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Contributor profile: Gail Priest



Biography

I’ve worked for RealTime for 15 years, my role morphing with the needs of the organisation and the changing media landscape. I started out as the advertising sales girl and I am now Associate Editor, Online Producer and for the duration have been the magazine layout artist.

Alongside this my art practice has also shifted—originally starting as an actor (not a very good one), to making my own contemporary performance, to sound designer for dance and performance which led me to find my true calling as a sound artist. It’s hard to imagine my artistic journey without RealTime or my RealTime trajectory without my artistic explorations.

Most recently I’ve been curating things: Rapture/Rupture for MCA’s ArtBar and my ongoing gig series Pretty Gritty at 107 Projects; mounting a Fluxus inspired dance music performance with Jane McKernan, One thing follows another at Performance Space; as well as putting out the occasional album—The Common Koel (Flaming Pines) and blue | green (vinyl on Metal Bitch). I’ve also written so many non-fiction words that I have found myself ready to turn my hand to some creative writing, and my first sound-based speculative fiction is included in Sight Lines, the 2014 UTS Anthology. www.gailpriest.net

Exposé

Recently RealTime celebrated its 20th Birthday and for the party I gathered some statistics discovering that I’d written 184 articles (as of this online edition). Employing some rough calculations that adds up to 138,250 words. Many of these words did not come easily but they have all been incredibly rewarding.

I started to write about sound and experimental music in the early 2000s, just as I was beginning to explore making it. It was terrifying because I was by no means an expert but, in the RealTime phenomenological style, I acted as a curious observer, writing my way through and into this new cultural landscape. Looking back at old articles I’d like to suggest that this opened up a potentially opaque area of practice to some other curious folk—we all went on the field trip together. The result is, that with others’ writings as well (Jonathan Marshall, Greg Hooper, Caleb Kelly and Chris Reid to name a few) RealTime offers an impressive archive of this exciting period of experimental music in Australia and its development into the current phase in which the worlds of “new music” and “experimental music” are now intermingling.

Writing about sound makes me listen to it with utter dedication—it gives me permission to stop multitasking and meditate on the sound alone. And sometimes in this situation it almost feels as if there’s a connection in my brain that directly translates sound information into words. I find this exhilarating—like hallucinating. Alas I can never read my scrawled notes, lines written over the top of each other in the dark, but what I can remember of this experience makes it onto the page and hopefully gives an indication of the experience. I will admit that I am rarely deeply critical—the way I started writing meant I felt no right to rush to judgement—but that by my being true to the experience, the reader is invited to make their own assessment.

Under the tutelage of editors and amazing wordsmiths Keith Gallasch and Virginia Baxter I feel like my writing over the years has truly improved and that my process is far more under my control. Originally I only had one way to say something—whatever blurted out first—and I had no ability to rework it. But with their gentle but rigorous encouragement I’ve come to love the crafting of the perfect sentence, even if that means rewriting it 10 times. And I can even (sometimes) cope with the need to then cut that sentence if requested, because I trust that there will be the potential to write more good sentences in the future—as long as there’s a RealTime anyway.

Selected articles

The melancholy poetry of machines
Gail Priest: Ian Burns, UTS Gallery
RealTime issue #121 June-July 2014 p49

Laurie Anderson: do dogs aspire to nirvana?
Gail Priest: Laurie Anderson, Adelaide Festival
RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 p6-7

Part 1: Sydney scenes & sounds
Gail Priest: Silent Hour, Ladyz In Noyz, High Reflections
RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 p40

The NOW now: time slices
Gail Priest
RealTime issue #53 Feb-March 2003 p45

The improvising organism
Gail Priest
RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 p38

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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