NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Salmon Tales – Experimental Audio

by Dr Jan Brüggemeier, Dr Leanne Morrison and Dr Tom Bristow

Salmon Tales examines multiple discourses about salmon farming in Tasmania. Through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory of polyphony, the voices of multiple stakeholders including community members, corporations, and journalists tell their own version of a series of environmental events involving the Tasmanian salmon farming industry; these multiple voices are placed alongside environmental field recordings and sound design. The polyphonic (multiple voice) retelling process consists of layered stories pieced together through an organic media mix to create a rounded and inclusive environmental account. At one moment, a reading of figures from corporate accounts are looped while news journalism fades in and out during a sequence that includes interviews with former employees and members of the Tasmanian community who are impacted by the industry in various ways.

With a view to compose a narrative soundscape alert to environmental pressures and potential conflict—or counterpoints—amongst interested parties stakeholder voices are curated not only to speak of individuated, private experience; they glimpse the future. The musical texture of the resultant sound piece keeps with juxtaposition, contradiction and paradox to concretize representation; different values, different feelings, and different approaches are ‘mixed’ so that each part or voice sounds independent yet is deeply involved in Tasmanian salmon farming. Thus the plural salmon ‘tales’ signs for multiple stories woven into a single ‘text’. This text offers a fresh account of what is happening in the industry.



Background Salmon Tales examines multiple discourses for salmon farming in Tasmania. This audio piece applies Mikhail’s Bakhtin’s literary reworking of polyphony, a term from musicology, to environmental accounting. Simultaneously casting independently recorded community interviews (included anonymised voices for privacy), annual corporate reports, news coverage and environmental recordings, Salmon Tales seeks out the structures and emotions of disaggregated storytelling and the subjects and objects they construct.

Contribution In 2021 I produced and designed the 20min experimental audio piece in collaboration with Accounting academic Dr Leanne Morrison (UTas). Applying the concept of polyphony to the scripting the audio piece creates an immersive experience in which equal agency is given to the human voices (community, corporate reports), the environmental recordings and the sound design. Treating sound this way changed how we presented the controversial topic of Salmon farming in Tasmania.

Significance Combining literature theory and environmental accounting is an original contribution to the discourse about environmental sustainability. Salmon Tales world premiere was at the Sonohr Festival in Switzerland in 2022. It was presented at Australianasian Business Ethics Network (ABEN) conference in 2021. It received RMIT seed funding of $1000. 


I do find that a community minded art approach using art and creative design for community activation will not receive the same significance rating as an international art exhibition at a well-known art institution or an international journal (formerly known as triple-a rated).

Therefore, the question of community outreach or ivory tower does remain also in the NTRO space, but I suppose these are professional choices that every practitioner has to make.

I have also noticed that the rating and acceptance of venues slightly differs across different schools in my organisation. It appears, that the constellation of the committee, who is assessing these application is a factor to consider when applying for NTRO assessment.

Dr Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier is a media producer, creative-practice researcher and lecturer in Media and Communication at RMIT, Melbourne. His research interests lie in cultures of sustainability, environmental activism, and experimental media art. His media practice includes podcasts, media art installations and film scores. He conceived the environmental art/science project Nature in the Dark which projected video art into public space, displayed at Melbourne’s Federation Square, The Gertrude Street Projection Festival and the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, USA. Other works have been exhibited internationally at venues such as M+ in Hong Kong, Sonohr Festival in Switzerland, Radio Saout / Marakech Biennale 5, The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, The Goethe Institute of Rome and Meteor Festival in Bergen. He is the co-founder of Commoners Press, an experimental design studio in North Coburg that uses participatory publishing printing and creative design for community activation.

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