Gail Priest

I’ve worked in the arts in various capacities for over 20 years. For over 15 of these I worked for RealTime as Advertising Sales Manager, Associate Editor, Online Producer and Layout Artist of the beloved print magazine. Somewhere in there, I was encouraged to write articles covering sound and media art in particular.

A few years back, with blessing and much encouragement, I left RealTime to pursue my artistic practice which over the years had morphed from actor/theatre-maker to sound artist. I was able to take this amazing leap thanks to receiving an Australia Council Emerging and Experimental Arts Fellowship (2015/2016).

My ‘pitch’ for the fellowship was to creatively integrate my practice of writing about sound (as I had been doing for RT for over a decade) with my practice of making sound. The vehicle for this has been a three-year project called Sounding the Future, combining speculative fiction and audiovision to explore what art in the future might sound like. This has manifested as an immersive interactive installation exhibited in Germany and Hong Kong, a three-part radiophonic version for ABC Radio’s sadly-no-longer Soundproof program, and an online adaptation of an excerpt for the new media journal continent. Still to come is the Australian presentation of the installation at UTS Gallery in August 2017, which will also include works by other invited artists.

The last few years have also seen me do some serious art travelling, undertaking residencies, performing and presenting installations in Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Italy and the UK. Most recently I undertook a residency at Listhus in Northern Iceland—for a little taste of my musical approach try my project Songmapping Ólafsfjörður.


Encouraged by Keith and Virginia, 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 (well covered by Matthew Lorenzon’s blog Partial Durations).

Under the tutelage of editors and amazing wordsmiths Keith Gallasch and Virginia Baxter, my writing over the years has improved dramatically. With their gentle but rigorous guidance I have come to love crafting the perfect sentence, even if that means rewriting it 10 times. And I have even learned to cope with the need to then cut that sentence if requested. I (hopefully) have learned that the pursuit of economy and clarity does not mean sacrificing creativity and poetry. I undertook two subjects of a Creative Writing degree a few years back, and this confirmed for me that I have had the best teachers in Keith and Virginia.

Writing this exposé in 2014 I said: “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.”

This is now the manifesto for my current creative practice. I am working on a series of pieces, in particular a commission for the Experimenta Make Sense Triennial, exploring how we process the listening experience linguistically. Quite simply, my whole practice is now about this “language of listening” and I can honestly say that this would not have come about had it not been for my experiences with RealTime.

Recent articles for realtime

Other writing