Absolute Rhythm


Works for Minor Radio

by Paul Carter

BUY TOGETHER WITH PAUL CARTER’S AMPLIFICATIONS: POETIC MIGRATION, AUDITORY MEMORY FOR THE SPECIAL BUNDLE PRICE OF £35.00. Use the coupon code ‘Carter’ at checkout for the discount to be applied.

Performance Research Books, 2020

Softcover, 240 pages. RRP £30.00. CPR price £24.00.

SKU: 978-1-906499-10-5 Category:


Absolute Rhythm collects, introduces and presents ten scripts generated in a period of remarkable political and institutional creativity in Australia.

Situated at the crossroads of an immensely fertile exchange between the European Ars Acustica tradition and the emergent environmental sound art movement in Australia, the scripts filter themes of exilic memory, cross-cultural encounter, sexual politics and political betrayal through the experience of migration whose discursive and poetic signature is, according to Carter, echoic mimicry, a sense of psychological and environmental self-doubling that shadows every aspect of colonial history and postcolonial conscience.

The saving grace of the mimetic condition is the irony it brings to the navigation of human relations and the scope it offers to explore the comedy of human desire when it is shadowed by proliferating phonic mishearings. The sonic mise-en-scène of many of the scripts is the edge of the sea, where sibilance is held ambiguously between sense and a deeper non-sense. Like any avant-garde, the radiophonic culture incubated at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in the period 1980–2000 was fragile.

Absolute Rhythm comes with access to the original productions: a double archive, in this sense, of a disappeared scene of production, its object is entirely forward-looking, to supply the groundwork for new forms of concomitant production. An acoustic archaeology, it serves, like Ezra Pound’s notion of ‘absolute rhythm’, to preserve ‘the main form of the work’ from ‘the vicissitudes and calamities’ of historical circumstance and repressive cultural politics.
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“In one script after another, Absolute Rhythm teaches us to listen. Audio-imaginings of a postcolonial consciousness, acutely attuned to the politics of sounds (and silences), meditative, absurdist, by turn baroquely comic and barely bleak, Paul Carter’s radio oeuvre does for hearing what his celebrated book The Road to Botany Bay did for seeing. Putting down roots in the Australian environment, its subtle poetics remains strong in the face of hard rain.”
BARRY HILL – poet and historian

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Paul Carter was born in 1951, educated at Oxford and migrated to Australia in the early 1980s: the refraction of two cultural hemispheres through each other informs contributions to cultural studies (The Road to Botany Bay, 1987, The Lie of the Land, 1996), creative methodology (Material Thinking, 2004, Dark Writing, 2008) and essays in postcolonial rapprochement with Australian Aboriginal practices of coexistence (Meeting Place, 2013, Places Made After Their Stories, 2015, Decolonising Governance, 2018). The way places are inscribed in cultural texts also inspires a public art practice: his 2020 publication Signature (Melbourne: Lyon Housemuseum) collects eight texts inscribed into public spaces around Australia, including Melbourne’s Federation Square and the Homebush Bay site of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and redesigns them for the book. Outside radio, his sound-installation scripts for the Museum of Sydney have been published in The Calling to Come (1995) and Lost Subjects (1998). His engagement with the history of memory is also evident in his recent co-curatorship of Poseidonia: città d’acqua, archeologia e cambiamenti climatici (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum, Italy, 2019–20. He is Creative Director of the design studio Material Thinking and co-director of the Aboriginal-owned cultural heritage consultancy Nyungar Birdiyia. He is Professor of Design (Urbanism), School of Architecture and Urban Design, RMIT University, Melbourne.

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This new title inaugurates the third series of Performance Research Books, ‘Engaging Performance Materials’, which will present performance texts, scripts and scenarios as working documents, intended for practical use in the studio, as material for workshops and for staging and presentation, in addition to being of historical and scholarly use.

Additional information

Weight 0.723 kg