Ears Have Ears: Unexplored Territories in Sound

Ears Have EarsOne of the coolest radio shows is the world is Ears Have Ears, featured on Australia’s FBi Radio 94.5fm, every Thursday night from 9-11.  Artists love the show so much that they contribute original music, with an emphasis on soundtracks.  Ears Have Ears is a great resource, and will provide newcomers with days of new music.  Mainstream radio may be stagnant, but the variety of creative contributions on display here is enough to renew one’s faith in radio as a venue for pushing things forward, rather than preserving the status quo.  Even better: in the modern era, one need not possess a large transistor radio to tune in to the show.  All one needs is a computer and the desire to be engaged!

At A Closer Listen, we review a lot of experimental music and receive five times as much as we review.  But to find so much quality experimental music in one place is astounding.  Presenter Brooke Olsen and Executive Producer Scarlett Di Miao have done all of the work for us.  We can’t imagine how much music they plow through to get to the very best; we only know they have succeeded.  We recently caught up with Scarlett for an interview; interspersed with the questions are a selection of some of the program’s best original soundtracks.  After reading the interview and listening to the samples, check the links on the bottom of the page for more!

Hi Scarlett, congratulations on an amazing show! For readers new to your program, please introduce us to Ears Have Ears.

SD: FBi Radio’s Ears Have Ears: Unexplored Territories in Sound presents weekly experimental soundtracks, unique performances and unusual mixtapes created exclusively for the show by artists whose musical output is simultaneously exciting, innovative and at times challenging. The brief is simple, artists are asked to dream up a soundtrack of their own imagining. The results range from sound art, radiophonic work, experimental music, free jazz, psychedelia, electronica, noise, bent dance music and sounds which teeter on the forefront of new music. Alongside feature contributions, Ears Have Ears also showcases the best in forward thinking music. If it’s unique, curious and undefinable you’’ll hear it on our show!

Perth duo Cycle~ 440 has produced some amazing work in the past, but this evocative soundtrack, a beguiling mix of piano, glitch and drone, may be their best work to date.

While many artists consider themselves to be experimental, a much smaller percentage actually fit the definition. What needs to be present in order for you to consider a piece of work experimental?

SD: That’s a tough question. ‘Experimental music’ is a subjective term and has become quite broadly encompassing now yes. For me personally, experimental music is about artists challenging our pre-conceived notions of what sound and music is by exploring the outer limits and possibilities of sound making.Through Ears Have Ears, Brooke and I work with artists who experiment with sound in a variety of unconventional ways and approach music making in an unorthodox or forward thinking manner. It’s also great when artists just have fun with sound too! Bum Creek are great at that.

Melbourne’s Children of the Wave offer a soundtrack that sounds like a film, with narration integrated into the mix.  This particular soundtrack contains field recordings, unused recordings, and a track from their 2012 album The Electric Sounds of Faraway Choirs.  Now all we’re missing is the video!

3) To what extent does experimental music need to be accessible to wider audiences in order to make an impression outside of the field?

SD: I think it’s really important that experimental music is made accessible to wider audiences because it enables people to discover new approaches to music making, as well as providing musicians from underrepresented genres greater exposure. Brooke and I really enjoy encouraging artists from a variety of styles and musical backgrounds to explore news sounds with their soundtrack contributions, which sometimes helps open up an artist’s audience base too. We aim for people who listen to our show to discover something entirely new and unique about sound every time they tune in.

Before he was 0point1, Melbourne’s Bob Streckfuss was 0.1.  This unreleased ten-minute gem can only be found on Ears Have Ears.  Similar in tone to The Dance of Mechanical Birds, the track takes listeners on an ever-changing percussive journey.

Your show has taken the phrase “imaginary soundtrack” to a new level. In so doing, you’ve exposed a clear gap in the film industry. Hundreds of films are released each year, but quality soundtracks are rare. Clearly some of the artists you feature could do a much better job at scoring than those who actually do so for a living. In a way, your Soundcloud page serves as one giant multi-artist resume. Have you contacted any producers with this idea?

SD: We have been in touch with film producers before yes, and we love putting forward our soundtrack contributors for independent Australian film scores when the opportunity arises from time to time. The artists who compose imaginary soundtracks exclusively for our show put a lot of time into creating such long form pieces, and we like to see them get the most out of all their hardwork, so we are currently exploring new ways to get our archive of soundtracks more exposure through other mediums.

Sydney sound artist, author and curator Gail Priest presents a “stream of consciousness” that combines music, field recordings, internal monologues, layers and loops to create a complicated miasma of sound.

Please name a few instrumental soundtracks that you admire, as well as a few films that you felt could have benefitted from better scoring.

SD: Oh there are so many to choose from! Some stand outs for me would include Irréversible’s soundtrack by Thomas Bangalter (2002), the Snowtown soundtrack (2011) by Jed Kurzel, Colin Stetson’s score contributions to Rust and Bone (2012), 12 Years A Slave (2012) and The Rover (2014), and the Patience (After Sebald) soundtrack by The Caretaker. I feel like horror film scores have left a lot to be desired in modern times and could benefit from better scoring. Horror films made between 1970s -1980s had some fantastic soundtracks – like Goblin’s work with Dario Argento, The Exorcist and The Shining soundtrack? Those scores were incredible.

You have been given funding to produce your own 20-minute movie. What’s it about, and who’s doing the score?

SD: I would do a short-film remake of the Australian 1975 classic Picnic at Hanging Rock with Oren Ambarchi doing the score.

James Domeyko and Shane Fahey contributed the first soundtrack to Ears Have Ears, and it remains one of the best.  Beginning with sparse piano, it progresses in waves, finally reaching a frenetic pinnacle.

In your opinion, what single Australian recording artist has the most distinctive and original sound? What others do you recommend to our readers?

SD: There isn’t one particular Australian artist that stands out for me, I feel like collectively the music our experimental community outputs on a daily basis has crafted a distinctive and unique Australian sound that is something truly special and needs to be heard. If you tune into Ears Have Ears you’re sure to discover some great Australian experimenters worth checking out.

How can experimental artists get played on, or contribute a soundtrack to Ears Have Ears?

SD: Get in touch with us by emailing Brooke Olsen and I at info@earshaveears.com. If you’re an artist who delves into the weird and wonderful world of experimental sound, we’d love to hear from you!

A Closer Listen thanks Scarlett Di Miao for her time and congratulates Brooke and Scarlett once again on an incredible show!

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