2015 – Whispered Shadows … Underground Flute meditations

Darwin Underground Festival presents:

Whispered Shadows … Underground Flute meditations

Venue … WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels, Darwin, Sunday 16th & 17th August 2015

2017 UPDATE … There’s another much larger Darwin Underground Festival this year from the 13th to the 17th August with 5 completely different concerts. Full details can be found here

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In a remarkable divergance from usual venues … the ‘stage’ or performance area was only 1 metre deep by 172 metres wide/long!   The remaining space mainly taken up by audience with their BYO chairs.   The performers traversed the length of the tunnel past audience members who had placed their chairs randomly along the 172 metre tunnel #5, giving each listener a totally unique experience.

“Anja Tait is a remarkable musician to work with. Her depth of musical vocabulary and maturity of expression within a spontaneously improvised work was full of surprises, depth, and playful joy. I never knew what was coming next. A true delight to bounce off! Bringing young Emily into the ensemble in the second gig provided dynamite to the mix. A fantastic journey. Thank you Anja and Emily.” … Anne

To accompany this underground event, visual artist Rupert Betheras exhibited works of dripping bitumen mounted beside the oozing rusty walls of the tunnel. He also placed several blackboards on the tunnel walls and supplied chalk for spontaneous graffiti contributions. In one piece by the two adventurous violinists, the sounds of eager chalk strokes striking the boards joined their plucked strings, voices and booms of kicking feet on the iron cladding of the tunnel walls. Amazing what two classically-trained violinists do when set free underground.

“The tunnels’ acoustics are total magic!”

A good pair of headphones is highly recommended for the best listening experience.

Here are some highlights from each concert.

Performance 1 … 16th August 2015

Solo shakuhachi with guest artist Anja Tait (violin)
A mix of solos and duos

Anne Norman … shakuhachi
Anja Tait … violin


Improvisation 3 … with Anja Tait violin and 1.3 shakuhachi (in G)

Impro 3 … Tunnel#5 Darwin 16thAug2015 – 8.4mins

Murasaki Reibo 紫鈴慕 … by Ikkyuu Sojun (1394-1481)

Murasaki Reibo … Tunnel#5 Darwin 16thAug2015 – 4mins

Ikkyuu was an eccentric monk of 15th century Kyoto, who lived an itinerant life outside the temples, infamously hanging out with prostitutes, tavern folk and fishermen, celebrating the essence of Zen wherever he was. He also attracted the company of the leading artists of the day, and through him, Zen mind became central to many Japanese art forms: Visual arts, poetry, comic verse, Noh theatre, tea… He taught this flute piece as a way for the player to focus their mind on each breath, each sound, each phrase. A way to still the mind of other thoughts.


Performance 2 … 17th August 2015

Violin and shakuhachi with Emily Sheppard and guest artist Anja Tait
Apart from Annes solo ‘Whispered Shadows’ … the 2nd concert on Monday night was an evening of
spontaneous duos and trios,

Anne Norman … shakuhachi

Emily Sheppard … violin

Anja Tait … guest violin

the Tunnel … WWII Oil Storage Tunnel #5 (172metres)

Blackboards and chalk … used percussively in the 2nd concert impros.

Breathing Planet … field recording


Whispered Shadows … 1.8 shakuhachi (in D) by A Norman 2014

Whispered Shadows … Tunnel#5 Darwin 17Aug’15 – 11.5mins

a bone, a leaf, a stone, an echo, a shell, a seed, a twig, a feather… a shadow

Showcasing Annes unique new playing technique …
Elements of this piece began in 2012 within the echoey walls of La chapelle Sainte Philomene, a crumbling 11th century stone chapel perched on a hill in an encroaching forest in Provence. The composition was completed amidst mountain woodlands and windswept beaches on Flinders Island, Bass Strait, in 2014. It departs from traditional shakuhachi performance techniques.

Walking through a forest … along a beach … I see echoes of repeated patterns; whispered shadows of ideals;
spirals, circles, lines, curves … No two waves break with the same ripples or sound;
and no two flowers are identical. Yet all are perfect.


2nd Half – Duo & Trio Improvisations

2nd half -Duo & Trio Impros … Tunnel#5 Darwin 17Aug’15 – 28.8mins

… With the audience still buzzing noisily following the interval … Emily, then Anja, began loudly banging chalk against the blackboards like a teacher trying to quell a rowdy class … then turning it into a percussion piece to begin the ‘2nd Half’.
The Impros include a movement called Sleeping Dragon using my (David Matthews’) recent field recording: Breathing Planet – the uncanny sound of air blown and sucked through tiny nostrils in the bauxite coast of NE Arnhem Land as ocean swells gush in and out of air-filled rocky caverns. Quite a scary dragon breath-like sound when amplified by a long tunnel.

tidal rhythms course through my body
echoes of the ocean
of the living planet
an eternal ebb and flow
a breathing in and out



At the last minute, Darwins ABC became interested in the Tunnels event … & invited Anne To contribute to their website’s ‘ABC Open … Real stories made by real people from all round Australia’.      https://open.abc.net.au/explore/107291


shakuhachi 尺八 is a bamboo end-blown flute of many lengths, 1.8 shaku being the standard. (A shaku is a length of 30.3 cm). The shakuhachi has been in Japan for well over 1,000 years and was used as a tool for Zen meditation for many centuries, with a focus on breath and timbral subtleties within each note. It was played by wandering monks known as komuso 虚無僧 – the Priests of Nothingness during the Edo period. The resulting pieces that were cherished and shared are known as 本曲 honkyoku – shakuhachi Zen meditations.

Tunnel #5 … “I am glad it is not used for storing oil, as it was originally designed to do; it is so much better as a flute resonator. Its acoustics are total magic. Thank you Darwin. Thank you Robert Marchant of Darwin Tours. And thank you Darwin WWII Oil Storage Tunnels!” … Anne Norman

Anne NORMAN is a composer, poet, and improviser specialising on shakuhachi. After studying flute at Melbourne Conservatorium, Anne took up shakuhachi in Japan in 1986, studying two lineages from Nakamura Shindo and Tajima Tadashi. Following a Masters in Ethnomusicology at Monash University, Anne received a grant to study shakuhachi performance at Tokyo University of the Arts under Living National Treasure Yamaguchi Goro. Anne has performed in Europe, America and Japan, and across Australia. She enjoys crossartform and collaborative music making, and has recorded several CDs. http://annenorman.com

Anja TAIT is a remarkable improviser and performer. Anja completed undergraduate studies in advanced chamber music, string pedagogy, and violin performance at Tasmanian Conservatorium with Keith Crellin, founding member of the Australian String Quartet. She has contributed her musicianship to collaborative performances throughout Australia and collaborative practice and research in arts education and music therapy.

Emily SHEPPARD plays violin with ACO2 and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She is also an astounding improviser, ever curious to explore new sounds.
“…extraordinary… gifted… amazing… The reception that greeted Emily Sheppard at the end of her fiendishly difficult and wonderfully accomplished performance was tremendous. You could not have found a more enthusiastic response at a football match” Heather Leviston, ANAM, 2014

With thanks to:
Robert Marchant and the staff of Darwin Tours http://www.darwintours.com.au
David Matthews for his assistance and recording http://altsoundings.com
Visual artist Rupert Betheras, to accompany this underground event, exhibited works of dripping bitumen mounted beside the oozing rusty walls of the tunnel. He also placed several blackboards on the tunnel walls and supplied chalk for spontaneous graffiti contributions. http://www.rupertbetheras.com/rupertbetheras.com/Home.html
INPEX for supplying their uchiwa hand fans
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