ABC Radio (New Media Arts) Artist in Residency, 2002 with the Listening Room

<<< an oral history in the form of a musical/radiophonic composition >>>

Black's ABC comissioned major work, "The Ears Outside My Listening Room" wins prestigious international Prix Italia award for best 'Music-Composed Work'.  This is the most recent ABC win in this category since 1989.

"This programme was a unanimous choice as the winner in this category."
"It created a mood and sustained it throughout, with the speech and music adding up to something distinctly more than the sum of their parts."
"...lived up to their claim in the accompanying written material that here was a patchwork sonic quilt that can be passed down the generations."

- Prix Italia Jury Report
September 2003


For the full Judges Report click here


You can hear this award winning radiophonic composition in The Listening Room on December 15th at 9.00pm on ABC Classic FM.


"The Ears Outside My Listening Room ...will endure as a classic."

- Robyn Ravlich, Executive Producer,
Acoustic Arts Unit, ABC Radio
5th August 2002

"Voices are burned into my auditory memory rendering them unforgettable ..."

"... both a celebratory and a melancholic work about the fragility of existence ."

- Gail Priest, Arts/Music Journalist
RealTime magazine, No.52 
December 02/January 03

"It is the human themes and Black's clever composition that bind the stories and music together."

- State of the Arts - Arts New
1st December 2003

The Ears Outside My Listening Room

by Colin Black


The Ears Outside My Listening Room, an oral history in the form of a musical/radiophonic composition in four movements Family, City, Country & Creation.


It's about people, it's about the differences between us and the common themes that bind us. There's no actors, presenters or politicians, there's no contrived speeches or text. It's a work starring real Australians. It tries to testify how it feels to live now. It trades in the real currency of our living culture. Currency meaning not only the richness and wealth, but also the liquidity and transient nature of living Australian culture. It takes a snapshot of our country, our people, our time, our diversity, our culture and tries to preserve it in an album of emotive musical, sonic collage.


Music entwines the recordings of real Australian's speaking voices and soundscape to make a patchwork sonic quilt that can be passed between the generations. These are the words and voices of the ghosts of tomorrow. Like fingerprints and DNA each voice is unique and this piece will help the detectives of tomorrow to look back and understand the spirit of their forefathers.


The work contains the whispers of a 5 year old child's wishes, indigenous dreams for the future uttered in Pitjantjatjara and Arrente, a 90 year old lady's unfulfilled childhood hopes, the passion of celebration, the sound of the farmer's battling voice and responses to the big question, how did we get here? It contains voices form all over our country, from the homeless to Professors, farmers to accountants, highfliers and job seekers share the same sonic space. It explores our multicultural identity in terms of languages spoken within Australian homes.


My inspirations for this work came from recordings of my childhood and in particular a cassette recording of my late grandfather talking about his life, in his words, with his voice. When I listen to this tape, it feels like his spirit is with me and I am reminded of where I came from, my place in the world and how I have changed. I see that the ABC is to Australia what that cassette tape is to me.


The Ears Outside My Listening Room, is exactly that, the ears of the world outside my listening room (where I listen to my tapes), the ears that I use to listen into snippets of other people's lives outside my walls. It tries to answer the question; do we all feel the same things in our isolated, boxed world of suburbs, houses, flats and farms?


This work explores the use of Australian voices as templates to influence (in differing degrees), the rhythms and tones of the music., In preliminary recordings I have particularly noted the multicultural colours of Australian tones and the differences in pace and place. The rhythms and tones of rural Australia differ enormously to those of the city. In fact there is an aural journey that can take you from the inner city to the suburbs to the semi-rural communities and out to the rural areas. It is evident in the way we speak, the things we say and how we say them.

<<< The Ears Outside My Listening Room, world premiere was on the 30th September, broadcast nationally over ABC Classic FM's, "Listening Room" Program (9:00pm Mondays) >>>

<<< Australian Summer Solstice (an extract form The Ears Outside My Listening Room) has already been performed internationally at both the 32nd Festival Synthese Bourges 2002 in France and The Literature Sound Barrier 2002 in Wien, Austria. >>>



Composer : Colin Black


Musicians: Jeremy Barnette (Vibraphone), Emile Nelson (Bass), Robbie Siracusa (Drums), Ari Ehrlich (Harmonic Vocals), Colin Black (Guitars, Midi & Electroacoustic Realizations)



Electra String Quartet: Mirka Rozmus (Violin I), Romano Crivici (Violin II), Rudolf Crivici (Viola) & Peter Morrison (Cello)



Sound Engineers: Andrei Shabunov, Colin Black, Russell Stapleton, Steven Tilley.

Producer: Colin Black

Executive Producer: Robyn Ravlich

Thanks also to all the voices (to name a few):
Josie Purkis, Steven Salgo, Maria Lialiaris, John Vanjevac, Fab Fernandez, Rob Baker, Andrei Shabunov, Harvey Broadbent, Iqbal Barkat, Roi Huberman, Yanna Black, Nick Kargilis, Jagdeep Singh, Joe Ryan, Richard Salvatico, Frank Black, Chris Lines, Noel Anderson, Valentino Arico, Brigitte Seega, Kristin Bismo, Dr Gordon Monro, Lena Taylor, Della Pearce, Dan Graham, Doris Pilkington, Kate Turner, Christina Turner, Gary Champion, Trevor & Merrilyn Jenkins, Marny Hilson, Ben Whitten (and his mum), Dennis O'Keefe, Kate Hennesy, Jessica Rankine, Grace Taylor, Tony Barrell, Liabl Wolf, Raul Sanders, Stephanie Dowrick, Rev Michael Whelan, Gary Bouma, Ven. Phuoc Son, Barrie Cassidy, Greg Hywood,


 Click here for photos of some of the voice contributors to the "Ears Outside My Listening Room" project.


"... a comprehensive work made of suggestion, mood and voiceprint character studies

that gives a tangible, inclusive and unselfconscious impression of Australian-ness and its many voices. "

- Gail Priest, Arts/Music Journalist
RealTime magazine, RT52 edition
December 02/January 03


-------->> go to Realtime's
"the flow of fragile sources", Gail Priest talks with Colin Black <<--------

------->>  <<------ go to Colin's website <<------


Sound Samples from The Ears Outside My Listening Room:


Real Audio Files | Composer Notes


 I'd heard about a fan (Kate) who ran onto the field at the AFL match when Tony Lockette kicked his 1300th goal. Five thousand people all jumping the fence and racing onto the "holy of holiest", the playing field! What would that feel like? To me it symbolizes the over flowing of emotion, these people are somehow trying to become closer with their passion, their heroes, their sport. Five thousand people all breaking the rules and risking a $5000 fine for running onto the field. "With my brother and my sister I sort of jumped the fence" Kate said in the interview, a sense of union, family and celebration I thought. I used Kate's voice, an ABC Radio presenter's voice from the event and another spectator's voice (Tony) who witnessed the whole event from the stand. In some ways I thought of the event as some sort of modern dance party, a sports rave, so I composed this section as a dance track. The voices at the start of the track are constrained within the music, forming the melody and dictating the harmony and rhythm. At the point where the audience runs onto the field the voice are freed from their musical constraints and allow to run free. Then as Kate & Tony leave the game I re-introduced the melodic motifs from the game as sort of musical memories.


 Because I wanted to illustrate the difference in sports culture in the city and the country, I also composed a piece call "Frank & Bradman" for string quartet and tape. This time I wanted to encapsulate the sense of isolation and physical distance that can be felt in the country, which contrasts the city (AFL) sports event. There is no way that Frank will be able to run onto the playing field, he talks of listening to the cricket on the radio as a child, now over 70 he has never see a live test match in his life. "We didn't see him on television, we had the radio" Frank said in the interview, "We had to stay up all night to hear that", I used these phrases plus archival radio material from a Bradman test match. Throughout the piece I placed Frank within a country soundscape as he listens into this historical sports event, never being part of it but somehow dreaming of how it would be to be at the match.



 "Australian Summer Solstice" has already been performed internationally at both the 32nd Festival Synthese Bourges 2002 in France and The Literature Sound Barrier 2002 in Wien, Austria. It was commissioned by The Listening Room as part of Earclips 2002 celebrating the ABC's 70th birthday.

"Australian Summer Solstice" is an electroacoustic impressionistic experience of summer in Australia. An algorithmic procession of voice samples, condensed through filters, effect units and spectra gating underpins the composition, echoing sun spots and the revolution of daylight.

"Australian Summer Solstice" is composed almost entirely from voice samples. This processed pulsating layer of sounds communicates the sheer heat, the dry winds and the overwhelming intensity of an Australian outback summer. Over this layer are the unfiltered utterances of a 70 year old farming woman. The text samples were carefully chosen from a personal interview with the woman in mid summer on her property. Her voice and accent express a peculiarly Australian cultural identity.



 I think what Gail wrote in RealTime pretty much sums up Why.

"A similar effect is achieved in the beautifully abstract Why in which a child describes her love for her doll. The phrase "cause she speaks" is processed and looped into a kind of pulsing mantra reflecting the childlike (and perhaps not so childlike) desire to bring life to things."

- Gail Priest, Arts/Music Journalist
RealTime magazine, RT52 edition
December 02/January 03

Real Audio Files | Composer Notes



Facts about spoken languages in Australia from The Australian Bureau of Statistics


In 1996, 16% of the population five years and over speak a language other than English at home.



Over 200 languages are spoken, including 48 Australian Indigenous languages.



About 44,000 people spoke an Australian Indigenous language or an Australian creole (a language developed from pidgin English) in the home. Speakers of these languages made up 14% of Indigenous people and 0.3% of the Australian population.



Some 64% of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory spoke an Indigenous language or creole at home. The two Indigenous languages with the most speakers were Arrente, a central Australian language (3,468 speakers), and Dhuwal~Dhuwala, an Arnhem land language (3,219 speakers).



The leading five community languages, each with more than 100,000 speakers, were Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic/Lebanese and Vietnamese. A further ten languages were spoken by more than 40,000 people. These 15 languages, together with Indigenous languages and creoles, accounted for 73% of all people speaking a language other than English in the home.



Greek, Italian and Arabic had the largest proportions of Australian-born speakers, partly reflecting a greater rate of maintenance of these languages among the second generation of these language groups. Languages mostly brought to Australia more recently, such as Mandarin, have a smaller proportion of Australian-born speakers.



The Eyes Inside The Studio




Colin Black & Steven Tilley at ABC Studio 256, Ultimo





Andrei Shabunov and Colin Black in ABC Studio P63 during the mixdown sessions




ABC Radio's premier radiophonic art program giving space to the exploration of radio forms and ideas in imaginative program making.
Monday 9.00pm, ABC Classic FM



This project has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, it's arts funding and advisory body.


©2002 Colin Black PO Box 92, Seaforth, NSW, 2092, Australia - Email:,