which I should record, I asked Emily’s young ten-year-old housemate, Avian, for his advice. He agreed to help, and promptly lay down on the couch with eyes closed, listening attentively.

I read him the first version of my haiku and asked him to tell me what he pictured. (As he didn’t know the context of where we were camping, I thought his response would be helpful. Which it was!)  Here is his explanation upon hearing the first version:

lapping sound of clouds
landing duck scatters mountain
raven caws the morn

Avian: Well, a bunch of heavy clouds come down and slap the top of a mountain;
then this really gigantic duck flies down and lands on the mountain & smashes it to bits;
and a raven cries out when he sees the mountain explode.
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