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Interview with Thorsten Kaeding from NFSA

Grafton Regional Art Gallery is currently showing a cutting edge mixed-media exhibition which forms part of a collaboration with the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) and partner galleries. Both Grafton’s gallery and the Holmes á Court gallery in WA have have had privileged access to a collection curated from the archives of the NSFA, to select samples which compliment chosen art works. The result is a sensory adventure into audio and visual possibilities examining the relationship between art and sound.

Thorsten Kaeding is an audiovisual archivist who has been with the NFSA for more than a decade. He took part in The Art of Sound project and discusses the experience with Estelle Pigot for RANSW below:


How long have you been with the NFSA and what is your
professional background?  
I have been with the National Film and Sound Archive for around 16 years. I’ve done lots of things in my time but by training, I’m an archivist.

Have you ever been involved in a project like this before? No, this project has been unique. I’m not sure anything like it has been done before, certainly not by the NFSA.

What was your involvement with the Art of Sound project?  My team was asked to develop a palette of sounds which represented the breadth and diversity of the NFSA’s sound collection. Using our knowledge of the collection and some days of research we came up with a palette of 50 sounds that we believe does just that.

Did you hand over the ‘sound palette’ and let the curators
match the sounds to art, or did you have any input in the selection
of visuals chosen? 
No, we had no input into the selection of artworks. We thought it an important part of the project that the gallery curators had complete control over how they used the palette.

What’s your favourite inclusion? What I like most is the diversity of the sounds represented by the palette. However if I have to pick a favourite it would be the recording by Billy Peach the talking budgie; he sounds like a cross between Dame Edna and the devil.

What considerations did you feel were critical in compiling
the ‘sound palette’?
We started out trying to second guess how the sounds would be used but quickly worked out that this was a dead end. We then concentrated on what we thought was interesting and evocative in our collection. We also wanted to present a mix of the well-known with the more obscure. However the most important criterion was that each of the sounds was able to evoke feelings and responses in the listener.

What challenges did you face in compiling the ‘sound palette’? We have a vast collection of recorded sound in the national collection, both published and unpublished. The sheer size of the collection presented our biggest challenge. Added to this we tried to get spread across the last 120 years of Australia’s recorded sound heritage.

Why do you think this exhibition is important? Sound is such a constant in all our lives but we don’t always give it the importance it warrants. By using sound in this way we hope we can provide exposure to different ways of experiencing and listening.

What do you hope people will take away from the exhibition? Just an appreciation of the diversity of the national collection and the joy of listening.


The Art of Sound – FREE entry

Exhibition: 23 January – 13 February 2013

Curator Sound Forum: 9 February, 2pm

Grafton Regional Gallery 158 Fitzroy Street, Grafton NSW

Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday), 10am-4pm  (02) 6642 3177