Saturday, 28 November 2009

St Andrews Festival - The First Night

The St Andrews Festival begins tonight featuring three art installations which I have been one of the artists on.
Last year, myself and Ross Ashton were invited to create a piece for the Festival within the the University grounds. The St. Mary's Quad site was chosen and we created "Origin", a 13 minute son et lumiere which looked at the creation of Scotland, from its physical landscape and animal inhabitants through to the human contribution of a more modern day. The sound reflected this, starting with an effects based atmospheric soundscape which contained music archaelogy samples and animal sounds from animals once wild here but are now here no longer. It moved into a more contemporary feel via the songs of Robert Burns into modern bagpipe playing.

This year we have added to this with two companion works at St Andrews Cathedral:

"Via Caeli" which is a projection piece, created for the still standing wall behind the altar. It looks at the way to the heavens and includes both religious works and observational views of the heavens and starscapes moving over the altar wall.

"Via Maris" is a son et lumiere which touches on "the way of the sea" and the relationship between that and St. Andrews. It touches on legends including the dream of the Greek monk St Regulus and his journey to Scotland with St Andrew's bones to prevent the Roman emporer Constantine removing them from Greece. It draws parallels between Andrew's origin as a fisherman and the history of fishing of this area, as well as the arrival of Christianity and the importance of the Cathedral.

All these threads move together into one. The sound piece allowed me to draw on Ancient Greek music as a direct influence, including the use of a fragment dating from Greece in 1st Century A.D. This melody is a recurring theme, opening the piece and becoming associated with St Andrew (he was martyred in Patras, Greece) featuring in The Dream Of St Regulus and resurfacing once more in a folk arrangement with guitar, treble recorder and cello at the end.
Other highlights for me include the use of verses from the Carmina Gadelica to underscore the nature of Celtic Christianity in its early days as well as providing a context for the 19th century fishermen later on.

Click here for Via Caeli pictures on Flickr

Working outdoors comes with its own glamour. Click here!

More links to follow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

"Contours" - an online update

"Contours" is a soundscape piece which I created to work with surround sound. It was commissioned for the Odin's Glow event in October this year in Redcar and Cleveland.
The arts event focussed on exploring the heritage of that local area and the commissions awarded reflected this in different forms, with the installations being placed in the village of Newton-Under-Roseberry.
It was a very ambitious event, not least because rather than be city focussed, it deliberately took art into a rural area. As well as that, the large peak that forms Roseberry Topping (a modern day corruption of its original name of Odin's Burg) was dramatically lit with large moving lights of various shapes, sizes and positions.

"Contours" was placed well off the main road in a field, where people could stand within the surround sound field in almost complete darkness with the only visual stimulus being the sweeping lights on the hill before them. Out of that darkness, voices, music, poetry could be heard in flashes, opening out the landscape and bringing life to the mystical end of the sound of a culture now hard to grasp.
The music was mostly music from that period and included improvisations on the lyre by myself as well as a rendition of a medieval piece of Danish music on the bone flute. Indeed, I enjoyed this project very much as I played all the instruments that were used.

My performers were all of Scandinavian, Icelandic or English background. They provided their own response to the translations of the Poetic Edda and Beowulf that we used. Moreover, much of Edda was heard in Old Norse and Beowulf was heard in Old English. Flavours of English, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish ran throughout as the languages of those descendants.
It was fascinating to work on and a privilege to work with so many enthusiastic people who really wanted to give voice to that landscape and fuse it with the present day. We all acknowledged the shared heritage that exists on both sides of the North Sea.

To thank these people I need to mention them by name so I will be posting a full credits list for "Contours" in the very near future as well as a link to a stereo version online so that those of you that missed it can hear a little of it.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Back from Durham "Lumiere" Festival

Yesterday I returned from the Durham "Lumiere" Festival. I was there for a week as the creative programmer for the son et lumiere piece "Crown Of Light", which was a commissioned artwork for the Festival. I was brought onto the project by the projection artist Ross Ashton, with whom I have worked on many pieces as both creative programmer and also collaborative artist.
The piece also included the work of Robert Ziegler, John Del Nero and Sebastian Frost in creating the non-narrative soundtrack.
Durham gave the Festival an exceptionally warm welcome and the scale of response to the piece was certainly in keeping to the scale of "Crown Of Light" itself.
Particular highlights for me was the opportunity to work with the extraordinary artwork contained within the Lindisfarne Gospels. From a sound point of view, amongst the music chosen for the soundtrack was a short extract from "Viderunt Omnes" a Christmas chant by the medieval church composer Perotin. I have been an enthusiast of early music for a long time and always welcome the opportunity to explore it for projects so it was a delight to hear Perotin feature briefly on the sound side of this artwork.

Review in the Observer

Report in Live Design Online