Wambuul bila

Macquarie River

In celebration of World Rivers Day 2022, on 25 September, the Sonic Territories: Wambuul creative team of Kim V. Goldsmith, Milena Sallustio, Robert Salt and Suzanne Foran created this soundtrack based on field recordings of the river, from the wall of Burrendong Dam above Wellington, where it flows through Dubbo, past Terramungamine, through Narromine to the Timbrebongie Bridge—on the lands of the Wiradjuri Nation. In all, 10 field recording sites were sonically explored over several months. In August, the group held an Open-air Lab on the river at Terramungamine Reserve to talk about their practices and connections to the river, the use of different storytelling languages, and to discuss ideas for this World Rivers Day release. Each artist has written and recorded personal responses to the river, weaving them into the rhythms, pulses and harmonies of the water and riverine corridor, including the industrial, anthropophonic drones, thrums and rings that dominate its regulated flow through urban and periurban environments. Sonic Territories: Wambuul is a community project, where stories of the river’s past and present may be shared for all to better understand the importance of the river to the human and more-than-human life in our region. We’ll continue to collect stories in further stages of the project.

This soundtrack is best listened to with headphones or earbuds (volume at 50%), or with stereo speakers.

Field recordings by Kim V. Goldsmith
Additional field recordings by Milena Sallustio
Spoken word (in order) by Kim V. Goldsmith, Milena Sallustio, Suzanne Foran and Robert Salt—written and recorded by each artist
Post-production by Kim V. Goldsmith


Stories of the Wambuul/ Macquarie should be accessible to everyone. Along with the Accessibility Tools on this website, the video and texts are to ensure the work of our creative team can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

This 15-minute video is a visual representation of the Wambuul bila soundscape, using a waveform animation over slow-motion video footage of floodwaters in the river. You’ll see the waveform become very ‘active’ and spread across the video (showing greater amplitude and frequency), and words will appear and fade throughout the video as visual cues to the spoken word parts of the soundscape. The text for these is printed below in order of playback in the soundscape. This video was produced by Kim V. Goldsmith.

Words spoken in the Wambuul bila soundtrack

Kim V. Goldsmith: Slippery means

Wambuul bila—
Dreamtime devil, shape-shifter;
Abounding with fine fish;
Riches of slippery means.
Weaving north through hills and plains.
My people arrive
Granting unwarranted honours;
Renaming, reshaping;
Claiming what is not theirs.

Wambuul bila—
Brown, angry waters
Swirl and eddy below—savage
In the effort to reclaim lost time.
Too soon, the sun will blaze
Day after day after day…
I’ll walk her stony bed
And smell the rot again
A trickle through the hills and plains.

Wambuul bila—
Dark green depths flanked in weeds
Now prized as riverine gold.
Space to breathe, to simply be;
Salute this riverside life.
Didactic, disillusioned;
Feet fixed on battered banks—
No room to move.
Riches of slippery means.

Milena Sallustio: Do you even know?

Do you even know you divide this town?
Silently winding through Central western dust.
Secrets are drowning in the red dirt flowing through you.
Wordless devotion from the trees embracing you. 
Runners and cyclists in haste, miss your magic.
Paddlers and rowers, ferried along your vein.
Walking talkers unaware you demand our grateful reverence.
Yielding sustenance to wildlife—fishers, farmers, and water drinkers. 
Listening in silence for the whispers in your swells. 
I must be still as I play in your sticky red clay.
Wisdom found.

Suzanne Foran: I am here

Do you hear me?
I’m here!
Where are the ones who listen?
They understand my ways;
They know I am not theirs.
I hear the others,
They curse my friends, the wind and rain,
They pollute with their structures, their rubbish, their noise.
When drought hides my flow, they fear I will not return.
But I am here.
When floodwaters purge me of their filth,
They spectate and fear the inconvenience I may cause.
They do not understand.
They make plans and interfere,
They fool themselves they have control.
Their short lives are meaningless to me—
Humans like seasons, come and go,
But I am here.
The ones who listen,
They know that I am here.

Robert Salt: My connection, their connection—Wambuul

Connection to the sounds of water, the Wambuul flowing leisurely  past me,
Connecting life – a  universal essential for all  living beings,
Connecting me to ancestors of blood, genetics, culture and transformative histories.

I stand on the dirt,  toes touching the water, as they had  before me,
My toes white, their toes black. 

My mind and soul trying to connect to the surroundings, troubled by modern-day worries and anxiety, their worries, their reflections, their concerns differed from my irrelevant thoughts,

I focus, push, struggle through this dense trivial  reality, to tether, to connect; 
The sounds I hear are the sounds my ancestors heard—the spirits yarn and share.
Their voices in the rustling of the leaves and swaying of branches.
They talked before when the original people were here.
They talked when the others came and changed traditions.

The trees, the animals, the Wambuul, interconnected,
Symbiotic, reciprocal, impact and pain felt by one—
Felt by the others.

The Wambuul flowed before I was born and will continue when I am only a memory.

Left to right: Rob Salt, Kim V. Goldsmith, Milena Sallustio and Suzie Foran standing by the river at Terramungamine at the Open-air Lab in August 2022
Left to right: Rob Salt, Kim V. Goldsmith, Milena Sallustio and Suzie Foran standing by the river at Terramungamine at the Open-air Lab in August 2022

BLOG: Entangled worlds & sonic stories that connect us, 25 September 2022

Stage One of this project was funded through a Country Arts Support Program (CASP) grant thanks to Create NSW and Orana Arts.

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