Forget the rat race of "originality", you'll find plenty of difference and exuberance in this old music. Texture, inflection, timbre, tonal range, rhythm, everything is here to be discovered anew and appreciated as music before originality was anyone's concern. Listen to this album on headphones, the recording is superb.
Hand to Earth is a call to open ears: eluding genre, traversing continents and fusing ancient and contemporary. At its heart are Yolgnu manikay (song cycles), a 40,000+ year-old oral tradition from South East Arnhem Land, northern Australia. These songs exist to cross vast time and space, to continuously make the continuous – known as raki, the spirit that pulls all together, all performers all listeners.
Hand to Earth developed during an Australia Art Orchestra (AAO) residency in the remote highlands of Tasmania. Yolgnu songman, Daniel Wilfred, and Korean vocalist, Sunny Kim, formed an effortless rapport; their combined vocal approaches expressing a deeply human commonality whilst also invoking raw elemental forces. Trumpeter and composer, Peter Knight draws upon his minimalist influence to create a bed of electronic atmospheres that meld beautifully with these contrasting voices. The combination of Aviva Endean and David Wilfred’s evocative sounds transport the listener to previously unimagined sonic plains. Together the ensemble wields these mystical elements with a masterful improvisational touch that AAO is famous for.
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The songline and the raki, they pull. Two things. They pull you, or they can touch you. You’re not singing from your head, you’re singing from your heart.
If you go up to my place and you’ll see - when we sing our manikay, you’ll see everybody. And the raki pull everybody together and you can see one big family. It’s still the same when I come up the stage. It’s still the same - I’m trying to make the new world. What can happen. Trying to bring you into a good world, where you can listen and understand.
Travelling around the country, the didgeridoo, clapping sticks, the voices that you’re singing. Changing the life you knew. What do you do, the next step? What you can share? That’s what the manikay is.
- Daniel Wilfred 2020
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Nose. In the wells of my skull, ripples are forming. A humming song, vibrating brain and sinews. My mind, resonating with the minds of old. Gapu minytji.
This intimate place hidden in the front of the body. Ŋurru, nose. The past wells up up inside me, gaining to voice, leading my body. Ŋurru, humming my country.
Others feel this song: yidaki, gadayka, grenadilla. Tasting the vowels, tongue poised. The air dances as phonics collide, a rough stream cracking with life.
Voice. Water bubbles into bright air, lapping at the trees, the grass, filling the land. No longer contained, a body that pours out, songs that give.
Two birds come and sit by this stream. Guguk. Yuwenyuwen – they sing and soar.
In the clean air, this song-wind blows acrid smoke away.
Echo. Behind my nose, tears come, memories of old. The old man is here, in my voice, his song echoing through my own.
He’s pulling me back to my place. Dhawalwal du’yun. He’s going home to rest.
For Yolngu, life wells up through freshwater springs. This water spreads, flooding the land and refreshing it. This water also sits behind the forehead and is the ‘ancestral mind’ that spreads in song. It is identity, creativity and life.
Singing begins with humming which resonates through the skull. These vibrations are given voice, carried on the air, crackling with emotion and life. Outside of the body, the songs of one group combine with the songs of another. Relationships formed in song are life giving.
A singer learns manikay by sitting beside an elder, imitating their voice and its grainy texture. Many years later, that voice returns to them.
- Samuel Curkpatrick 2021
released October 8, 2021
Hand to Earth:
Daniel Wilfred – voice/bilma
David Wilfred – yidaki/voice
Sunny Kim – voice/electronics/percussion
Peter Knight – trumpet/electronics/percussion
Aviva Endean – clarinets/flute/objects/percussion
Guguk and Water Song recorded by Leo Dale at WeFo Studios 2019
Nunguryu Nunguryu, Birrik Birrik, Duo, Old People Song, recorded by Jem Savage at Florence St Studios 2021
Mixed by Jem Savage and Peter Knight
Produced by Peter Knight
Cover image: Mokuy, Wally Wilfred
Photography: Sung Hyun Sohn (in Barunga and Ngukurr NT)
Thank you: Wally Wilfred, Karen Rogers, Michael Hohnen and Mark Grose at Skinnyfish, Paul Grabowsky, Jerry Remkes, Rosemary Willink, Jude Emmett and Ngukurr Arts Centre, Sam Curkpatrick, Helen Svoboda, Reuben Lewis, Sung Hyun Sohn.
With an emphasis on improvisation, the AAO explores the meeting points between disciplines and cultures, and imagines new
musical forms to reflect the energy and diversity of 21st century Australia. Led by trumpeter/composer Peter Knight, the AAO explores the interstices between the avant-garde and the traditional, between art and popular music, and between electronic and acoustic approaches....more
Ever since this came across and I took a chance on its intrigue, this has been one of those albums I knew I would absolutely be owning forever. It's such a mesmerizing, cohesive piece and once the symphony steps in, it becomes utterly transcendent. It's one of the best pure pieces of music I've ever heard. I hope one day to hear a live performance, even if it's local musicians and a symphony, just to hear it in that space. giventofly87
Flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell tackles this eight-movement work with a drumless chamber quartet featuring some of the most forceful voices in improvised music. Bandcamp Album of the Day Aug 6, 2018