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November 21, 2016

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Here is the eighth shorth film in our series of short film documenting aroundNorth. This one focuses on the return of the installation to the Beaghmore Stone Circles complex, near Cookstown, in Northern Ireland. A big thank you to all those who helped with this event, especially those brave enough to be interviewed for their thoughts of their experience.

full moon rising October 16, 2016

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beagh-mway

Another great night, this time in the inspiring setting of the Beaghmore Stones complex.  For most of the evening we had clear skies, as well as a full moon rising in the east sky as the sun set in the west.  We had an audience of at least 150, enjoying the stones, the sound installation, the hot soup, and the telescope viewing.

star spotting October 14, 2016

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antrio

A great night yesterday evening at Antrim Castle Gardens.  We set up in the Large Parterre Garden, which with its large circular centre, compass point pathways and lack of light pollution, was a brilliant location for the installation.  As usual, I prepared a guided listening chart showing the exact times that the more well-known stars will be sounding, and from which loudspeaker, and here I am in the above picture with Deputy Mayor Noreen McClelland & Councillor Jim Montgomery connecting the sounds heard with the stars overhead.

neolithic return August 31, 2016

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aroundNorth will be featured at two special evening events this October.

The first will be at Antrim Castle Gardens on the evening of Thursday 13th, and the second will be a return visit to the Beaghmore Stone Circles complex on the evening of Saturday 15th.

guided listening March 16, 2016

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polarisSlate

To mark the occasion of St Patrick’s Day this year (tomorrow), Armagh Observatory will be offering a guided listening session of ‘aroundNorth’ conducted by Professor Mark Bailey.  This event will be free to visitors and will also include a free public tour of the observatory buildings, astropark and human orrery.  Proceedings will begin at 4.30pm and last up to two hours.

october stars September 30, 2015

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conwayStar

For the whole of October, aroundNorth will be exhibited at Ards Arts Centre, in Newtownards.  Since my initial visit last March, the town has completely regenerated Conway Square immediately in front of the arts centre and town hall building, and it now boasts its own star design.  I am sure it wasn’t done just for the installation, but anyway, for those arriving at Thursday evening’s Exhibition Launch by helicopter, the location should be easy enough to spot.  More information on opening times and the Private View at: http://ardsarts.com/blog/aroundnorth.

culture night September 8, 2015

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cultureNight

As part of Sligo’s ‘Culture Night‘ celebrations my aroundNorth installation will be featured at The Model Arts Centre on Friday 18th September.  As a prelude to the installation itself (running between 8pm – 11pm) there will be a workshop for musicians interested in exploring the feasibility of using musical skills to interpret star catalogue data.  The workshop is open to all musicians who would like to bring their instruments and explore this link between science, astronomy and art.  Be prepared to experience the stars as you have never heard them before!

feedback August 18, 2015

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Another short film by Julie McGowan – this time encapsulating some of the feedback from the launch of the permanent version of the installation at Armagh Observatory.  This is the seventh film in what has become the aroundNorth series.  So far we have:

  1. Concept Explained (for PRSF New Music Award)
  2. Presentation at La Casa da Música, in Porto
  3. aroundNorth at the Armagh Observatory
  4. The Music that Fell to Earth
  5. Installing aroundNorth
  6. Touring aroundNorth
  7. Feedback from the Launch

touring aroundNorth June 5, 2015

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Here is a short movie documenting the recent tour of aroundNorth around Northern Ireland.  It shows the preparation leading up to the evening performances at the various locations, and hopefully a flavour of the installation event itself.   Many thanks to Julie McGowan for her camera work and editing facilities, as well as to Armagh Observatory who commissioned the piece.

installing aroundNorth April 1, 2015

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With the tour of aroundNorth around Northern Ireland complete, and the installation now running daily at Armagh Observatory (Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm; and other times on request) I now have the time to upload a couple more short aroundNorth movies. The above linked film documents the physical installation at the Observatory at the beginning of the year.

dark sky March 19, 2015

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darkSky_s

Today is the official launch of the permanent version of my installation at Armagh.  Five and a half years after my initial visit to the observatory in September 2009, the installation has been finally realised in its permanent form, and yet the journey is not over….

For the last week or so we have been touring aroundNorth around Northern Ireland, and after today there’s still a couple of performances to go.  (See post below.)

I’m glad to say that the piece has been well received by all who have attended the various events.  Those with little astronomical knowledge have found the experience fascinating whilst those more learned in astronomy have expressed excitement about the work’s potential.  More importantly perhaps, comments about the piece’s musicality have also been positive, referring to the work as “reflective”, “grounding”, and even “healing”.

aroundNorth tour March 4, 2015

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polaris

To celebrate the official launch of the aroundNorth permanent installation at Armagh Observatory a version of the work will tour to a number of locations in Northern Ireland.  It will begin on the shores of Lough Neagh, at Oxford Island, which was last year launched as the first Dark Sky site in Northern Ireland, and then tour to the top of Divis & the Black Mountain National Trust Park, before heading to Armagh for a couple of performances.  The installation will also travel to Colin Allotments in West Belfast before travelling to Derry for a special performance to coincide with the deep partial eclipse of the Sun on the morning of Friday 20th March 2015.  There will then be an evening performance in the sports grounds at St Cecila’s College before the final event at the spectacular Beaghmore Stones complex, near Cookstown in County Tyrone.  Details below (all events are free):

THU 12     Lough Neagh Discovery Centre
Oxford Island, Craigavon BT66 6NJ
7pm – 9pm

SAT 14      Divis & the Black Mountain
Divis Road, Hannahstown BT17 0NG
6.30pm – 9pm    –  Approx 20 minute walk to installation area

TUE 17     Armagh Observatory
College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG
2.30pm – 4pm

WED 18    Colin Allotments
Upper Colin Glen Rd, Belfast BT17 0LR
7pm – 9pm

THU 19     Armagh Observatory
College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG
2.30pm – 4pm

FRI 20      St Cecilia’s College Sports Ground
Fanad Drive, Derry BT48 9QE
7pm – 9pm

SAT 21      Beaghmore Stones
Blackrock Road, Cookstown BT80 9PB
6pm – 9pm    –  Visitors required to walk over rough ground

installed January 29, 2015

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snowDial_s

The physical component of the aroundNorth installation for Armagh Observatory is now complete.  We just finished connecting everything and digging in the speakers when the snow began again, and after one more day of finishing off the inside work (in the warm) the Human Sundial area was completely covered.  We now wait for Spring and our official launch at the Observatory on the 19th March.

fine tuning January 25, 2015

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twoWorlds_s

With all the cables laid: trenches dug and refilled, the task for this week will be to connect everything together and get the installation sounding as good as possible.  The snow has now all melted away although there is still a layer of ice on everything in the mornings, but as the hard-graft is now mostly complete, the weather is not so important.  A few dry days would be good though as I will need to set up a mini-studio in situ in order to re-EQ the audio to best suit the loudspeakers and the actual installation environment.  As well as this, I intend to visit some potential sites around Northern Ireland in preparation for a planned mini tour of the work to coincde with the observatory launch in March.  More later….

getting physical January 16, 2015

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frostySun_s

Over the next couple of weeks I will be based at the Armagh Observatory in order to physically install what will become the permanent version of the aroundNorth installation.  This entails digging in the weatherproof speakers, burying the audio cable, some retarmacing and some knocking holes into walls.  So quite a lot to be getting on with, especially as the area for the installation is already densely planted with shrubbery.  Weather-wise it is looking to be a cold week with snow, ice and later rain, and so that will be another challenge.  Still, as long as the ground isn’t frozen, then good progress should be able to be made.   Artist Julie McGowan will be documenting the install onto film, so expect another short movie before too long!

starry night October 18, 2014

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Starry_Night

Thanks to the artist Van Gogh who went to the bother of painting his “Starry Night” picture back in 1889, aroundNorth is featured tonight as part of the Van Gogh Huis ‘Starry Night Event’ in Zundert, Netherlands.  The venue will be a huge field with minimal light pollution and with very good views to the horizon all round, and the event will begin one hour after sundown.  The weather forecast is predicting clear skies to begin with and then high cloud blowing over later on in the evening – so a moody setting: probably just about right for a van gogh event.  About 120 people are expected over the evening, divided into four groups and entering the installation space every half-an-hour before moving onto one of the evening’s other features.

canterbury skies July 12, 2014

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24hrSky

From today aroundNorth will be at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, in Canterbury, Kent.  The Beaney is a key partner for aroundNorth, having supported the project from its very beginning, and so it is fitting that the installation should have its first gallery appearance here.  aroundNorth will be at The Beaney until the end of August and is accompanied by two other exhibitions inspired by the work and its subject material.  This installation is also significant as for the first time the sounds are being triggered from the newly created aroundNorth audio player.  Created in collaboration with programmer David Moss, the audio player references the installation’s longitude, the date and current time and then plays the composition in synchronisation with the rotation of planet Earth from the correct part of the aroundNorth score so that what is heard is exactly what is happening overhead.  Up to now, the performances have been programmed onto SD cards and played back using QTX technology, and so this is quite a step forward.  This installation is therefore also a good rehearsal for when the installation is permanently installed at Armagh Observatory next year, when the audio player will trigger the sounds there.

aroundNorth: The Music That Fell to Earth May 7, 2014

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A third film of the recent aroundNorth performances at Stowe and at Armagh has been posted on the internet.  The film has been made by Alistair Will, of Outdoor Culture, who also produced the Stowe event and has played an important role in helping to secure the PRSF Beyond Borders funding in order to make the installation a reality.  I think this short movie is the best one yet, and complements the other two brilliantly.

aroundNorth short film April 9, 2014

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As the aroundNorth installation just happened to be scheduled during Northern Ireland’s ‘Creativity Month’, we benefited from a visit from Creativity NI who came complete with movie camera.  As a result we have a new aroundNorth short movie, which can be seen by clicking on the image above.

 

observatory launch March 23, 2014

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aN22MarListen

Yesterday we had the aroundNorth launch at Armagh Observatory.  In contrast to last month’s performances at Stowe, where the installation was scheduled for night time and in full view of the stars, the Armagh presentation was scheduled for during the day.  What was interesting was that this difference in timing didn’t seem to effect the success of the piece.  Sure, in darkness and under a clear starry sky there was almost a magical connection between what was seen and what was heard; however, the installation seemed to be just as engaging in broad daylight as it connected with people’s imaginations and memories of star-filled skies.  (Maybe similar to the difference between a radio play and the television adaption – better pictures on the radio…).

I began the morning with an Radio Interview with BBC Radio Foyle, and then headed for the Observatory to set up for the day’s events.  We had four sessions during the day, each one beginning with an introduction to the work from both the Observatory’s perspective and my own, and then it was time to experience the installation (with optional guided listenings) as well as a chance explore the Observatory grounds.  A full and good day in all.  Again, everyone was very  positive about the work, with lots of comments on how it made people think differently about their relationship to the heavens above them.

armagh March 1, 2014

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On 22 March aroundNorth will visit Armagh Observatory (just for one day): to introduce people to the work in preparation of its planned permanent installation next year in the grounds of the Observatory’s Astropark.

It was as a result of a visit to this observatory back in September 2009 when I met astrononer Simon Jeffery.  He shared some of his research with me from monitoring variable stars around Celestial North Pole.  Using the polar bear telescope on top of the observatory he had been taking photographs of the area around Polaris at midnight every night.  As it takes a few minutes less than one day for the stars to complete one full revolution,  in each photograph the stars had moved round about one degree.  When I was shown sped up footage of one photograph after another, it appeared that the stars were moving around Polaris – a bit like the insides of a music box, or a carillon.  I commented that if there were sensory lines coming out from the centre, then every time a star crossed a line, it could perhaps make a sound depending on its size, brightness, and distance from Earth, and the idea for aroundNorth was born!

clear skies February 23, 2014

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orion

Unbelievably, we have had three nights of no rain and mostly clear skies for our performances in Stowe, which is impressive in its own right.  The installation stretched about 20 square metres with a circle of eight speakers and was placed on a gentle south-facing slope towards the constellation of Orion.    People came from far afield (Vienna and Ireland) and I am pleased to say that the piece seems to have been very well received, with, I think, everyone without exception being very positive about their experience and how the installation has made them think differently about the stars and our relationship to them.

première February 21, 2014

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stoweBridge

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.

looking good…. February 18, 2014

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everWondered

Alistair and I visited Stowe Landscape Gardens today to check everything is in place for next week’s performance.  Thankfully, it does look like the weather is turning a corner, and we might just have some good weather; nevertheless we worked out a comfortable Plan B in case of inclement weather.   Due to all the recent rain we decided to change from our initial location of the property’s ‘Lamport Garden’ to a an open south-facing field with 360 degrees of horizon view.  In the right conditions this should provide a stunning location from which to experience the installation.

sounds of the night sky January 30, 2014

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stoweHead

In collaboration with the National Trust, the premier of aroundNorth will be showcased in the beautiful Stowe Landscape gardens, in Buckinhamshire, for three consecutive nights on the 20-22 February.

Visitors will be accompanied down Bell Gate Drive on foot and into the gardens of Stowe after dark, before entering the semi-wilderness of the newly-opened Lamport Garden where the sounds of moving stars will be created like a giant celestial music box! Dress for the outdoors and bring a flashlight!  Click here for more information and tickets.

bid success November 30, 2013

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Last we week we heard that our Arts Council bid for an aroundNorth event at the Stowe Landscape Gardens National Trust property, in Buckinghamshire, has been successful. So, today we visited Stowe Landscape Gardens to see what specific locations within the site might be possible, as well as plan out exactly what might happen.  This was also a good opportunity to bring up a couple of the QTX speakers and test them in location.  Our plan is to stage three aroundNorth performances at the end of February next year.

making plans September 30, 2013

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qtx

Following on my meeting with David last week, over the weekend Alistair and I made a quick visit to Armagh Observatory to thoroughly plan aroundNorth‘s delivery.  Currently, as we have just about enough funds to make aroundNorth happen, we have to be very exact about how the project will be realised – as if the project wasn’t challenging enough….  So, in order to further boost funds, we are also considering an application to the Arts Council for a performance at a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire.  The idea is that the composition will run outside over a few nights so that it is possible to look up at the stars at the same time as experiencing the work (weather permitting of course).  Thankfully, the execution of such a proposal has been made a lot easier due to recent additional support from QTX who have expressed an interest in helping out and providing us with a supply of their rather excellent battery powered speakers.  These will give us the flexibility to be able to stage the work more-or-less anywhere, and so opens up a whole range of possibilities….

starPlayer September 15, 2013

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RA spiral

When aroundNorth is finally complete it will have to be played on a specially designed audioPlayer.  This is for a number of reasons.  First, the installation will be multi-channel (I am not sure how many channels at the moment – just that I want the experience to be immersive).  The second challenge is the length of the composition: I need a player that can cope with a multichannel audio loop of 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.01 seconds!  Finally, to make life easy for touring the work, I would like my player to know where it is on Earth and also what time it is, so that it is able to deduce the local sidereal time, and therefore know from which point in the composition to begin playing.  To this end, I have commissioned David Moss to build such a player for me – he is flying over from Prague next week to learn a bit more about the project and see what exactly is required.

Beyond Borders August 31, 2013

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compass

We have been successful in our funding bid to the PRSF’s Beyond Borders scheme.  This means that with the EU-AWE funding already in place aroundNorth is definitely happening!  The work will premiere in 2014 (exact details still to be decided, but safe to say: a lot of work to be done between now and then.  To begin this process, I look forward to calling in on the Observatory next week to chat through logistics.

new possibilities July 15, 2013

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newWorlds

Over the summer we have been looking at some other possible locations that could host aroundNorth in order to strengthen our Beyond Borders bid.  We are keen to take the work to both gallery and remote outside locations (although the latter has some obvious challenges attached).  An interesting development is a recent collaboration between the Arts Council and the National Trust and so that might be an area to explore….

turning point June 21, 2013

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turningPoint

Good news.  Armagh Observatory has been in contact today to say that they have found some EU-UNAWE (Universe Awareness) funding in order to help kick-start our project.   In fact this offer of funding is very timely as we are now looking at applying for the PRS For Music Foundation’s newly opened ‘Beyond Borders’ scheme.  As aroundNorth was runner-up in their New Music Award (can you believe in 2010?) I would be hopeful of a positive decision, but you never know….  (The outcome should be known by mid-August).

not quite a black hole May 27, 2013

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blackHole

After what has been a fairly quiet six months with various unsuccessful funding bids, Alistair (Outdoor Culture) and I are pursuing with a number of new opportunities.  We still have strong support from the Observatory as well as from a range of other people and so we are encouraged to continue.  In the meantime I am continuing to work on the technical aspects of the project (which are huge, but progress is being made…).

countdown November 27, 2012

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Had a good meeting today with Charlotte and Alistair (the producers for aroundNorth) to discuss new developments, and to make plans.  This was followed by conversations with potential app manufacturers with an aim of understanding how aroundNorth could be transferred to mobile devices….  We now have a number of different funding strategies that we hope will combine to allow us to fully realise this project.  Plus, we also have a potential première of the work in August.  So, a lot of hard work over the next eight months to bring everything together and make aroundNorth a success!

and then there were three October 31, 2012

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In order to capitalise on the opportunities available to promote aroundNorth, I am now considering three potential versions of the piece.  The first, of course, is the original concept of the permanent installation for Armagh Observatory (see below).  Another possibility is  a performance version capable of touring, not just to galleries, but also to dark outside places where an audience would be able to hear my composition whilst looking up at the stars.  Finally, there is the possibility of an app being developed, so that people can have access to the piece wherever they are.  Each version will have to be different in order to effectively communicate to its specific audience; however, I’m sure that the original ‘music box’ concept will have a fundamental role in all versions.

new beginnings July 3, 2012

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Today I met with not one, but two (!) people who have expressed an interest in helping to produce the aroundNorth project.  They are Charlotte Burke and Alistair Will.  For the past six years Charlotte has been working with the PRSF and so she is excellently placed to help with funding applications; and Alistair runs the Outdoor Culture company which specialises in the production of events that connect people with their natural environmental heritage.  So, a good combination, I think.  Over the next few months we will begin to plan how we might work with the aroundNorth concept to produce not only the originally proposed idea of a permanent installation in Armagh, but also a series of happenings and different locations across the UK.

checking in March 17, 2012

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© aroundNorth

This week I have been in Armagh to re-visit the Observatory and to talk with Professor Mark Bailey, the director, in order to discuss how the plans for aroundNorth  are developing.  We are both still keen for the project to go ahead, and now feel that it would be useful to have the help of an independent producer to assist with securing the necessary funding to make the project happen.  So, that will be my next task: to find one.  Whilst at the observatory I was also able to talk through aspects of  my proposed sonification process with some of the resident astronomers to check that I am on the right track in my attempts to interpret the different forms of data available to me for the eventual realisation of the astronomic composition.

porto presentation September 20, 2011

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My most recent presentation for my aroundNorth project was at last weekend’s Kyma International Sound Symposium, which this year was held at La Casa da Música, in Porto, Portugal.  Kyma is the sound design language that I am using to create the installation, and this year the conference theme was Exploring Sound Space, and so it seemed like an opportunity to good to miss!  An online movie of the presentation can be viewed here.

turner talk August 27, 2011

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Although it has been almost a year since my last post, work behind the scenes for aroundNorth has been continuing – looking for possible avenues of funding in collaboration with the Observatory in Armagh.  Of course, at this time in the UK (and beyond) it is a time of financial uncertainty with many art initiatives receiving cuts in funding and so, in order to help raise the project’s profile, I have been trying to spread the word about my proposed project. Last night, for example, I presented the ideas behind aroundNorth at the new Turner Contemporary Gallery, in Margate, Kent as part of the gallery’s Late Night Live events programme.  I was joined by astronomer Brendan Owens (currently based at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich) who contextualised my work from a more conventional astronomic viewpoint.  The evening was well received, and it was great to come across so much enthusiasm for the project and what I want to achieve through its creation.

back to the stars! September 17, 2010

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With Liminal winning the 2010 New Music Award (congratulations to  them!) I now have to rethink how aroundNorth may be realised.  Everyone I spoke to at last night’s award ceremony  remained enthusiastic about aroundNorth‘s potential, and certainly Armagh Observatory is still dedicated to the project.  So, it’s back to the drawing board for the moment to consider the most appropriate course of action.

aroundNorth movie online June 18, 2010

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A short film promoting aroundNorth and the ideas behind it is now online and available for viewing on the PRSF movie channel.  Created over the last couple of months in collaboration with the media company Kin Design the film will also be shown across the UK at the following ten venues: Belfast Blackbox, Bristol Watershed, Cardiff Chapter Arts Centre, Dartington Hall, Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts, Liverpool Bluecoat Arts Centre, London ICA, Manchester Cornerhouse, Nottingham Broadway Media Centre, and The Sage Gateshead.

filming May 14, 2010

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As part of the New Music Award shortlisting I am now in conversation with production company Kin-Design in order to help promote my proposed aroundNorth project.  We spent today filming in the grounds of Armagh Observatory, and over the next few weeks will prepare the movie for public view.

new music award shortlist April 26, 2010

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aroundNorth has been shortlisted for the PRS for Music’s 2010 New Music Award.   Created to recognise and celebrate leading innovators in the UK and provide investment, support and profile for exceptional and pioneering music creators, the award encourages creators to push the boundaries of their artistic practice, extending the possibilities of music regardless of which genre they work in.  It also seeks to raise awareness of the UK’s most innovative music creators in the media and to help them secure the public profile they deserve alongside the UK’s better known creators working in visual arts and media.

aroundNorth is one of the five shortlisted possible winners of the  £50 000 award, the outcome of which will be announced in September 2010.

 

aroundNorth March 1, 2010

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aroundNorth is a proposed new musical composition inspired by the movement of the stars around the Celestial North Pole for the Armagh Observatory, in Northern Ireland.  Taking the form of a permanent sound installation, the composition will make use of astronomical parameters, such as star size, brightness and distance from Earth, giving voice to the stars and our changing perspective of them as the Earth revolves on its axis.

The composition will introduce its listeners to an orchestra of new and mysterious sounds, as the different stars are given their own voice as musical instruments in their own right.  By translating their spectra into their instrumental equivalents, aroundNorth will be able to call upon a number of new sounding instruments and offer its audience a so far unheard of stellar orchestra.

More than just another new musical composition, aroundNorth will not only be inspired by its subject matter, but will also play in synchronisation with the rotation of the earth and the apparent movement of the stars, thus making a very real connection between its listeners and the wider universe.  As it plays, the work will also provide a first-time experience for many blind and partially sighted people to encounter the beauty and wonder inherent in the stars and their celestial patterns.