The first widely available edition of this singular, long-form composition, WITHIN OUR REACH: A Symphony Of The Port River, by Port Adelaide, Australia-based pianist, composer, writer and researcher Chester Schultz, is proudly presented by De la Catessen Records.
Originally self-released by Schultz in 1996, on his own Waterhole imprint, Within Our Reach was initially distributed free as a community resource, and not available for sale. De La Catessen’s reissue is an invaluable contribution to developing histories of music and composition from Adelaide. It also offers the chance for germane reflection on the implications of late capitalism, gentrification, and ‘development’ for both landscape and inhabitants.
For Within Our Reach, Schultz has mapped out, via field recordings, an intricate, generous composition that documents the sounds of the Port River tidal inlet area of the greater Adelaide city. The recordings cover the period between 1989 to 1995, during which time the last of the industries based on the banks of the Port’s higher land closed; there’s something of a ghosted psychogeography of industry past during parts of Within Our Reach, with Schultz’s evocative use of field recordings offering the listener clues as to the ongoing spatial rearrangement of the Port River area.
Throughout Within Our Reach, we hear the interaction of multiple phenomena. The cawing and singing of birds, individual and en masse, broadcasts out over the submerged drone that modern transport ‘gifts’ to the urban soundscape; for example, a rambling human voice, singing the traditional song “Down By The Riverside”, is tangled up in the hum and purr of traffic, and the call of the seagull. Water and wind interact; the wind plays the guitar strings like an Aeolian harp; on “Hulks”, Schultz and friends ‘play’ the debris of the mudflats, tapping on rusty bolts and rotting wood; a scherzo of people, wandering through the everyday, leads into a documentation of families gathered on the mudflats, playing guitar, recorder and clarinets, humming along idly; story fragments drift by, from Schultz and others.
The delicate balancing act undertaken here, between the sounds of the natural world, the intrusions of the industrial world, and the constant negotiations of the people and animals that live within, and around, these spaces, is testament to Schultz’s sensitive ear and careful, considered composition.
Dedicated to theologian social critic Jacques Ellul, composer and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen, soundscape composer R. Murray Schafer, and the residents of Port Adelaide, Within Our Reach is a deeply moving document of the transformation of public space, and a profound, genuinely critical “music of place.” - De La Catessen