Composer and Live Music Sculpture founder Samuel Bordoli, tells us about his inspiration for The Planets 2018
The idea for The Planets 2018 grew out of my Live Music Sculpture series – four site-specific creations for live musicians placed spatially around unusual architectural landmarks, including Tower Bridge, GLA City Hall and The Monument.
I have always loved visiting planetariums and wanted to combine the thrill of exploring our solar system with site-specific music in these unique spaces. The opportunity of surrounding an audience with sound on all sides while visuals filled their peripheral vision was particularly tantalising.
A string quartet seemed like the most natural ensemble for this project. It would be capable of working within the intimate space and lend itself well to quadraphonic placement. Its ability to achieve unity as well as diversity in tone and texture would also be important in a dry acoustic. I approached the Ligeti Quartet, who are renowned for their pioneering approach to new music. They loved the idea and came on board.
I realised that we were approaching the centenary of Gustav Holst’s The Planets. The threads seemed to come together – this would be a 21st Century Planets Suite, this time shared by eight composers each taking on a different planet. The composers would team up with a scientist to learn about the latest planetary research and incorporate this into their music.
I wanted The Planets 2018 to not only reveal the scientific developments of the last one hundred years, but also the musical changes. Holst was inspired by astrology – the contemporary composers would be influenced by astronomy. In the years that science has progressed, composers have been influenced by changing tastes, technologies and techniques. The project would tour around the UK to different planetariums accompanied by live visuals, taking audiences on a unique tour of the solar system, illuminated by music and science.
The scale of the idea needed an experienced and passionate producer to bring it to life. I was delighted when Sound UK came on board and brought their knowledge and creativity to the project. Together we commissioned Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Deborah Pritchard, Laurence Crane, Mira Calix, Richard Bullen, Shiva Feshareki and Yazz Ahmed to take on a planet – all renowned for pushing boundaries and being as varied in musical voice as the planets are in geological form.
I was inspired to take on the planet Uranus after visiting the Herschel Museum in Bath where it was discovered in 1781. I enjoyed being in the garden where it was first glimpsed through a telescope and standing on the damaged stones of Herschel’s workshop floor where molten metal had been spilled as he manufactured the lenses with his sister and fellow astronomer Caroline. It was fun to note that William Herschel was also a composer!
Guiding me during the process was David A. Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences, whose encyclopaedic knowledge has been invaluable. It turns out Uranus is a fascinating planet because its rotation around the axis is tilted on its side. David described the extraordinary effect this would have on sunrise and sunset – essentially 42 earth years of a pale sun slowly revolving in the sky, the circle getting wider until it disappeared under the horizon leading to another 42 years of twilight then darkness. This is the journey I have tried to communicate in the piece. It was quite a challenge converting 84 years into 5 minutes.
I hope audiences attending The Planets 2018 will be inspired when they experience the diversity of our solar system in the context of a wide range of music here on Earth. The questions raised by music and science remain bigger than all of us. This project is a humble glimpse of eight, highly personal responses to broader scientific discoveries about planets that undoubtedly influence us all. This is in no way the final say on the matter. We hope that another group of composers will do this again in 2118.
29 Sept - 2 Oct
The Planets 2018
London, Winchester, Bristol, (Birmingham SOLD OUT)
Image credit: Bill Bankes-Jones
Irma: an opera
Ahead of Royal Academy artist Tom Phillips’ 80th birthday next week, Sound UK is delighted to announce the first multimedia performance of Irma: an opera at South London Gallery.
This landmark event in Phillips’ home of Peckham, brings together world-class director and designer Netia Jones, and her company Lightmap, with Anton Lukoszevieze, and his acclaimed ensemble Apartment House. Together they will celebrate one of Britain’s most distinguished artists, recognising Phillips’ work as a composer and wider influence on the world of music.
16, 17 September
South London Gallery
Find out more
Take a voyage around our coast in the heart of London: immerse yourself in One and All after hours; dive into a programme of pop-up talks and poetry; chill out watching slow film in our Screening Room; and enjoy a sea-inspired cocktail the Moby Dick for just £5.00 at Pennethornes Café Bar.
The Manchester Science Festival is underway now and features a wonderful new commission from Tania Kovats, alongside a whole host of other exciting events.
Head to Manchester to see Tania’s new commission ‘Evaporation’, which takes Gaia Theory as a starting point to explore our seas. Gaia Theory was created by James Lovelock and suggested that the oceans are a barometer of the planet’s health. The installation is part of climate art project ArtCop21.
Kovats’ work is always exploring our relationship with the ocean, from the All The Seas commission seen at the @fruitmarketgallery to her new piece for our online art experience One and All, which investigates tides.
Follow this link to find out more about how you can see her new installation in Manchester and even hear her in conversation as part of the Science Festival.
And follow this link to see her brand new commission Tide, launching online on 4th November 2015.
Tania will also have new work on show at our One and All exhibition at @somersethouse in London, launching on the same day.
At this year’s autumnal equinox, leading artist Tania Kovats cast her bronze bell as the sun set on Porthcurno Beach. The tidal bell will be rung at high tide on the River Thames as part of the National Trust’s One and All exhibition at Somerset House from 4 November to 13 December. Members of the public are invited to volunteer to ring the bell each day. You can sign up online at from midday on Thursday 22 October.
One and All is a digital voyage through sight, sound and sea by three leading artists – Tania Kovats, Owen Sheers and Martyn Ware. Working across art, language and 3D sound, with award-winning film maker Benjamin Wigley, they capture the powerful connection we all have to our coast.
One and All is available to experience online at www.nationaltrust. org.uk/oneandall, plus Somerset House hosts a dramatic staging of these digital artworks that invites visitors to take this evocative journey around our shores in the heart of the city.
Visit our Live Events for full details.
One and All is a Trust New Art and Sound UK co-commission. Produced in collaboration with artdocs and The Swarm.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by PRS for Music Foundation.
Somerset House exhibition is sponsored by Panasonic, Official Partner of the National Trust.
Martyn Ware’s speakers kindly provided by Bowers + Wilkins.
A bronze bell, cast at sunset on Porthcurno Beach, will form the central piece of Tania Kovats' work in the upcoming One and All exhibition at Somerset House. Storyteller Nick Hunt will weave tales of bells, tides and local tales whilst Ore + Ingot turn solid metal to molten fire. Come and see this tin and copper casting, a common practice in Cornwall 150 years ago. Dress warmly and bring a torch.
23 September, 6.30 – 7.30pm.
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, TR19 6JX.
One and All – a voyage through sight, sound and sea launches online and at Somerset House, London on 4 November. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oneandall
One and All is a Trust New Art and sounduk co-commission. Produced in collaboration with artdocs and The Swarm.
Generously supported by Arts Council England, PRS for Music Foundation and Bowers + Wilkins.
We've just finished a trip around the coast with What Does the Sea Say?
Sound artist Martyn Ware created a sound installation for a bright blue beach hut which we took to three post industrial coastal locations. Inside people were invited to record their feelings about the sea, as well as write them on the walls.
We started in the north east in the ex coal mining town of Seaham, on the Durham Heritage Coast. Set high on the cliff tops the hut had a stunning position against the backdrop of the drammatic coast line. Hard to believe this was once covered in coal dust!
We then moved south to the beautiful Suffolk coast and the surreal landscape of Orford Ness. This spit of land below Aldeburgh is a nature reserve with some incredibly rare plants and it's own livestock including golden hares and a flock of sheep. Amongst these stand the relics of buildings used when it was an atomic testing site back in the '60s.
Finally, we travelled west to the beautiful harbour community of Porthgain on the Pembrokeshire coast. Once a slate mining and brick manufacturing village, it now attracts visitors from far and wide for its charm, glorious coastal views and of course first class fish restaurant.