A sound look at art of noise

WHAT does sound look like? Can art have a sound? There's a chance to discover how the two intertwine at the Royal Northern College Of Music's Art of Sound: Sound of Art event tonight at The Whitworth Art Gallery.

Artists working with ice, metal, film, video and even rubbish will collaborate with pianists, percussionists, singers, string quartets and a full orchestra from the RNCM to create 20 installations across the gallery, some in places that the public are rarely, if ever, allowed to visit.

The audio-visual works include an ice sculpture of a burial boat created by MMU artist Anne Fox-Kelly while Gavin Bryars' The Sinking Of The Titanic is performed for two hours 40 minutes, the time it took for the Titanic to sink.

It will portray the sound the musicians would have made had they continued playing until the boat hit the seabed.

The burial boat ice sculpture will include small lights inside which, as the ice melts, become brighter signifying the souls of those who perished. The music will be played by a RBCN chamber group comprising two violas, a cello, double bass, French horn, bass clarinet, synthesizer and percussion. Another MMU artist, Simon Jones, will create a work featuring a harpist surrounded by hundreds of miniature listening figures. The harpist, RNCM postgraduate student Rhian Evans, will play Arvo Pärt's Spiegal im Spiegal.

There will also be specially-commissioned paintings from Jelena Mosegova to accompany a performance by the RNCM Concert Orchestra of Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition. Other works include a projected animation by Daksha Patel to accompany cellist Christian Elliott's performance of his composition Mirage.


Six RNCM composers have responded to a single canvas from the Whitworth collection, Henry Moore's Reclining Figure, each première to be performed alongside the painting and introduced by the composer. Three sculptures from the Whitworth archive, will be displayed in the gallery basement by Beth Ward and animated by soundscapes by composer Salma Alam.

The idea arose from another, equally adventurous event at the Imperial War Museum, says the RNCM's Toby Smith.

"We kept the brief very open and invited anyone interested in exploring how a work of art might sound to contact us. Then, you could say, we acted as a dating agency, putting artists in touch with musicians.

"Orchestral muisic tends to be a very planned affair but visual artists often work in a very different way, so it was a learning experience for everyone. We wanted the sense that this was a very special occasion, that you might be in places you would never otherwise be, experiencing something unique. It's possible some of these pieces could be resurrected in other contexts, but this event is a one-off, something the artists, the musicians and the audience will only experience this one time."

Art Of Sound: Sound Of Art is at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, tonight.

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