The Sound of Forgetting

by robert (o) iolini

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The Sound of Forgetting was produced while Iolini was New Media Artist in residence at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's acoustic arts program The Listening Room. The project was supported by the ABC and The Australia Council for the Arts New Media Board.

The Sound of Forgetting was the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's entry for the 2005 Karl Sczuka Prize


The Sound of Forgetting is a non linear narrative work that uses 'lost sounds' from Sydney's past, media archives and scripted dialogues to explore issues of identity - property ownership - denial of history - corporate greed - legal and illegal violence - government cynicism - loss of self, function and place - mass media - the relevance of art - colonialism - surveillance - social engineering - public space. In the work, the character of Sha and her alter ego A'Shamedia function as a vehicle to convey Iolini's concerns about contemporary western urban life. Sydney is the space that the character inhabits and acts as a kind of generic city model. The protagonist's inner dialogues, which consist of rephrased quotes and original text, relate not only to herself, but to Sydney, both metaphorically and literally. Sha in a sense, is a media archaeologist excavating sociopolitical events. During the process she is also on an internal journey, excavating parts of herself. Through her thoughts, discoveries and creative output we are taken on a journey that embraces universal concerns which affect many of us today.



By Roberto Iolini

A'SHAM-MEDIA We may pretend that we're basically moral people who make mistakes, but the whole of history proves otherwise.
SHA When I sit and do nothing I get angry/guilty with myself. So I end up doing things half-heartedly.
A'SHAM-MEDIA It's no good waging war half-heartedly.
SHA Is revolution even possible today?
A'SHAM-MEDIA The sound of forgetting……………
CROWD No war, No war ………….

A'SHAM-MEDIA Culture has always been subservient to capital in Sydney. The will of the chosen few determining the fate of the rest. Using whatever means necessary to achieve their goal.
SHA Why does the history of this place appear so negative, so dark?
A'SHAM-MEDIA How can there be light in a city where legal and illegal violence have worked together from the beginning?
ACTIVIST If we have to barricade ourselves in, we have to barricade ourselves, If we have to sit in front of the bulldozers, we'll do that. If these houses get knocked down, our houses are next in line.
JOURNALIST Juanita Nielson the owner of a local Kings Cross newspaper, was fiercely defending the street, and attacking the methods employed by the developers to evict the remaining tenants…..On July 4th 1975 Juanita Nielson disappeared, and nobody has seen her since.

A'SHAM-MEDIA There's only on thing that never changes, that all things change.
SHA Why can't I change? It's as if I'm living in a parallel universe, where normal laws don't apply.
A'SHAM-MEDIA There are roads, and there are maps……..
SHA …. But it requires a person to trust. That's the difficulty.
RESEARCHER We have prolonged life beyond that particular point of productivity. So it's a quite unique problem in our culture. One typical phenomenon is, you might call self-fulfilling prophecies. If they hear often enough that they are not productive in society, that they are quite useless. Eventually they come to accept that stereotype for themselves. I think the stereotypes are ore common to western industrialized societies. We place so much emphasis on work and productivity and very little on leisure time or social relationships. It's a typically western phenomenon.
RESIDENT The end of the street as we know it.

A'SHAM-MEDIA This obsession of yours, with all these old, useless sounds and places. Who are you making it for?
SHA It's all so one-sided. I want to address that. I've got a responsibility.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Aren't you afraid that your message will fall on deaf ears? Have you forgotten that this the age of the eye?
SHA Colours do not move people. Flags can do nothing without trumpets.
ADVERTISEMENT MAN By Jove, look at the nice radios in this window.
ADVERTISEMENT WOMAN Yes. I like that one. George, we must get rid of that old set of ours, it's out of date, and what's more it's lost its punch. I believe these new His Master's Voice radios are very good. Let's go in and have a look at them.
ADVERTISEMENT MAN Right you are. Come on, let's, there's no time like the present.
ADVERTISEMENT MAN His Master's Voice 'true to life radio'. A radio for every taste. 'true to life radio'
SHA I don't think I can go through with this. It seems too unclear, somehow dishonest.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Look, I'm the one who takes all the risks.
SHA What you call a risk I call propaganda.
A'SHAM-MEDIA That didn't seem to bother you when you were still a one of us.
SHA Well I'm no longer one of you am I!
A'SHAM-MEDIA You artists have got it the wrong way around, you think you invent, but it's all already there!
DEVELOPER A building without people in it dies. It decays in six months time, it rots away. A building is not made to be empty, it's been made to live in.
EVICTED ARTIST Plenty of artist, poets and people who had links with theatre.
JOURNALIST Have you got to keep protecting these buildings forever, or do only have to do it for a limited period of time.
FAMOUS ARTIST Australia's never been a very easy country. It's a place where a white man left alone wouldn't live very long.
RESIDENT I just thought, to hell with developers and authorities. Because I genuinely believe that somebody's got to walk away from money and stand and look at what was happening to Sydney, to the little pockets of preservation that were being torn asunder, were coming down fast.

SHA Last night I dreamt that I was on an island, one of those Mediterranean white-washed-seaside villages. I'm looking for someone or something. I don't know who or what. There are doors, no two are alike and not one will open. It's strange because I seem to be resigned to the fact that they are all inaccessible, even though I haven't actually tried to open or even knock on any. In the dream I keep trying to make phone calls but when I pick up the receiver I can't remember who I'm calling. Then a voice comes through the receiver it says "It's different here, dangerous. Sometimes law is on the side of power not truth. When soldiers burned our village they said this is the law, so I thought law meant the right of the army to kill us!"

SHA What makes a thing precious? What makes a thing enduring? Why is it that some things last and others of seemingly equal importance, dissolve into memory?
A'SHAM-MEDIA Nothing lasts it's an old dream. Art burns dissolves. And to be loved with the irony of history - that isn't much.
POLITICIAN We will continue the beautification of the city. That area south of the Town Hall should also match the dramatic visual effect of downtown Sydney.
COMENTATOR It's a loss not only to Sydney, but to Australia.
RESIDENT It's something that can't be replaced, this is of paramount importance. Once it's gone, it's lost forever.
HISTORIAN Although it is still government, it behaves has if it were the developer, because a lot of what it does is outside the process of what the voters have a say in……. Once things go you forget, you forget very quickly.
REPORTER Flatten the theatre and build an office block!

A'SHAM-MEDIA There was a time of innocence when people would see two images together and cry, because they made sense.
SHA How would it be if we simply closed our eyes and blocked our ears, just for one single day? Would that change anything?
TOWER RESIDENT If you've had an argument or something or you're feeling very depressed. Well you can easily just jump. You get sick of watching TV all the time.
A'SHAM-MEDIA And those who just watch without thinking have no tears left to weep, they have unlearned how to see.

SHA You know it's strange, I spent my entire youth trying to be accepted. Feeling pressured by some ubiquitous force.
A'SHAM-MEDIA So now that you're no longer seen as a threat you feel at home, right?
SHA No, I wish I did. But I can't help seeing this as a place that hasn't fully coalesced or solidified. I don't want to sit around waiting for the nation to stop being in denial.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Those white invaders must have thought they were god. Creating the cosmos out of primordial chaos!
SHA Yes, imagine that rough band of criminals and jailers, scrambling out of their fetid wooden boats. Blind to the dark eyes watching from the bush.
TELEGRAM AD Merry Christmas England, greetings Canada, happy New Year to you in Scotland. Wherever your friends are overseas there's a quick way to greet them. Send them an overseas telegram.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Everywhere, artificial memories obliterate people's memories, which obliterate people from memory.

A'SHAM-MEDIA I'd believe your arguments more if you lived here. You can't just slip in, make a discovery and leave.
SHA You want me to censor myself?
A'SHAM-MEDIA I want you to understand the archaeological surround of a fact. Or you'll be just like one of those journalists, full of false empathy and blame.
RESIDENT …A city of considerable charm and a city that was lived in. Rather than the multi-story canyons that you can see if you walk down Pitt Street or George Street…
WEIGHT LOSS AD Are you too fat, too fat to fit the 'Ford Pill' figure? Be slim and be smart.
GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA TV AD Go to the garden walk around and count the trees. Try touching your toes, but if you can't then touch your knees. Go walk the dog, leap frog, or go for a jog. Be in it today, live more of your life.
SOCIAL WORKER There was an elderly gentleman who lived in this area. And he knew that he had to move. But when it actually came time for him to pick up and go, he couldn't cope, he committed suicide.

A'SHAM-MEDIA It is the sheer quantity of information which has alienated us from political and social reality. The large city isolates the individual citizen, but the multi-cultural perspectives of the press have isolated the human spirit itself from any milieu.
SHA Yeah, we've become like battle weary warriors, who've seen it all. Nothing surprises or astonishes anybody anymore. We're beyond that, it's gone.
A'SHAM-MEDIA What do you expect? They've had years of it. You can't blame people for going to sleep or closing down. I mean look at yourself.
SHA There may have been a time of ethics and morals and pretense of truth. But in fact, we've gone beyond that.
NEWSPAPER SELLER Final extra papers, the latest. Final extra, the latest, find out another murder.

SHA I want to be on the street and not feel that that I'm in some kind of no-mans-land.
A'SHAM-MEDIA This is a free country. You can go wherever you like.
SHA It's a kind of empty freedom. We can do and say whatever we like as long as we keep moving and don't stop to take advantage of the space.
A'SHAM-MEDIA That's what the home is for! You can do everything there. It's protection. It's safe. Why do you want to go outside? Anyhow, what's wrong with your TV?
SHA Safe from what? From sharing eye contact or a common mood with strangers? From being exposed? A collective aliveness? Trust?
A'SHAM-MEDIA You're in the wrong culture for that. Streets here are for travel only, unless designated otherwise. The rituals that you're craving do not operate here. The streets are public, but only conditionally.
POLICE COMMISSIONER Any group, right left or wherever. Who are a threat as far as public order, peace, politically motivated violence, or terrorist activity is concerned will get our attention.
JOURNALIST Police posed as volunteers on public radio. Even presenting a breakfast program to gain information on community groups.
RESEARCHER Governments themselves have an interest in keeping records about citizens without the permission of citizens.
JOURNALIST Its tactics included bugging and infiltration of groups considered suspect.
RESEARCHER Whenever they walk around with a mobile phone, their whereabouts can be pinpointed within a few tens of meters at any time.
JOURNALIST(S) Law enforcement agencies may soon be given the rights to hide tracking devices on private vehicles…install tiny transmitters in computers…..capable of collecting passwords and data….freedom to conduct normal business and social life without fear of attack and transmission.
RESIDENT The end of the street as we know it!

SHA Last night I dreamt that I was in a supermarket. One of those huge hypermarkets that sell everything a person could possibly want. There are isles, hundreds of them and no two are alike. I'm looking for something, but I don't know what. In the dream, I'm grabbing items from the shelves and meticulously reading the labels, desperately searching for a clue. All of a sudden a television appears and a newsreader looks me in the eye, smiles and says, "The drama is acted out on the screens and nowhere else. The reality of 'it' remains hidden from us."

A'SHAM-MEDIA & SHA There is a certain group of people who do not want to keep much of the past in their heads. For them, it is considered unhealthy to remember mistakes, neurotic to think about them, psychotic to dwell on them. It makes sense that Europe and the UN are strongly opposed to 'The Project for a New American Century'. They've seen militant fascism up close and personal before, and never want to see it again.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Pax Americana! Australia obviously has no problem with that.
SHA Once a colony, always a colony!
HISTORIAN The people who founded the place were not looking at the basis of a town plan, but rather a camp, an armed camp.
IMMIGRANT I love England, you know I didn't leave there.
HISTORIAN An armed camp.
POLITICIAN Today we rally for the truth. We rally for the truth because the government has tried to sell the people lies!
NEWSPAPER SELLER Newspaper here!

SHA I wish I could be like this city. So easily renewed/transformed - made beautiful. Where's my demolition crew?
A'SHAM-MEDIA Can't you see, you're just dead space. We're all on our way to death. You can't live every moment as if it were your last, so you might as well accept that you're already dead. Immortality, that's the saddest joke of the new millennium.
TRAIN ANNOUNCEMENT Your attention platform 18. 12/20 Riverston service has been cancelled.

A'SHAM-MEDIA The irrelevance of electoral party politics in the face of global corporatism.
SHA Wasn't it Benito who said "Fascism, should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."?
A'SHAM-MEDIA The history of the World Bank has been to take power away from communities, give it the central government, who then gives it to the corporations through privatisation.
POLITICIAN Take your finger off the trigger don't pull the trigger, Take your finger off the trigger don't pull the trigger etc…..
SOCIAL WORKER There are lots of ways you can harass a person emotionally.
TOOTHPASTE AD Nigger boy, nigger boy, nigger boy etc….
FRUIT MARKET SELLER Great big cucumbers here, golden bananas! Etc….
STOCK EXCHANGE Selling at $5.20 …….etc….
A'SHAM-MEDIA And the streets become less hospitable, a mere anxiety-ridden dash to one's goals………………….

SHA You like to remain blurry, don't you, even to yourself.
A'SHAM-MEDIA I don't think clarity is necessarily truth.
SHA I need to break things apart to know where someone something has come from.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Secrets turn powerless in the open air.
SHA Political secrets are not powerless, in any form.
A'SHAM-MEDIA The domain of things said is what is called the archive, the role of archaeology is to analyse that archive.
POLITICIAN Almost any underhand, nasty tactic was used to legitimate what was a very heavy pro development push in that area.
HISTORIAN What happened then, is what has happened historically over time, not just this particular government, but any government. Whenever a pressure point like that in the city looms, and there's some sort of public or even local government protest against it. Then the tendency is to take that out of control of the democratic process.
POLITICIAN Look this is an area subject to a permanent preservation order, it was on the register of the national estate, and yet the government actively connived in its demolition

SHA I'm sick of all this. I'm tired of being conservatised by all these forces. By this environment.
A'SHAM-MEDIA Art-etainment! Is that your solution? I don't understand. You won't work in film on philosophical grounds, you won't do advertising, that's fair enough. And now you're a successful journalist and you want to be an artist.
SHA What's so frightening about poetry? Anyhow, there is nothing elitist about making works for a minority. Someone's got to do it!………….
FAMOUS WRITER It seems to me so, well immoral, to spend all this money on sport, when we have so many other things to do. We are against the great god sport. I think it's a gigantic political lurk. For the glorification of shaky politicians. Hospitals, aboriginal problems, theatres, art galleries all these things should be attended to before sport.
SHA Diversity and resistance.
COMEDIAN A bit of friendly advice mate. Pull your bloody head in will you!
TELEPHONE ANNOUNCEMENT The number you have called is not connected. Please check the number before calling again.
A'SHAM-MEDIA What's your project about?
SHA Good question. It's about many things. Love, History, The Future.
A'SHAM-MEDIA So it's a story?
SHA If a story can have no beginning and no end.

18 OSAMA 18
A'SHAM-MEDIA Do you feel more afraid now than you did before the coming of OSAMA?
SHA No. I feel more confident. I feel strangely optimistic, it's like finally the truth, the shit, in other words, has risen to the surface. There are no more excuses. An end to ignorance AND to tolerance.

Additional Textual Sources: Michael Ondaatje - Anil's Ghost, Michel Foucault - The Archæology of Knowledge, Naomi Klein - Guardian article Nov 02, Deleuze and Guattari - A Thousand Plateaus, Jean Luc Godard - Le Petit Soldat, John Birmingham - Leviathan: the unauthorised biography of Sydney, Marshal McLuhan - New Media As Political Forms


released June 24, 2018
Roberto Iolini - Writer, Composer, Sound-designer, Producer
Amanda Stewart & Virginia Baxter - Vocals

Recorded at ABC studios Ultimo, Sydney, 2004
Robyn Ravlich - Executive Producer The Listening Room
Sound Engineer - Russell Stapleton


all rights reserved



robert (o) iolini

||| Internationally recognised composer...
||| Two solo albums released on British avant-garde music label ReR Megacorp...
||| Style apparently follows function...
||| Chamber ensembles, Outsider theatre, Large-scale works for radio, audio-drama.

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