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.