jump to navigation

première February 21, 2014

Posted by robert jarvis in ..


Review of last night’s première by Iain Orr (of BioDiplomacy): –

My 20 February event was being with some fifty other people at the world première of Robert Jarvis’s aroundNorth, a sound installation in the grounds of Stowe – the site shared by Stowe House and the National Trust.  The conception is breathtakingly simple.  Draw a line from the
Pole Star to a specific place open to the skies and listen to the movement of the stars across that line in time with the earth’s rotation.  Each star has been given its own note, harmonics and volume, reflecting the distinctive spectrum, size and brightness of each star and its distance from Earth.  The effect is to make three-dimensional and visceral a relationship with the stars which is usually the two-dimensional one of gazing at the apparently unchanging canvas of scattered twinkling points of light round “that inverted Bowl we call The Sky”.

The programme notes for aroundNorth are a stellar playlist. As each crosses the invisible line to Polaris – at a precise time that is different for each of the three evenings of this installation – it is named, with some characteristics noted and the length (usually between thirty seconds and just over a minute and a half ) of its sound.  This makes for an entirely novel sensory and emotional engagement with objects – or can we call them beings? – that are, on the normal human scale, unimaginably huge and remote.  Listening to their sounds is a relationship that is both intimate – like the groans of a calving glacier or the call across the ocean of a humpbacked whale – and fleeting.  One can imagine that after listening long enough to the stars from roughly the same latitude one could start to recognize them and even be able to place them in relation to each other, like the instruments in an orchestra or a magnificent multi-choral composition with separate choirs scattered around a huge cathedral. 

There are two more performances, tonight and tomorrow.  I hope both are as clear and cold as last night.  My route to the event was, for me, part of it.  After a bus journey through rural Buckinghamshire, with lambs already at least a week old, I walked up the straight miles of Stowe Avenue, the twilight sky deepening behind bare tree branches, and past bushes full of thrush, blackbird, chaffinch and blue-tit songs.  On the way I crossed a small gurgling stream.  Sound magic was already in the air.  Then it fell from the skies as Robert Jarvis’s aroundNorth rolled across the Stowe landscape.

%d bloggers like this: