Pecha Kucha: Music in the Key of Sea

This evening I did my Pecha Kucha presentation! For anyone who has never heard of such a thing, the details are here but basically people are invited to make a presentation with the only creative constraint of it being limited to 20 images x 20 seconds – so you can do whatever you like, but you only have 6’40” to do it in!

I’m one of those people for whom public speaking is right up there on the enjoyment stakes with getting wisdom teeth removed, but I also subscribe to the theory of confronting what you fear most, so with plenty of advance warning I agreed to partake… The Wellington PK organisers chose The Sea as the theme for their 14th night of Pecha Kucha and as per the subject of this post, my little rant was titled: Music in the Key of Sea

So lots of thought, development, evolution, writing and rewriting, careful selection of some recordings, a tequila or two and finally a deep slow breath and here we go….


01: “So the sound you’re hearing is a dawn chorus recorded about 5am on my parents farm down south…. & one of my earliest childhood memories is of waking up before the birds…
& waiting for this sound… ”




Pecha Kucha

02: “My parents made me take piano lessons, but about the same time I discovered I could create thunder by stomping on the floor of the empty grain silos on our farm… What these two events taught me was that music and sound are not passive entities – they can be created.
So a few decades later I managed to start a career based on this idea… ”




Pecha Kucha

03: “In my opinion the best films speak of human truths, they are not about fantasy or escapism and this quote by David Lynch got me thinking as to how it might apply in real life. Hearing is the first sense we develop, we can hear before we are born…. and hearing is the last sense to shut down when we die… ”




04: “The sound you’re hearing now is my nephew Ollies heartbeat, the day before he was born and while I was recording him, he could hear me, and everything around him… See, you can’t close your ears… ”




Pecha Kucha

05: “And while you focus your eyes using tiny muscles, the only way to focus your ears is by using your mind. This is the crucial difference between hearing and listening. We all hear, but we don’t all listen…. With film I often think that while the eye is seduced by the visuals, sound sneaks around the back of our mind & affects how we interpret what we see….. ”




Pecha Kucha

06: “So when I travel most of my bags are full of microphones & one of the things I end up sharing on location is my headphones.. And every time I do, something funny happens…”




Pecha Kucha

07: “This photo I took in Papua New Guinea back in February while working on MR PIP says it all! A smile spreads from one ear to the other, as each of these kids listened & realized just how beautiful & complex the sound world they live in actually is…”




Pecha Kucha

08: “So I collect all sorts of sounds – my library has over half a million sound files, but I am barely scratching the surface. And anyone who thinks two beaches sound the same does not know how to listen. But not all oceans involve water….”




Pecha Kucha

09: “I recorded this next location for Taikas film BOY and I will never forget the sound as the wind travelled through this paddock of corn. And I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a woman at the local marae, about the role the sound the sea had played in her life.”




Pecha Kucha

10: “I recorded this beach when I was in Samoa last year working on Tusis film THE ORATOR and while it is a beautiful beach I’ll never forget seeing the village across the road that was destroyed by the same beautiful ocean, with the tsunami in 2009.”




Pecha Kucha

11: “So I record all these sounds for a specific purpose. This photo was taken 3 weeks ago in Nikko, about an hour out of Tokyo. And while it looks like I was recording nature, what I was actually doing is capturing elements to recreate Japan in 1945 for Peter Webbers film THE EMPEROR




Pecha Kucha

12: “So while all this travel might seem fun & exciting, and it is, its also incredibly hard work and takes every skill I have to give. But this quote by TS Elliot is what it actually teaches me: We are all incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful sounding country, where quiet can be found so easily! And I’d like to illustrate this with a little sonic example…”




Pecha Kucha

13: “Last summer me & my microphones had a holiday on the West Coast down south and after recording a few beaches I went inland, over to Karamea and I managed to record this beautiful native bird…”




14: “Its a beautiful sound, but its one you might not even notice unless you’re actually listening… But its even more beautiful when its slowed down and you can hear how complex it is….”




15: Listening….




Pecha Kucha

16: “So I became a little obsessed with this fragment of sound and I spent some time working out what notes the bellbird was actually singing. And despite those childhood piano lessons I still can’t sight read music, but thankfully my computer can! So I got it to play the bellbird’s score on my piano…”




17: Listening
“And I took those same notes and pushed them around in time a bit… and did some really basic orchestration and ended up with this…”




Pecha Kucha

18: Listening….




Pecha Kucha

19: “So maybe this gives you a little glimpse into how beautiful & complex the music of sound is…. But it is a world that is invisible to you unless you are prepared to stop, be quiet and actually listen…. So I have some homework for you….




Pecha Kucha

20: Each of these three locations in Wellington have some beautiful sounds hidden in them & I’d like to challenge you to go and find them
Massey Memorial in Miramar (if you stand on that plinth & make a sound, something amazing happens!)
Tunnel Gully in Upper Hutt
Andrew Drummonds listening sculpture in the Botanic Gardens

Thanks for listening!




8 thoughts on “Pecha Kucha: Music in the Key of Sea

  1. Peter Toll

    Really enjoyed this page. Thank you so much for sharing some of your expereiences of the world of sound.
    The Bellbird is just wonderful! Love the Piano and Orchestra versions too. Would love to have seen your presentation. Many thanks again 🙂

  2. James Kirkus-Lamont

    Wow stoked to find this! Your PK presentation was great and it’s cool to be able to listen and re-listen to the samples since the venue audio was a little bung. Enjoying sifting through your posts too.

  3. Felix

    I really enjoy the Pecha Kucha format for presenting ideas about sounds and I love how you have condensed some of your thoughts here.

    That photo of the kids listening to their environment through headphones, amplified and intensified with microphones, is amazing. I love that part about working with sound – giving the headphones to people and seeing the look on their faces when they hear their world in somehow greater definition…

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  6. Cate Cahill

    Have often slowed down bird song just for the joy of listening to it. The hair on my arms stood on end when I heard the orchestrated version of the bird song illustrated above. Fantastic! Apologies for not reading this article sooner!

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