Collaborations and Group Projects

dawn in trieste

ArtsReact Project - Ocean

What does the ocean mean to me? It is a cycle and a destination. My creative journey begins with thoughts, skills, and knowledge, continues along emotional rivers, sometimes pausing in unknown parts. From all directions at once, ideas flow into and out of a creative vastness. Finding direction in this vastness requires reference points. The ocean (in four directions) interweaves the ocean recording (stimulus), the compass (NSWE), and the shamanic wheel of life (air, water, earth, fire). It evokes the endless cycle of water from river to ocean to sky to river.

Circles within circles, rolling waves, cycles of life… breath to death. 

The decision to approach the multi-media artsreact project as a discovery challenge inspired me to combine established skills with developing and newly acquired skills. In short, I threw everything in. The result is a series of visual, music and word compositions/improvisations. These are now springboards for future projects. The cycle continues…


Performance: A creative interest in making new sounds with wind instruments is my main area of expertise. (Note about the much maligned recorder: As many a youngster, I began learning recorder at primary school. My parents were advised that it would reduce symptoms of childhood asthma. I enjoyed learning recorder with my fantastic teacher, Bernard Tola. My love for recorder was enriched as my whole family embraced it. On many weekend afternoons we would sit around playing recorder ensemble music. I continued to play even when I “graduated” to clarinet. In South: watersign the tenor recorder cuts to the very core of how fragile and connected a wind musician can be to ton, breath, and fluctuations - the sound is so quiet and closely recorded, that the wave-like pulse of my heart is clearly audible.)

Drawing and Painting: Since 2006, I have presented many solo and group exhibitions in Australia and Austria. The ocean is a source of inspiration and perspective.

Composition/Improvisation: Works for solo and ensembles, for myself and commissions for other musicians. The most recent being Cooking for improvisers first performed by Vienna Improvisers Orchestra in 2017.


Language: I am in the process of learning German. It was a new challenge to write a text in English while keeping in mind that I would translate it to German for this project. Many people have asked why I learn the language that can seem harsh. Apart from wanting to continue living and communicating in Vienna, I find the sounds beautiful and fascinating. 

Words: Writing is part of me. I began a journal at twelve and kept going. Sometimes writing is the only thing between rationality and hysteria. It holds me in check as it allows me freedom. While most of my writing has been, by its very personal nature, private, I have now begun to put small pieces into the public arena through soundscapes. The Arrow was the first of such pieces. The words in you are the ocean are composed, improvised, spoken, sung, and distorted through recording.

Instruments: I have ventured into the realm of unusual instruments as well as pushing the boundaries of conventional instruments including hornax (tenor horn with sax mouthpiece), cross-blown bass clarinet, pocket sax (known affectionately as my pochésax), and voice (overtone and throat singing.)

Graphic Score Design: Having performed many graphic scores and performed live painting to music, producing my own graphic scores seems a natural development. Gentle Enquiry performed my latest score breathe into it 2.

Acquiring Skills

Recording: As a musician, recording is part of life. Standing behind a microphone to perform or record is as natural as taking a bath. The new skills for me are close-mic recording my instruments, body, and voice. The locations vary from small, dry rooms, to bathrooms, to under river tunnels. The challenge with capturing sound in every space is completely absorbing. 

Sound Editing: Returning to the past love of electronic music has guided me towards sound editing as well as sound filter and mastering programs. Manipulated sounds have the capacity to increase emotional impact.

Body Percussion: What surprised me most as a musician and dancer is that body percussion is not as easy as it looks.  The way the body moves differs in challenging ways from a musician’s interaction with her sense of rhythm and her instrument or dancer's response to external sound stimulus. The body percussive effects resonate deeply within the body and are as delightfully revitalising as they are grounding.


"I’ve got a magic charm that I keep up my sleeve, I can walk the ocean floor and never have to breathe." (Maya Angelou, ‘Life Doesn't Frighten Me’)


Stanzas for Music

There be none of Beauty's daughters 

With a magic like thee; 

And like music on the waters 

Is thy sweet voice to me: 

When, as if its sound were causing 

The charmed ocean's pausing, 

The waves lie still and gleaming, 

And the lull'd winds seem dreaming: 

And the midnight moon is weaving 

Her bright chain o'er the deep; 

Whose breast is gently heaving, 

As an infant's asleep: 

So the spirit bows before thee, 

To listen and adore thee; 

With a full but soft emotion, 

Like the swell of Summer's ocean. 

(Lord Byron, Public Domain)


A sailor went to sea, sea, sea

To see what he could sea, sea, sea

But all that he could sea, sea, sea, 

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.

(Children’s clapping song adapted from A Father Went to Sea, Sea, Sea)


My Bonnie lies over the ocean

My Bonnie lies over the sea

My Bonnie lies over the ocean

Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me…

(Traditional Scottish folk song)

Breath novel by Tim Winton, 2008 

Peter Grimes opera by Benjamin Britten

La Mer by Claude Debussy

Elisabeth Cummings, Australian artist

Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian artist

John Olsen, Australian artist

Free diving

Original material:

Instagram progress posts

Beginnings - diagram 

Graphic notation

Ocean in Trieste 

Ships crossing in the night 

Breathe into it: mist fog like a hug


Original improvised instrumental and vocal recordings by Elisabeth Kelvin

Sampled sounds (including from artsreact stimulus.)


Composed words by Elisabeth Kelvin with German translation assistance by Michael Franz-Woels


mist fog like a hug



by the river

rush of hours

gliding in snow

following and flowing, 

your breathy, 

“you know…”

hang around


linger a little 


if I could 

all the other hours 

mist fog like a hug


cold tomorrow 

iced-filled chill of frost 


that same old light snow 


sparkling eyes


on river


im nebel im schleier verschlungen


am fluss

im stundenrausch

gleitend im schnee

folgt fließend

deinem gehauchten, 

"du weißt doch ..."

wir lassen uns treiben

die gliedmaßen

entspannen beim 


könnte ich doch nur 

für weitere stunden 


im nebel im schleier verschlungen


kaltes morgen, 


mit frostigem schauer

der immer gleiche

immer leichte schnee


funkelt mit den augen ...



mit dem fluss …

Improvised words by Elisabeth Kelvin:




so like i’m like y’know like um like um a watersign so like i’m i’m like uh into the like water uh , i couldn’t like be uh further than i am from like the ocean like i have no sea around me and thats just not like cool…


I turned you into the ocean


so, i have turned you into the ocean, in my mind

the biggest i can imagine

the clouds over the waves are you

all the drops of rain that fall - your kisses

and all these rivers that i visit

i think, “there you are”, flowing back into the ocean

even in winter, frozen ground, covered in frost and then light snow

little snowflakes on my cheeks - your kisses

whenever i see the water, that’s you 

dew on grass - your sparkling eyes 

mist fog like a hug

its all you 

so, you are always around me 


still knowing this river flows into you

makes me think 

you are the ocean


mist fog like a hug

alle regentropfen, die fallen - deine küsse

kleine schneeflocken auf meinen wangen - deine küsse

im nebel im schleier verschlungen

Wet Paintbrushes

The ocean (in four directions)

by Elisabeth Kelvin


North: mist fog like a hug

Journey on the river. Still fresh, fades to a whisper. Ink on paper 150x200mm 2019.

South: watersign

Landlocked, longing for the ocean like a crab or a fish out of water. A romance of distance shapes a lover’s memory of a distant romance. Without sea, only a meditation on air. Ink and watercolor on paper 150x200mm 2019.

West: my (bonnie) sailor 

Why leave? Why chase? What crazy clapping and singing Sirens seduce me? Who? Who hasn’t screamed from the shore? Ink and watercolor on paper 150x200mm 2019.

East: you are the ocean

Seeking solace in water, in all its forms. Returning to the river, knowing it flows into the ocean. Pencil on colored paper 450x600mm 2019.


Click to discover more about Elisabeth Kelvin 

Copyright © 2020 Elisabeth Kelvin

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