Monday, 21 December 2009

The Adventure of Christmas

This year I received a commission to produce sounds for the "Christmas Adventure" light sculpture trail at Stockeld Park in Yorkshire. This work included a site specific soundscape "Lake Of Angels" made to be played around the lake, which is part of the sculpture trail. (see picture left)
I visited soon after opening in October to check up on the work in situ.
It is a beautiful thing to see, especially with children, whom it is designed for. It is a mix of magical figures from fairy tale and well known fantasy stories as well as more Christmas oriented themes such as the angels.

If you live near Stockeld Park, do try to get there before Christmas for both the trail, the skating rink and the hot chocolate! The sculptures are skilfully made and the sound both brings the forest to life and creates a lakeside environment which I feel connects with the sense of place there without distracting from its natural beauty.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"Peace Garden" Now Open To The Public

This evening Enchanted Parks 2009 opened to welcome the public in to experience the trail of outdoor artworks on the theme of the Twelve Days Of Christmas.
As already mentioned, "Peace Garden" primarily resonates with the First Day in a very real sense (see the previous post), though it also contains a bird selection from other days and five rings from a church bell.

The picture above was taken earlier today as the finishing touches were being put in place. Here you can see some speaker shelters in position. The Garden entrance is by the furthest one on the picture where the blue cherry picker is.
People walk round the tarmac path and return to the entrance via the additional pathway laid out on the grass. The "bell tower" which utilises a tower structure which forms part of the park's architecture, can be seen in the area above the security guards head.

Here is another view of the installation, showing three of the seven speaker shelters.
Of course, the installation is experienced at night.

A reference picture for my purposes taken in the dark. There is little direct light in the area but it is not as dark as this picture may suggest. Tealights line the paths and combine with the atmosphere generated by the piece as they flicker in the darkness. They also have an additional practical element as they guide people along the path's circular walk.
It has been a real privilege to create this haven of sound for the visitors to Enchanted Parks for the four days it will be running.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Chants for "Peace Garden"

Some people have expressed interest in what the chants mean that are being used so here are the texts for them.

"Dominus dixit ad me: “Filius meus es tu , ego hodie genui te.” Quare fremuerunt gentes, et populi meditati sunt inania."

The Lord said unto me: “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee. – Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?

"De libro Isaiae prophetae.

Haec dicit Dominus Deus : Egredietur virga de stripe lesse, et flos de radice eius ascendet; et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini; spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, spiritus scientiae et timoris Domini et deliciae eius in timore Domini."

A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.

"Christe redemptor omnium, ex Patre Patris unice, solus ante principium natus ineffabiliter.

Sic praesens testatur dies, currens per anni circulum, quod solus a sede Patris mundi salus adveneris.

Hunc caelum, terra, hunc mare, hunc omne quod in eis est, auctorem adventus tui laudans exsultat cantico.

Gloria tibi Domine, qui natus es de Virgine, cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu in sempiterna saecula. Amen."

Christ, redeemer of the world, Only Begotten Son of the Father, born ineffably of Him before time began.

The present day, brought back by the yearly cycle, attests to this; from the throne of the Father thou alone didst come down to save the world.

The heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is contained therein join together in a joyous canticle of praise for this day which marks thy coming.

Glory to thee, O Lord, who wast born of a Virgin, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

As the theme is the Twelve Days of Christmas and I am recreating aspects of a monastic cloister, I have chosen texts which speak specifically about the day itself, the First Day of Christmas, as well as other facets of the piece. I decided to start with the introit Dominus Dixit as the image of nations plotting in vain feel appropriate for a Peace Garden. Then, to follow that with the well known prophetic section of the text from Isaiah, a single voice reading in the darkness. The final chant, Christe Redemptor Omnium, is a timeless hymn sung by all that has a clear focus on the First Day itself. This is then followed by a church bell, ringing five times (five gold rings) which signifies the end of the cycle before it returns to the start and begins all over again, as it does every year.

All chant recordings for this piece are by the Abbaye de Solesmes, who have given their permission for them to be used for this piece in this context and I am truly grateful to them for their generosity in helping this piece come to life for the people of Gateshead.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Time For More Enchantment - "Peace Garden"

Last year the "Enchanted Parks" art trail won a Culture Award for the Best Event in the Tyneside region. I did a sound piece for that particular event entitled "All My Love", which was a site specific piece in the Rose Garden of Saltwell Park, where the event was held. (More on that later as I may have something of that to upload.)

This year I have been commissioned to produce another piece for the event. The theme this year is the Twelve Days of Christmas. With that in mind, I decided to create a piece that reflects the central facet of the First Day of Christmas, encorporating traditional Christmas themes and elements.

The piece I am currently creating is called "Peace Garden".
I deliberately wanted to create an environment in sound which is both architecturally sound and captures important themes.
In my mind were thoughts that sprung from numerous travels past the Imperial War Museum in London on the bus. In the grounds of the museum is a Buddhist Peace Garden and I would always look out over it in its corner near the road and want to visit it. The idea of a garden reflecting Peace as more than a state of being but as a concept and a place to contemplate and get in touch with that concept is one that interested me.
At this time of year, peace has a particularly strong resonance - peace and goodwill to all men, the power of Christmas day to stop wars albeit temporarily (the true stories from World War One of soldiers creating informal truces on the front line for Christmas Day and men of both sides came out to play football together). A peace garden is not only appropriate at this time of year but perhaps an essential expression of human need, distilled as a response to child's birth.

These loose thoughts developed further and solidified when I looked at the rectangular lawn space next to Saltwell Towers (see picture right).
The architectural aspect fell into place within a few seconds of being in the space this August and I could see a monastic cloister garden laid out before me, bisected on the diagonal. I decided that I would create the cloister garden using sound.

I won't say anymore in case I give too much away but suffice to say, incorporated into the piece are two different playback systems, a simple use of surround sound techniques, plainchant taken from the Night Vigil and main Mass for Christmas Day.
Within the piece, you may also find certain days from the Twelve Days of Christmas represented, at present the third, fourth and fifth. I am still toying with the idea of representing the second and sixth also, along with some simple lighting in keeping with a monastic lifestyle.
Rather than narrowing the Peace Garden to a single concept, I am wanting it to balance the peace we find we need as humans to be rejuvenated with the peace of being able to be free to live. In this man and unselfconscious nature co-exist, side by side.

I shall be there on the first night (Thursday) and I hope to engage with the visitors during their time there as well.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Cambridge 800 Now Visits New York

I am currently in New York working on the presentation of an ongoing projection project. "Cambridge 800", a commissioned work by Ross Ashton was first shown in January 2009 at Cambridge University to start their 800th anniversary celebrations. Containing source content from various sources, including specially commissioned drawings by Quentin Blake, it has been travelling the world. As the original was created as a site specific piece of architectural projection, a special "touring" version has been created which is also projected but contains within its content the original buildings so the viewer gets to experience what the original work looks like.
In summer, it was taken to Beijing and right now I am in New York, preparing for its presentation with Ross, where it will be seen again projected as a large scale projection on the curving oval walls of the Gotham Hall by University supporters and a variety of high profile Cambridge alumni, including Sir David Frost, Stephen Fry, Eric Idle and many others.

Gotham Hall is an architecturally elaborate building that began life as a bank during the boom years of the 1920's prior to the Wall Street Crash and the following Depression. The heavy metal doors, the detailed bronze reliefs and curving cream stone walls provide the space with opulence and a feeling of airiness. The counters still remain, a second oval partially enclosing the centre area. The Art Deco era surrounds you.
It will be a wonderful experience to have dinner there tomorrow, watching the piece projected on the walls around us.