Channelling Dulcie’s Piano

Recording on the Murray River May 2023. Photo: Greg Harm

Vanessa Tomlinson, Jesse Budel and Greg Harm. Juried Artists
Griffith University CARI Whitebox Gallery (Screening)
KEPK (performance)


Artist Statement

Channelling Dulcies Piano: How the River taught the piano to play” is an audio-visual work connecting sounds of post-flood Murray River system on to an aging surplus-to-needs pianola. Drawing on Tomlinson and Budel’s interests in acoustic ecology and freshwater acoustic monitoring, the multi-day composition consists of recording the water-source using hydrophones followed by immediate playback of the recording verbatim, performing live with the underwater sounds, “channelling” the fish sounds, teaching the piano to sing. The series of eight performances travelled up the Murray River, turning north on to the Darling/Baarka River, heading east at Bourke onto the Baron River, and travelling up into the Great Dividing Range via the Mehi River and Boonoo Boonoo Creek. On the 3000km, 10 day journey, water sources were teeming with life in the post-flood environment of May 2023. Using hydrophone recordings, verbatim performance techniques, and site-responsive improvisation, this series of place-led performances captures embodied responses from the creative team that mark time and place – listening to invasive catfish, encountering abundant birdlife in billabongs, hearing the results of climate change and European settlement, camping with introduced wild cats and endemic possums, goats and kangaroos, experiencing change-in-motion of landscape and climate, all bound up in the transformation of the piano itself as it shed its colonial past, to learn a new musical language, of place, of water, of now (then). The video was created by Greg Harm from Tangible Media, and the piano belonged to Tomlinson’s Nana, Dulcie.

About the artists

Professor Vanessa Tomlinson is the Director of the Creative Arts Research Institute at Griffith University. Vanessa’s interdisciplinary work draws on longterm engagement with experimental music practices, the development of an idiomatic percussive approach, and an improvisational language that incorporates found objects, the environment and a world of human and non-human collaborators. She has toured the world for 35 years, premiering hundreds of works, collaborating with leading improvisers, presenting work at major international festivals, and sharing her knowledge as a teacher, mentor, researcher and arts advocate. Key works include The Piano Mill, The Immersive Guitar, Clocked Out, Water Pushes Sand, The Listening Museum, Beacons and The Imaginary Aviary. Find out more at

Dr Jesse Budel is a composer-performer, sound artist, and Research Associate at Elder Conservatorium of Music, The University of Adelaide. His works are for diverse media and spaces, ranging from concert works and installations to community and interdisciplinary collaborations. Currently, Jesse serves as the Secretary for the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, and in 2024 is the recipient of a prestigious Arts South Australia Fellowship, supporting research into and creative development of higher-order ambisonic works. For more information, visit

Greg Harm has spend over twenty years as a professional photographer/videographer/installation video artist. His photographic craft has been honed from a decade spent documenting Australia’s Natural History and is now clearly focussed in a direction dreamed of from childhood; capturing and making images for sound.

Credits: Tomlinson, Budel, Harm


ISEA2024 acknowledges the Turrbal and Yugara as the First Nations owners of the lands where the symposium will be held. We pay our respects to their elders, lores, customs and creation spirits. We also acknowledge and pay respects to all First Nations peoples across the continent and beyond Australian shores.