Case Study: Interpreting sound – Longplayer

oca longplayerThe first Longplayer public performance took place in 2009 in the circular space provided by the venue, Roundhouse, in Chalk Farm, London. The venue is significant as the music was played in the round, from round singing bowls spaced in concentric circles. Everything was revolving around everything else – wooden sticks circling the bowls cause them to “sing”. For 1000 minutes (17 hours) a band of artists and musicians took shifts playing the singing bowls. To my ears it was difficult to discern a melody and the sounds appeared random , however the form is actually precise . The score has been created in such a way that there will be no repetition for 1000 years when once again the sounds will converge at the place where they began, reflecting the movements and alignments of the planets revolving in the solar system.

The metallic bell-like sounds of the bowls felt other-worldly, creating, with the visual concentric circle reminder of the solar system, a sense of “the music of the spheres”. If the sound of the planets turning could be heard, perhaps there would be a harmonic, and perhaps the sounds would only begin to repeat once the planets had passed through the 1000 year cycle.

The sound was such that it appeared to echo or reverberate through the space suggesting an endless quality perhaps showing the relationship of the music to the musicians and listeners. The musicians came and went, the audience viewed the event from above. This was a segment of the on-going piece that plays without pause.

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