Located in Yallingup, Canal Rocks, or Winjee Sam – as it is known to the Wadandi people, is a massive finger of rock along the Leeuwin Naturaliste ridge, where thousands of years of oceanic swell and wind has carved a network of canals.

A narrow bridge leads over the rocks, where you can witness the powerful forces of the ocean from above.

Canal Rocks from above. Image credit Matt Deakin.

If you’ve ever been to Canal Rocks, you might remember feeling invigorated by the elements. The wind on your face, spray of the sea and the sounds of powerful crashing waves followed by quieter undertones between the swell.

For creative types, the experience is a huge, wild invitation to extend your imagination.

Filmmaker and Sound Artist, Tom Allum felt the creative pull of the landscape here, and has created an audio experience with collaborator Matt Slocomb. Together, the pair translated the swirling sheltered rock pools and the turmoil of the canal itself for an exhibition Out of the Sea, reworking musical elements with raw field recordings to serve up a meditative and emotional sound narrative.

Tom took 5 to answer 5 about the project.

Sound artist, Tom Allum.

Why Canal Rocks?

Canal Rocks is a geographic wonder. It’s a place where two beaches interact against solid granite. As a visitor you can explore the rock pools, go for a dip and hike up the little headland to view the coast. You are easily able to wander down to the south to find an empty beach.

It’s also a place to witness the power of Mother Nature. The waves out the back crashing onto the rocks. It looks stunningly peaceful on a sunny day but the power of the water is undeniable.

The contrast of the fixed stone with the dynamism of the water and wind lends itself to exploration.

This album is a documentation of the feeling of the place for me. The project came from an exhibition I was a part of where we used an emerging technology called spatial mapping to map and interpret the site. So Canal Rocks offered the visual, sonic and atmospheric fodder for the project.


Do you feel getting out in the Margaret River Region helps recalibrate your creative process?

Yes I have spent many holidays down in the region, particularly around Dunsborough with friends. I have done countless music recording projects down there. I find the bush inspiring for writing. Beach dips are compulsory for washing off the late-night studio sweats. Then hot bread n’ butter from ‘Yallingup Woodfired Bread’ off Biddle Rd after that 4 O’Clock bake.


As an audio artist, how do you communicate a landscape through sound?

If you switch from sight-seeing to listening it can uncover many unexpected moments. Often I will arrive somewhere and just stop for a moment, close my eyes and listen to what’s present in the environment. Then wander along a bit, stop and take in more detail again. The thing with sound is that our ears hear everything but the brain filters most of it out. So the longer you spend on a sound, the more you will hear. Then I will explore a bit – hear my footsteps over changing ground, my breath as I wander. Before you know it my head’s inside a stormwater pipe and I’m tapping on a flag pole. By then my friends and family are somewhere else and I’m lost.

Sunrise is best to hear local bird life and witness the dawn chorus. I love filtering the wind and wave noise by tilting my head in different ways at the beach. I remember doing this under a beach towel as a kid a lot. I love hearing snippets of dialogue here and there from travellers. I find the motorbike frogs and cicadas in the south west comforting.

I always take sound recordings as I go about normal life in Fremantle. Sometime just iPhone recordings to capture moments or interesting ideas. When I go away for work or holidays I always take my field recorder to gather material. These recordings usually find their way into my music, art and film projects (generally after thorough digital mangling).

Tom recording in the field.

You’re a student of yoga philosophy yourself. Do you think that meditative soundscapes can encourage mindfulness and benefit our mental health?

Yes 100%.

There’s actually a whole branch known as Nāda yoga. I’m not an expert in it but essentially it’s a study of vibration and uses listening as a path. I’ve seen it take the form of chanting, music or simply sitting in stillness and being present to sound.

After going down a path of deepening my yoga practice I’ve realised that music and sound have always been my tools for achieving similar states as yoga achieves. Namely, moments of mental clarity, feelings of calm and a deeper understanding of life.


Lastly, is there a guide to the ‘best way to listen’?

Yes. Stop talking!

How to Explore Canal Rocks

To experience this geological feature yourself, you can access the timber walkway to the granite outcrop, by taking a short walk from the car park. Best to travel with another person and never in rough weather, as the bridge has been destroyed by storms on occasion. It’s a marvel though, and well worth a visit.

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