singing to glaciers

singing to glaciers

The songs of lyrebirds sung to glaciers
A post-human understanding of anthropogenic landscapes- bookending the 2020 summer fires between the sonic memories of the lyrebirds and the reflective properties of ice.
Considering these two landscapes, connected now by the ash from the fires, embedded in glacial ice. To reflect one within the other; the birds narration of its bush, echoed to the treeless NZ alpine ridges.

Across 2020 I mapped the post-fire  landscape of the Blue Mountains and the growth of the new anthropogenic, fire-adapted forest. (See Words For New Landscapes)

While filming in July 2020 near Mount Wilson I came across a lyrebird singing as it foraged by itself amongst the burned trunks and regrowth, and that experience stuck with me as I continued the project across that year.

I became interested in the proposition of lyrebirds as the sonic historians of the forest.

After the fires, the forests were silent for the first 2 or 3 months. Slowly birdlife returned as the trees grew (in the ways programmed by past fires), and some avian voices were missing- the glossy black cockatoo, the regents honeyeater, the gang gang- and I wondered whether the lyrebirds had a site-specific sonic recollection of them.

Lyrebirds; intelligent, long-lived and highly skilled avian makers of sound and dance, are well known for their mimicry of the birds in their environment. Male lyrebirds live in a group, called a  lek. Each lek has a unique colloquial song, valley-based dialect, a reflection of the birds and their immediate sonic environment. Like sonic historians.

In the 2020 fires 50% of the local lyrebird populations were lost; either burned or starved.

Ive been working with animal behaviour researchers at Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and a public callout for videos through the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.

This line of inquiry considers the fate of the lyrebird, and its connection to a remote glacier in the NZ alps.

Above: The Song Historians

Dual screen video (2021) Propositionally placing the sonic memories of the lyrebird as the activator, calling the forest regrowth forth.

With thanks to Kevin Searle, Tamara Brooks Venables, BIL and Sonja Ross for generously providing lyrebird footage. Lyrebirds and land footage collected on Dharug and Gundungurra custodial lands.

Special thanks to the  Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute for their support and facilitation of this work as part of the Eco-arts program.

Ash from the 2020 summer bush fires was windblown across the Tasman, landing on the New Zealand alps.

Researchers at Victoria University (NZ) are looking at the future impact of ash (from hotter drier Australian summers) on the melting of NZ glaciers.


Working with Dr Ruzica Dadic’s team and their dataset of glacial albedo measurements.

‘Albedo’ describes the whiteness and reflectivity of snow and ice. Dust and ash raise the albedo. The colourimetrics of the crysophere.