Full Moon Over Killaloe
An Audio Art Workshop
August 29 to September 4, 1999.

A Report by Victoria Fenner
originally written for
Soundscape-The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, Vol 1, Number 1, p. 30

In a noisy world, there are few opportunities for audio artists to listen and create without external distractions. There are even fewer opportunities to get together with other artists to listen and create together. Full Moon Over Killaloe was a rare opportunity to do both. It was held near Killaloe, Ontario, a Canadian village about two hours car drive west of Ottawa.

The purpose of Full Moon was to explore new directions in audio artwork and stimulate production. Through workshops, audio art concerts, group feedback and independent creative time, the participating artists developed and shared new ideas with each other and with our two artists-in-residence, Hildegard Westerkamp and Michael Waterman.

It was held at the Killaloe Fairgrounds, a rustic camping facility in the heart of the Madawaska Valley about two kilometers outside of the village. The experience of living without walls created an artistic edge that could not be replicated in an urban environment. The campgrounds are located in the bottom of a small valley, creating a sense of isolation from the outside world. The hills on all sides create an unusual and interesting acoustic space. Our production studio was a minimal wooden stage, built at the bottom of a hill. Our gear consisted of three computer editing stations, sound boards, lots of speakers and recording equipment. Each participant also brought their own microphones and portable recording gear, which made for an interesting show and tell. I counted at least twelve different kinds of microphones, including a shock mount for a Sennheiser shotgun mike created from sticks picked up in the forest. A striking contrast between high tech and no tech.

The studio was in constant use. Sounds from the studio (which was also used as a stage) reverberated up the hill, creating interesting recording possibilities for listening, recording and performing. It was also far enough from the nearest neighbour that we were able to work late into the night without disturbing anyone (except the cows in the next field, who were very confused when we played a recording of cows from another farm bellowing to be milked. Even more confusing, these were morning recordings of cows).

Some of the participants suggested that living in minimal surroundings forced them to face their artistic experience head-on. We heard no sound other than the natural ones around us and those we created ourselves. No radio, no internet, no media of any kind, no visitors, except for two scheduled public concerts. The challenge to create was present 24 hours a day for all seven days. We worked hard, rising with the sun and falling back to sleep long after the moon had risen.

Highlights of the week included a two hour soundmaking session in nearby Bonnechere Caves, where no less than four performances happened simultaneously (with interesting echoes and reverbaration). Jam sessions were held each night, consisting of sounds made from found objects and recorded sounds from earlier in the day. We began each morning with a soundwalk where we listened, shouted to the hills and created sounds from trees, rocks, leaves and our own footsteps. Impromptu rehearsals of new pieces were held under trees, at the beach, over dinner, around the campfire, set to a constant soundtrack of late August crickets in Ontario.

The value of the experience is summed up by workshop participant Scott Stevens, an artist from Kingston, Ontario.

"The experience was exceptional. It brought together people from every level of technical and artistic experience, and a full range of ideas and concepts. Over the week I couldn't help but be influenced and inspired by the diverse range of work that was presented or being explored. ... I find it exciting to meet the people with whose work I am somewhat familiar and thus have the chance to bring to light the specific thoughts and techniques behind the artists' work. Hildegard Westerkamp certainly made much more clear to me what can go into the making of a soundscape/electroacoustic piece, with the dissection of one of her compositions(Sensitive Chaos). She introduced us to soundwalks as well, which encouraged me to develop more alertness towards all the sound around me. The other participants were also contributing to my awareness of sound and the making of audio art."

Full Moon over Killaloe has become an annual event and has been lead by different artists-in-residence each year, most recently by Andra McCartney and Darren Copeland.

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