Deep Listening

This article was originally posted on Tunnel Number Five FACEBOOK page on 13 August 2016,
three days before the festival of underground music began.  1,198 people reached

From Tuesday to Saturday, here in Darwin, we have a chance to practice Deep Listening in a remarkable venue that enhances our ability to sit still and open our ears. Many audience members will find their eyes naturally closing to enable them to more fully enter the world of sound.

For each of the performers in Tunnel Number Five, their music is an expression of something deep and beyond the personal. In many ways, the act of creating or playing music is a spiritual act. Spirituality is not a topic often bandied about in the conversation of many modern folk, but it is something that lurks at the edges of our understanding of ourselves and our place within this small planet. And the arts, especially music, can give us a moment to connect with that inner place.

I was recently interviewed for Radio National and was asked why I find the acoustic space I am performing in so important. For me, and for all musicians – whether they play improvised and spontaneous music or composed and deeply rehearsed music – the way in which sound travels and bounces within a space… the way in which it is modified by that space – is as important as the way in which a collaborating musician responds to your sonic gestures.

When a musician walks into a space (especially one as resonant as Tunnel Number Five) she is acutely aware of the sonic reflections around her; the “aliveness” of the space… just as a visual artist will be concerned with the way in which light bounces off surfaces, creating impressions of colour; or the way a surfer is able to assess the refractions of ocean swell and wind-whipped waves around headlands.

Taking time to sit still, in the company of others, is a tradition that exists in every culture in various forms. There is a power in the act of communal stillness. Attending a concert of quiet music gives us this opportunity.

I have been following with interest various articles by and about Daly River elder Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann and her tradition of Dadirri: deep listening to the land. There is much to learn from the elders of this land. I am so excited that Jason Gurruwiwi is able to join us in Tunnel Number Five to sing his Yolngu songs.

Not long to go now…

Anne Norman
Artistic Director of  Tunnel Number Five: festival of underground music  


This photo taken after our last gig on August 20, 2016 in Darwin. Henk Rumbewas, Adrian Gurruwiwi, Anisha Stitfold, Sarah Hopkins, Jason Gurruwiwi, Anne Norman, Netanela Mizrahi, Ernie Gruner, Sebastian Bararrwanga.
Top Banner photos: LH photo: Netanela Mizrahi, Henk Rumbewas, Anne Norman, Sebastian Burarrwanga, Sarah Hopkins, Jason Gurruwiw, Anja Tait, Ernie Gruner after the first gig on August 16th, 2016. RH photo: Jason Gurruwiwi accompanied by Adrian Gurruwiwi on Yidaki during the third concert on August 18th, 2016.

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Reviews & Responses

to my album: Beneath the Surface – music for shakuhachi, violin and tunnel

Recollection of a dream by  Joh Schellenbach

It is night.
I lie in bed in semi sleep,
lulled by the counterpoint of frogs and owls
booming from my garden below.
I’ve been trying to still my unquiet mind
by focussing on my breathing and listening.
A simple awareness.

I’m in a lighthouse
at the base of its spiral stairs.
The walls are aglow with a soft hued pulsating
myriad coloured light.
I proceed to climb
drawn by a strange and entrancing music
coming from above.
Is that a shakuhachi or a violin I hear?

Some way up I pause and look back
and the stairs behind have disappeared
and all is fading to black below.
The one I’m on is turning translucent
and starting to feel spongy
and I’m sinking down.
I make it to the next one just in time
before it too disappears.
I keep climbing, pursued by darkness.
The music keeps playing.
It is the only thing that
saves me from giving in
to the fear I now feel.

Ahead the colours are changing
to a pulsating darkening blue.
I make it to the top
to a door that’s locked and bound
and beat against it, in panic now.
But just as the last step disappears
the door bursts asunder with a flash of bright red light
and I am sucked out
weightless into the night sky

I look down and see my little house below
nestled amongst the trees
lit by moonlight.
And as I continue to ascend
the hills and forests that surround,
above me is an aurora of multi coloured lights.
There seem to be figures dancing within it
beckoning; We are here, come join us …

Their unspoken voices sound familiar and inviting,
and the music too has crystallised now
into something I know.
It is by Rameau, from one of the ballet suites,
my father’s favourite CD as he lay dying in hospital.
Just as I’m about to be drawn into the light
I awake with a heavy thud as if fallen from a height

Outside the frogs and owls
are still singing their song.
It seems almost as though
they too are calling.
But it’s a different tune:
Stay with us,
a time longer yet.
I get up, and read
a few more pages
of Finnegan’s Wake.

posted by Joh Schellenbach on my FACEBOOK page on 25th August, 2016.
Such a lucid and beautiful dream and fabulous wordsmithing.
Thanks for sharing this Joh. Glad my Beneath the Surface
had a part in this bubbling to the surface… Anne


Just got your CD btw. I’ve listened to half of it intently with headphones on, and it is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!
The first real album that I’ve heard that plays with space. And space as an instrument. It’s a truly ‘live’ album as it ‘places’ you there.

There are dozens of ‘live’ rock albums that never really capture that something special that being there captures. And I think a lot of it is that the listener can never really place themselves in with the musicians. With this, you can, and are forced to.

It’s a quick wake up call to why one mic one room jazz recordings sound so special; or the old recordings where there is a fair bit of ‘bleed’ in the recording through all mics; and certain dirty ‘live’ albums do capture that something special. With headphones, it feels like an intense live performance in the sense that you are an invisible spectator in a live concert. You can be in the space, and listen to it like a voyeur, intimately.

Sound without context of space is hard to internalise or personalise I think; we are animals that only really hear sound as a spatial element. Since music doesn’t really exist and is only a collection of sounds, this makes the music more real as sound. Coupled with the fact that in comparative theology there exists a deep archaic tendency of humans wanting to connect to mother (Terra) earth, and the longing, ultimately, to return to the womb… This being an underground tunnel makes that connection to the ultimate spiritual connection.

Anyway, I will post a review and write up about new album on Facebook soon with a link🙂Yyan Ng.

Yyan became rather busy with his wedding preparations, not to mention his many design and building projects… gastronomic creations… and music making… this man doesn’t stop!  So I never did get the complete review, but this is rather magic, so I thought I’d include it. Thank you Yyan. David Matthews (location sound recordist) will be chuffed to read this.

Rockpool to rockpool,
Seeking novelty, seeking life,
In each one, something beautiful,
In each one some surprise.
Then to the next, and the next,
Each time brighter, stronger, until,
The next.
…… ……… Drew Mills 

Drew was my surprise final Pozible Angel – a stranger who generously took
the CD project through to full funding stage and made it… well… pozible.
I posted him the CD with two accompanying handwritten haiku
from the rock pools of Nitmuluk National Park in NT.
This was his poetic response. Thank you Drew.

And from Le Tuan Hung of Sonic Gallery:

The music and poetry in the album flows effortlessly from the first to the last track to create a mesmerising journey which is rich in colours, pace and emotion. Anne Norman demonstrates her mastery of the shakuhachi as well as her in-depth understanding of the spirit of Japanese contemplative music in Sarus Cranes which opens the CD. Her exquisite rendering of traditional Japanese Zen music is heard again in Dragon Dreaming in which the traditional melody Tamuke is presented as an offering to the amazing sounds of ocean swells supported by a very sensitive violin accompaniment by Anja Tait.
… Rain Now and Then is a stream of delicate melodies born of a masterful control of breath. In Whispered Shadows, soft multi-phonic elements of the shakuhachi and voice come and go behind or in-between walking rhythms of recurring patterns, creating a surreal impression.
… The improvisations … reveal the exceptional power of collective and spontaneous creativity. Listeners are led through various landscapes of sounds and emotions by the magical sounds of the shakuhachi at play with the violin(s) through space. The last track, Beneath the Surface, is so rich in audio images that it sounds almost like an artistic cinematic soundtrack condensed into a timeline of less than 7 minutes.
This CD should be listened to as a whole (and on headphones) to experience the flow of music and emotions in a space that has been transformed into a higher purpose.

ALBUM REVIEW by Le Tuan Hung of Sonic Gallery.
Full Review here:

See related blog on the making of the album:
Posted in LightFlutes, Music, my meanderings, reviews | 2 Comments

how to publish

in a quandary…

I have been writing a long-winded novel for kids over many summers (the only chance I get to work on it each year for a month or so)… and the first 3 books in the series are complete (just been re-reading them from last summer before launching into the next season of writing).

It’s lonely writing a novel… and there is a lot of self doubt in the process. Especially since it is for kids not adults… what do I know? So… now the question is, how to publish. Who to approach… Do I need an agent? Should I just launch the saga via installments on a Patreon-style website where patrons pay a small weekly fee and I upload a few chapters a week plus bonus files of music or poems or essays along the way… ? Does that really work?

How to know where to start…

as I said… in a quandary…

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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:
For reviews & responses to this Album, please go to:

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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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