I was in London the other day and happened to have some free time, during which I decided to pop into the Science Museum. I stumbled upon the Exponential Horn, a reconstruction of a large loudspeaker originally displayed in the museum in the 1930s.I’d heard about this new installation, so thought I’d check it out. Whilst I was there the horn was broadcasting a bbc radio3 live concert which was just ending, and was followed by a site-specific sound art piece by Audialsense. This work was constructed in max/msp and used audio recordings of the machines at the science museum, as well as filters based around the natural harmonic resonances of the exhibition space they were in.
Here’s a brief video I recorded on my phone:
The following morning I happened to go along to St Paul’s for their Sung Eucharist service. On this day, by chance, they also had an orchestral accompaniment provided by the City of London Sinfonia.
I took some short clips on my portable audio recorder, first of the bells outside the cathedral, and then one later on whilst the orchestra played during communion:
Viewed as a site-specific event, the service at St Paul’s was was just as much an interesting experience as the installation at the Science Museum. In many ways being at the cathedral was a far more integrated experience. The building; the sopping wet reverb it creates; the bells inside it; and music written for a liturgical setting, all evolved over time together, each with a symbiotic dependence of the other. The sound art piece at the museum, was an interesting experience, but essentially felt like it was just using sounds from the museum as its pallet, to then do ‘the-sound-art-thing’… – manipulating audio recordings, applying filters and effects, which admittedly yields interesting sonic creations, but often the listener does not recognise, nor really care, what the the source of the original sounds were. A piece by Mozart, several hundred years old, performed on old wooden and brass instruments, is essentially a museum piece in itself as well, and so maybe that’s why its not really fair to compare these two experiences, but I’d have to admit that even as a sonic expression of a space, the service at St Paul’s was probably a bit more fun.