The Bundian Way (Canberra International Music Festival)

The 365 kilometer route from Mount Kosciuszko (Targangal) down to Twofold Bay (Turemulerrer) near Eden in New South Wales is called The Bundian Way. It is an old trail for aborigines, known as the Whale Dreaming Trail.

This 75-minute performance titled The Bundian Way included footage of the track and music that captured the characteristics of the nature and culture of southeastern Australia. John Blay, author of On the trail: in search of the Bundian way, read from his book which depicts the life and presence of the track.

The Bundian Way, Canberra International Music Festival, 2022. Photo © Peter Hislop

The composers and the works presented in The Bundian Way were Brenda Gifford Walimbaya (Back), new works by Eric Avery and Kate Neal and Damian Barbeler’s Scenes from the Bundian Way.

Artists who performed were Eric Avery (fiddle/vocals), Anna McMichael (fiddle), Ben Ward (double bass), Jason Noble (clarinet), Louise Devenish (percussion), under the direction of Barbeler.

Combined with Blay’s narration, we saw and heard a visual and soundscape that began by taking the audience to the cold high country. As the moving image soundtrack, players put together a spooky soundscape that felt as chilling as the images. As we traveled the track, the sets and music evolved. Delicate blooms and bright yellow flowers sprouted, as did their sound through the music.

Throughout this journey, Blay’s sweet words told of what he saw, felt and heard as he walked through this mysterious and changing land. Bogon moths, waterfalls, frogs and birds accompanied the delicate soundscape. While crossing a forest, two violins sang the trees and the green and thick undergrowth. Surrounded by this visual and sonic splendor, we felt as if we were there.

The trip continued. The story moved across the track as a distorted violin, overdriven by volume and reverb created a spooky place. Other instruments joined in, distorted and natural, and the atmosphere thickened like an enclosed forest.

Then the music and scenery took us into the countryside followed by fences, a farm and the sounds of cattle – a surprising image after all that dark, deep green forest. The music responded to the landscape, providing a pastoral feel.

There have been periods of music without visuals. Perhaps including more images of this wonderful part of Australia could have helped create a more seamless journey.

Descending to Whale Beach, the expanse of blue water and the sound of the wind, along with the crashing of the waves, caused a mysterious change in the music. It was a search sound that found something new in this cove between Moutrys Point and Brierly Point on the Towamba River near the Bega Valley.

The double bass had an extended part on images of rocks, oyster shells discarded thousands of years ago and the very colorful earth. His sound has been processed in some way, making it resonate, loop and deepen. Through the rugged Coast Ranges we traveled with Blay as he hummed and sang a tune. The violin accompanied him, echoing his song. This was the most effective part of all visual and sound collaborations.

Finally, this trip was over. It seemed to end almost before the final destination. But it made me want to seek out The Bundian Way and make the journey to experience its tapestry of sound and visual delights.

Gerald R. Schneider