Famed Taiwanese poet Xi Murong once likened love to a bright moon, perched on the tips of mountains, displaying its clarity with quiet confidence.
Somehow, when we are in the company of nature, our sincerest emotions bubble to the surface. Whether it is the sound of rain in the forest, or the silhouette of rolling hills set against the darkness of the night, the sheer majesty of the environment gives us an inexplicable feeling of peace.
Translating these feelings into sound is Australian artist Nicholas Dallwitz, a man of many talents.
There’s the visual artist with a Masters in Painting from RMIT University, and there’s the electronic musician who performs as Florigenix, creating synth-based and intelligent dance music (IDM) songs inspired by the environment.
Florigenix originally started in 2017 as a live dance music act, where Dallwitz improvised techno using drum machines and synthesisers.
He primarily experiments with ambient or abstract composition, as well as retro psychedelia and sound design.
Dallwitz’s exposure to making music began when he was in his teens.
“My earliest memories of writing electronic music were when I was around 14 or 15, using Music 2000 on my friend's PlayStation!” he says.
“I also had a Casio keyboard which I learnt to improvise on. Once I had a taste for making music this way, my father helped me build a basic recording setup using an unused Mac computer from his workplace.”
That said, it wasn’t always sunshine and butterflies from the get-go; setting up the technology so that it all worked the way he wanted was a challenge for Dallwitz.
“In the early stages of my career as a sound artist, the technical aspects, especially back in 1999, were a huge learning curve,” he reminisces.
“From installing correct drivers on the PC, to understanding MIDI, to learning to programme synthesisers... But it was also very rewarding, because soon I was producing my own tracks and sharing them with my friends. Everything was really pixelated and raw back then!”
‘INSTAGRAM IS AN ART MEDIUM IN ITSELF’
Unlike many other artists who tend to shy away from social media, Dallwitz is a prolific user of Instagram, using the platform to create immersive audio-visual content for his audience.
Posting on Instagram is an art medium in itself, he says, where short clips can be used to set a vibe that includes both a visual and sonic experience.
Preferring to present his content in split screen format as seen below, Dallwitz explains: “I have to say, I first encountered this technique in the film Woodstock (1970), and that film was really amazing to me.
“Of course I’ve seen the technique used in Instagram photos and videos as well. I was playing with different ways of presenting visuals, and this looked good and was also well received. I guess because it caters for the people who like to see the performance, as well as those who like to be transported into these natural spaces.”
Images and videos personally-captured by Dallwitz, set side by side with live recordings of his performance, create a mirror image as man meets nature in a heady alchemy of notes.
“Participating in music is an ancient ritual and source of healing, wellbeing and connection to the spirit and the unseen. My creations are more of a channeling of energy, rather than an action of invention by an individual.”
For Dallwitz, nature is everywhere – there is no difference between natural and artificial.
“Humans are natural and originate from nature. But also, it’s all artificial because everything we experience is coloured and co-created by our perception and consciousness.”
And yet, at the same time, non-human nature is also important to him, as it is where he draws a bulk of his inspiration from.
Zinc-thatched roofs in Valpairaiso, Chile, make an appearance in his videos, as do leafy tendrils glistening with raindrops, or even a broken tree branch covered in moss. The magical touch that Dallwitz has over his work is that all of these elements come together in harmony, never once feeling out of place.
‘MUSIC COMES THROUGH ME, AND MY MIND JUST DIRECTS IT’
How does his creative process work when creating these immersive videos?
“As far as which one comes first, well it can be either. Sometimes I take some footage and I know exactly what music I want to create for it,” answers Dallwitz.
“Other times I just jam and play with my synth, record it, and then browse through my library of nature footage and find something that I feel fits the mood.”
One time, on a road trip, he happened to look out of his van window at 4am while parked next to a beach.
“The waves seemed to be rather bright, even though there was no moonlight. I wasn’t sure if my eyes were deceiving me!”
Taking out his camera, Dallwitz captured some long-exposure shots – sure enough, bioluminescence (tiny living organisms that emit light through chemical reactions when agitated) was lighting up the waves when they crashed against the shore!
While shooting these pictures, inspiration struck, and the accompanying track “Bioluminescence” was born.
In fact, many of Dallwitz’s longer tracks are named after his nature-based inspirations, like “Selenite”, “Cirrus”, “Wind Patterns” and “Creatures of the Moss”.
“Plants, animals, the wind, rocks, space... I feel most alive when I’m in connection to these elements, and I want to share this experience. Hopefully this work can inspire others to recognise and celebrate our home planet and our common ancestry in the natural forces surrounding us,” he declares passionately.
An avid DIY-er, Dallwitz has been building and modifying solar-powered portable setups for his modular and hardware synthesisers for the past few years.
In 2020, he achieved exactly what he set out to do: “I’ve been building wooden cases and support structures for my synthesisers and drum machines. This is because I value the idea of a portable setup, thinking of the synth like a traditional musical instrument that can be relocated and played anywhere, with anyone.
“When I began my adventure into the Eurorack modular synth format, I also started thinking about battery and solar-powered setups, because I loved the idea of making music out in the bush. I have managed to build a couple of synthesisers that incorporate solar panels in the lid of the case.”
‘ART IS A CO-CREATION BETWEEN MATERIAL AND MEDIUM’
Abstract, emotive, textural – this is how Dallwitz describes his work.
Across both his music and his paintings, he finds many conceptual similarities (especially in the creative process), but feel that they offer very different experiences for both artist and viewer.
Paintings deliver a physical, visceral and visual experience, where expressions are made through colours and textures.
“With painting, I end up with a field that sits there resonating, like a mandala to be experienced at one’s own pace,” he explains.
“With music, I feel there is an immediate emotive aspect that enters the body not only through the ears. I like abstract, often surreal art for its attempt to tap into areas of our experience that are harder to define and represent, yet are equally as powerful and important.”
For the music Dallwitz makes as Florigenix, he attributes his listeners to part of his creative experience.
“My work would not exist in its entirety without them! I like to try and step out of the way whenever I can, and let my body/the machines/the instrument I use speak too. I feel like the medium we use is a major part of our expression,” he continues.
“All art for me is a co-creation between the artist’s ego-mind and collective mind, as well as the materials and medium that are being used.”
Calling his personal music tastes “eclectic”, Dallwitz listens to a lot of ambient music, choosing to follow his body and mind on what feels good depending on what he wants to achieve in that particular space of time.
“For me, the most beautiful sound is probably bird calls mixed with wind or rain in the trees, with no human noise at all. Life is like music in that there are times of harmony and times of dissonance.
“Times of predictable rhythm, and times of chaotic free jazz. Times of intention, and times of improvisation. There are spaces for stories and narrative, and spaces for non-linear abstraction. We all like different types of music, and there is no one correct way of experiencing it.”
As naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir once said, “And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
If you’re in need of a break, just surround yourself with Florigenix’s ethereal tunes, and you’ll find a piece of nature with you.
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All images: Nicholas Dallwitz
Writer | Michelle Tan
Having spent the past decade turning her passion into profession, Michelle is a freelance writer/translator based in Malaysia. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.