Artists turn museum objects into music - Museums Association

Artists turn museum objects into music

National Media Museum hosts experimental sound laboratory
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Rebecca Atkinson
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An artist-in-residence programme at the National Media Museum in Bradford is exploring what museum objects would sound like if they were turned into music.

Vicky Clarke and David Birchall, collectively known as Noise Orchestra, have created an experimental sound laboratory at the museum as part of the Light Fantastic: Adventures in the Science of Light exhibition (until 1 November).

The project is inspired by Russian sound artists Arseny Avraamov, Evgeny Sholpo and Nikolai Voinov, who experimented with graphical sounds in the 1920s.

For their residency in Bradford, Clarke and Birchall have created paper stencils based on shapes found in objects from the museum’s photography, television and cinematography collections.

The stencils are run through beams of light to create sounds using photosensitive theremins (an electronic musical instrument that can be controlled without any physical contact by the performer).



The project will run for seven weeks before all the sounds created are turned into an electronic symphony that will be performed during a live light and sound show on 31 October.

Clarke and Birchall visited the Theremin Centre at the Moscow State Conservatory, which charts the history of early experiments in Russian electronic music, as part of their research for the project. They also recorded sounds in the city that will be used during their residency in Bradford.

“The chance to visit Moscow to see Avraamov’s original graphical scores from the 1920s and play the noise machines was thrilling,” Clarke said. “We will be sampling these sonic fragments and weaving them into our soundscapes and visuals during the residency.”



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