‘Perpetual Light’ by Jessica Curry at Old Vic Tunnels

Perpetual Light: Requiem for an Unscorched Earth. By Jessica Curry. A new choral work about the triumph of humanity over destruction


Perpetual Light: Requiem for an Unscorched Earth is a new choral work by Jessica Curry that fuses music, film and installation to create an emotionally charged, unique experience. It is a profoundly moving piece that remembers those who lost their lives in nuclear conflicts. Once again, we live in the shadow of the bomb. Fear of rogue states and terrorism have replaced the Cold War stand-off and a new apocalyptic atomic vision is now upon us. Despite this, we have not destroyed ourselves: we are still here. Perpetual Light celebrates our extraordinary will to survive, delivering a powerful message of hope.

Composer and Artistic Director: Jessica Curry
Performed by Londinium
Film and installation by Jo Fairfax
Produced by Sarah Ellis
In association with The Albany

Saturday 4 June 2011   3.30pm and 7.30pm

The Old Vic Tunnels
Leake Street

we queue to get, in deciphering the graffiti and reading the programme notes while trying to keep our noses tight against the insistent stink of pigeon poo.

when let in, we come into a an underground hollow space of sound – an atomic kind of of difficult buzz – more than a drone sound and suggestive of an audio equivalent of glowing radioactivity perhaps. and definitely and surely composed – its cadences moving us toward fiercer intensity and insistence.

it is unclear where we are supposed to be in the space and with everyone there is a feeling of needing to rush to be in the right place after the queuing. there is a largeish area with candles burning and white glowing rings set into the new cement that becomes a second holding area. beside this is a cavern hung with white-lighted model planes suspended in a grid of rows above us and above a shrine-ish area with a funereal-looking box and two more glassed-in burning candles.

we queue again and wait to get through to the live performance area.

we are let through to a third area of rowed seats facing the two rows of the twenty singers that are Londinium, an a cappella choir.  behind them a large screen is showing faint shadowing waves which remind me of the ghostly echo of static waves out of an old fashioned tv screen.

the music has grown and expanded in complexity and heat – some of the sounds are barely endurable. we are pleased to be seated waiting and, watching a looped video of two woman’s eyes above and apparently watching a landscape from which two bright missiles are fired across a trajectory that neatly traces this witness’s eyes before flying inexorably away to explode somewhere, someone, out of sight, only to rise again, and again. in front of this image is a spiral design that reminds of the calibration of target finder or the unfurling of a fern or the carved eyes of a less modern totem to territory and domination.  watching, we are able to meditate on the ugly potency of our warfare and weaponry.

the music the choir make is exquisite. complex and interwoven and still sounding simple and urgent and sad.  it is a sublime experience to sit in this dark tunnel with the constant sonic rumbling of the trains over our heads like some omnipresent thundering of storms gathering, and fall inside this music. sometimes i found myself admiring. sometimes i felt a complicated array of thoughts and feelings and sensations. mostly i was just able to be in it.

(which means that the traces i might have to make this memory with are too ghostly and ephemeral to pin down here in a more specifically recounted record.)

after the concert we wandered back into the candle-lit adjoining tunnels and i was overcome with a surge of deep sadness.  standing in this newly activated shrine i felt physically and emotionally charged.

an exceptional experience for sure. *****

show seen: 4th June 2011


CRiSAP Symposium: the uses and abuses of field recording

the uses and abuses of field recording
June 9th, 2011, 3pm to 6pm
Podium Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication
On the 9 June this year CRiSAP is holding its fifth research symposium. In celebration of the beginning of our two year EU Cultural Partnership Project, the event will explore the role of field recording in artistic practice. We have invited eight speakers who all, in different ways and for different reasons, use microphones to capture something of the world around them: Viv Corringham, Peter Cusack, Felicity Ford, Michael Gallagher, Ruth Hawkins, Bill Thompson, Salomé Voegelin and Mark Peter Wright.For this symposium we wanted to try something a little different and adapt the PechaKucha format where, while presenters are talking, their chosen 20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds. According to its originators this “makes presentations concise, and keep things moving at a rapid pace”. We want to spice the pot a little by asking the presenters to conclude with 2 minutes of recorded sound.

the speakers’ PechaKucha:

salome’ voegelin:

… you read it in silence … without a word … you listen to your own field not mine … my auditory imagination … (in silence look at the image of a babbling river: what do you hear?) … (take pictures of the sounds you hear)

mark peter wright:

… notes on everyday listening (i do not wish to press ‘record’) … 

ruth hawkins:

… quiet and minimally eventful … where and how do people listen

michael gallagher:

… drone sounds in the environment … wind turbines do / do not make noise … (what is noise?) … capturing data not sound – the sound is still out there, the illusion that you’ve captured sound … “sound continuums that we judge less harmful than their benefits … field recording is a(n improvised) performance … 
(layering of difficult and different drone sounds to make a kind of sonic hell / heaven)

viv corringham:

… walks that are personally meaningful to different individuals in different places … re-imagined and remade with new sounds and sounds from the original walk

peter cusack:

… sonic journalism, the sound equivalent of photojournalism – investigative and what you get from it as an audience, as opposed to what you get from images and text

felicity ford:

… phonography of locally collected sounds

bill thompson:

… composition from field recordings

This exciting event will conclude with tea and cakes and a concert featuring Viv Corringham (voice); Peter Cusack (guitar, saz, samples & electronics)Viv Corringham and Peter Cusack perform songs, mixed with improvisation, and soundscapes created from environmental recordings – all controlled live. Songs are from the Eastern Mediterranean area, including Greek rembetika and Turkish folk, others are self written. They will be joined by flute, shakuhachi and ney player Jan Hendrickse.

some of martyn and my words after the performance

vocalisations … layered … surprising … wowee techno gadgets … the panoply of wind instruments (the bendy one we’ve never seen before) … listening to the flautist’s breath – a performance of breath … the power of the microphones, amplification to place the sounds cleanly inside you … loops: live loops and replay echo loops … moving from discordant to melodic without having to make aural gear changes … feeling moved even when i didn’t understand the words, the greek or balkan words sung, the greek or balkan intervals sung … viv’s great voice … the environmental sounds under | over layered … the sounds of water in the song about the pool that had no bottom and went, the children said, all the way to Aus-trail-i-a … the live guitar and the live lute or mandolin and peter ‘playing’ the soundscapes in with these instruments somehow … the quietness of the audience … the mess of wires and switchboxes on the stage and the mess of the artists’ coats and bags in the corner and the clean clearness of the music … the very still technician in the corner who did hardly anything at all but watched his board intently … the overlay of breath through the flute sounds | the overlay of flute through the breath sounds
… sometimes playing the flute with a nearly open mouth … the sense from the electronics of never quite being certain where the sounds were originated from – except for viv’s vocals – these from the centre came live clear and sure and strong … the sound perfect for the space in was being made in, hearing all the sounds clearly at the same time – being able to hear them and listen attentively without having to reach for the sounds or words or whatever your ears wanted.  

very inspiring.

show date: 9th june 2011