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Exploring music and space at St Paul's

by Cass Art
Exploring music and space at St Paul's

Space has long-formed part of how we think about the nature of performance; be it music, art, literature or theatre.

The idea of a specific, physical, defined space, infused with dynamic, alive images, text or sound, asks interesting questions about how we experience and consume art.

Artists have long-sought to explore this relationship, as diverse as the exploration of space, mass and time seen in the work of the Cubists to the Flaming Lips' innovative four-disc 1997 album Zaireeka, designed to be played simultaneously on four different audio systems.

Last week the resplendent St Paul's Cathedral welcomed the composer Samuel Bordoli into its corridors, crannies and chambers - and it made for an unusual, moving, eerie audience experience - one which explored the interplay between acoustics and sound and sites and structures.

The title of the event - Live Music Sculpture - tells us all we need, throwing together sound and physicality in a clash of styles that sought to explore the possibilities of Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece.

The eight-minute work, specially created by Bordoli for the cathedral itself and part of City of London Festival, was performed with musicians - singers, French horn players, trumpeters - carefully positioned around parts of the building, to give audience members a unique, unexpected aural experience. They were free to move around St Paul's, making this event as much about them as the music and the site.

As Bordoli himself explains: “Freeing this performance from a conventional orchestral set-up enables a surround sound experience which plays on the echo and resonance of the venue, that will be different for each listener as they move around the Cathedral."

Performed just five times on Friday July 12th, Live Music Sculpture was a hit. "Some beautiful if eerie sounds echoing through the Cathedral this morning," tweeted @sjhale_archives, and @racheltreg was equally impressed: "Spending the day in glorious @StPaulsLondon experiencing samuel bordoli's @musicsculpture = brilliant", she said.

Live Music Sculpture was a rare treat - a work examining how buildings can work to shape, host and change a performance event, with the added layer of an interactive audience, who all experienced something unique.

On one level, this was an enjoyable excursion at St Paul's. On another, it was a work that asked us to think about music and space. This is an event not where space is in some way distinct or outside the music. It's one where the space is absolutely at the core of everything that the music is about.