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Aeons: A sound walk along the River Tyne for the Great Exhibition of the North


Aeons, a new sound walk commissioned by Opera North, will take audiences on a musical journey along the banks of the Tyne and back through the ages in the centre of Newcastle this summer as part of the Great Exhibition of the North 2018. Free tickets are available to book from today.

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The work of Martin Green of the visionary folk trio Lau, featuring the vocals of Ryton’s own Becky Unthank (The Unthanks), Mogwai’s Dominic Aitchison, the massed forces of the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North and field recordings made along the river, Aeons is an epic, original piece of music designed to be heard through headphones during a half-hour walk along Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Having collected their headsets at Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the North Bank, walkers will step into a unique sonic adventure, immersed in a musical world that evolves by means of hidden ‘triggers’ as they move through the physical landscape, under six historic bridges and out to the western fringes of the city centre.

From a single singing voice to the full might and main of the Opera North ensembles, from the Quayside with its medieval remnants, past the site of the Roman and Old Tyne Bridges now occupied by the Victorian Swing Bridge, under Stephenson’s magnificent High Level Bridge to the sweeping concrete spans of the Redheugh, Aeons promises an intense, personal experience of the river as a place of imagination, a place of wonder and constant change. Recordings made with a state-of the-art binaural head – an artificial human head with microphones fitted inside the ears – will create a stunning illusion of 3D sound.

Composer Martin Green comments:

We often think of music as the soundtrack to our lives. Well, this half hour of it has been tailor-made according to our changing surroundings as we follow the River Tyne past the vestiges of centuries of human history, and back into deep geological time. 

For Aeons we have made bespoke music for the specific headphones everyone will be wearing. This gives me a freedom I’ve never had before, to make tiny sounds and place them right next to the listener, or to come up in the centre of a 32-strong chorus, and hear those singers from every direction.

orking with the dexterous might of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North has been a joyous experience. And who better to celebrate the North East than Becky Unthank, who has graced Aeons with her matchless vocals and her incredible knowledge of traditional song.

Jo Nockels, Projects Manager, Opera North, comments:

As England’s national opera company in the North, we were delighted to be invited to participate in the Great Exhibition's celebration of our region.

Aeons is a pan-Northern endeavour, both in terms of the artists we are working with and the locations that are incorporated in the finished sound walk: Becky Unthank's breathtaking vocals were recorded in a former church in Northumberland; the awesome sound of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North was captured in Leeds Town Hall; and Martin Green and sound recordist Mike Winship have been making eerie binaural recordings along the River Tyne itself.

Martin's immersive and completely absorbing soundtrack to the river will transform the listener's relationship with the route of the walk along the North Bank.

Aeons will open as part of the spectacular Get North! opening event on Friday 22 June at the Great Exhibition of the North’s Quayside Hub, which also includes the Get North Water Sculpture, an 80m tall fountain that will perform to a soundtrack of three specially commissioned music compositions. Walks will run at 10am, 11.30am, 1.00pm and 2.30pm each day from Monday to Saturday until Friday 7 September (excluding Monday 23 July and Monday 20 August). Tickets are free but booking is essential.

Aeons is supported by National Lottery players through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which is supporting a number of elements of the Great Exhibition of the North 2018.

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Martin Green and Becky Unthank during recording on the banks of the River Tyne, Newcastle. Credit: Opera North
Martin Green. Credit: Genevieve Stevenson.

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