Discover the sounds of Birdlands Reserve

Artist Peter Mcilwain is taking group soundwalks every Saturday at 10pm. Pictures: PARKER MCKENZIE.

By Parker McKenzie

When going on a soundwalk at Birdsland Reserve with artist Peter Mcilwain, you’ll learn a lot about how sound interacts with the world.

Mr Mcilwain, a former lecturer in music composition and sound design, speaks with knowledge and authentic passion about the natural sound present within the reserve.

“I’m trying to get across with people who do the walks that sound is not just this thing that gets piped into your ears through headphones, and you gobble it up like a candy bar,” he said.

“You experience it by what you do. You’re walking in a space and you experience the changing weather, the animals and the people that are running backward and forwards around you.”

A soundwalk is a listening exercise designed to focus attention on the characteristics of sound which are often overlooked.

From birds chirping in the distance to the running of the stream, everything heard on one of his soundwalks is a lesson in the way noise and frequency interact with the environment around you.

Mr Mcilwain said the Birdsland Reserve is the perfect place for the lessons to take place.

“On the bank where we were listening to the whole soundscape, you can hear the faint rumble of the city if you face towards it,” he said.

“That embankment is kind of like a barrier between the rural sound world and the city sounds.”

Birdsland Reserve provides listening experiences rich in natural sounds that proves perfect for what Mr Mcilwain wants attendees to experience.

Mr Mcilwain said once the different aspects of sound are brought to people’s attention they quickly notice what they hadn’t before.

“If I was to ask you to describe sounds you’d have a hard time and you’d have to use analogies,” he said.

“When I’m doing these walks I’m just aiming to help people appreciate sound because we live in an environment and a culture that’s visually dominant.”

The soundwalks are held once a month or by appointment via www.bentnail.artbirdsland-soundwalks.

Bookings are essential for 10pm walks because of limited spots.

The project is supported by funding and facilitation from the Yarra Ranges Council.