During autumn 2020 and spring 2021, I started some research and development on a significant new audio visual installation that has been in the planning for many years. I’m happy to share some of the progress made towards the creation of ‘Earthquake Mass Re-imagined’, commissioned by Cryptic in partnership with Anglo Arts (part of the The Anglo Mexican Foundation), Mexico & Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

I’m thrilled to be working again with Cryptic alongside a Mexican partnership. The Mexican connection is central to the work, as it is around Seismic activity… here is an outline of the piece…

This artwork responds to 15th Century Mass “Missa Et ecce terrae motus” Earthquake Mass by Antoine Brumel. The final movement of Brumel’s mass, Agnus Dei was discovered partly rotting away, the music partly eaten away by organic processes as if it were returning to the earth. Following conversations with Mexico’s top seismologists, this installation responds to scientific research, seismic data, and what it means to live in a country with the risk of earthquakes occurring at any time. 

The piece is centred around recordings of individual voices from a Mexican choir singing the Agnus Dei pressed to vinyl. Human voices engraved into a surface as a sonic fissure, creates a metaphor for the movements of the earth, as tectonic plates shift on geological timescales. The voices are further processed and resonated at locations of significant historical seismic activity in Mexico. Theses shimmering echoes of partially shattered voices, partly mask and obscure the solo vocal recordings on vinyl.

Beautiful, yet unsettling, this dispersed, ultra-spatialised soundscape presents glimpses of Brumel’s  Earthquake  Mass amongst a textural soundscape of vocal echoes and remnants. A poetic contemplation on the state of the planet.

At the end of 2020, I had a series of 6 one hour session with Mexico’s top Seismologists at UNAM, in order to learn more about seismic research to help me shape how I approach creating the artwork. I also worked with 3 singers, Taylor Wilson, Tim Riley and Jimmy Holliday to record the all twelve vocal parts of Agnus Dei so I could test out my ideas with real voices. I knew this testing would be crucial, as there is no substitute for a real human voice singing, and I needed to know how I might transform the voices, and put together a ‘proof of concept’, before embarking on the process of working with a choir of 12 singers in Mexico.

Here is a short extract from the voices transformed in multiple ways, based on samples of seismic data, combined as a ‘mock up’ for the installation. … I will go into more detail about all the processes in the near future.

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