Perseid Nocture

In August I was invited by Dundee Contemporary Arts to participate in their brand-new arts festival called Blue Skies – “Kite Flying, Rainbow Chasing, Star Gazing”.

My involvement was in the last part of that, since the festival was timed to coincide with a meteor shower – the Perseid Shower, to be precise. I designed an audio/musical performance for the Mills Observatory which would react the the visible meteors. A camera pointed at the sky would see the meteors, triggering different sounds.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy (in Scotland?!) and no meteors were visible at all on the evening! It was too bad, but the sold-out audience did not let that get in the way of having a brilliant time, enjoying a dance performance by Small Petit Klein, a “guerrilla rainbow” installation by Alistair McClymont, and a lecture on the Perseids by astronomer Brian Kelly, before my performance.

Despite the missing meteors I was still able to perform my piece, which I did in two parts (I was in the observatory itself, in the photo above, with the speakers and the the audience). The first section is entitled “Strange and Wonderfull Apparitions” after a beautiful broadside poster that you can see on the National Library of Scotland website, which describes a meteor shower in the 18th century that was witnessed around Scotland and Europe.
In the leadup to the show I got people from around DCA and Mills Observatory to read sections of the broadsheet out loud, which I then edited together, mixing it along with recordings I made of the previous events (the dance piece, the rainbow machine, the sound of the observatory structure, the crowd mingling, chatting and applauding…).

The second section, “Good, occasionally poor” was constructed out of the shipping forecast from BBC Radio 4. I find the rhythms, vocal melodies, and structure of the shipping forecast fascinating, and it certainly seemed to match well with the theme of the night!

I’ve now finally gotten around to rendering a shortened version of this piece, which you can listen to now. Enjoy! I’d like to thank Clive Gillman at DCA for inviting me to do this performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and of course the whole team (Annette Davison, Kristina Johansen, and many others) who worked so hard to make Blue Skies such a success.

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