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Buildings as instruments and scores from melting ice: DARE Art Prize update

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The winner of the inaugural DARE Art Prize, composer and sound artist Samuel Hertz is developing his final commission during an intensive month in residence at The Tetley, Leeds this February, featuring workshops, open rehearsals, talks and performances.

Launched to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds, the DARE Art Prize is aimed at challenging artists and scientists to work together on new approaches to the creative process. US-born, Berlin-based Samuel impressed the jury with his proposal for an electro-acoustic chamber piece for infrasound – low frequency sound below the level of human hearing.

The early stages of Samuel’s process included a two-day workshop in the Howard Assembly Room, during which he made recordings with a mezzo-soprano and a bass from the Chorus of Opera North, four subwoofer speakers, and a tapping machine – a percussive device used by acoustic engineers to determine how spaces react to noise.  Samuel’s investigations into the potential of low frequency sound continued with a site-specific piece for the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, using the powerful sound system in the IMAX cinema to produce resonances elsewhere in the building.

On 16 February, Samuel will be joined by cultural geographer, curator, writer, and film-maker Amy Cutler (incantations from yin valley, above) and artist/researcher Emma Bennett for Sensual Landscapes, a discussion about experimental approaches to relating to landscapes and ecologies. On the afternoons of 26 and 27 February, visitors can drop in on Samuel as he rehearses with two performance collaborators, dancers Layton Lachman and Mara Poliak. On 28 February, there is chance to participate in the process with Immersion, an evening of “slow dance” and movement with Lachman and Poliak, with an improvised soundtrack provided by Samuel.

In the Howard Assembly Room on 24 February, Samuel will perform a new work continuing his engagement with sound and ecology. Influenced by spectralism – a compositional technique that employs the computerised analysis of sound – Gunslinger is ‘transcribed’ from a field recording of water melting from a cliffside ice sheet, for two guitars swathed in reverb in the manner of a classic, widescreen Western soundtrack. Composer and lecturer at the University of Leeds Dr Scott Mc Laughlin will also present a new work for electronics and clarinets. Fragility uses electronics to transform data on the unstable ecology of Burkina Faso into sounds, which slowly distort as the climate data moves out of the stable range, while the musicians – playing complex and delicate chords that are only stable under the right conditions of breath pressure and control – attempt to keep pace with the changes.

The culmination of his year’s research, Samuel’s final performance for the DARE Art Prize in the Howard Assembly Room on 14 April will include electro/acoustic pieces for small ensembles, video, live electronics, performance and mixed-media installations focusing on contact with industrial and natural infrasound as a way of illustrating complex relations between humans and environments.

The winner of the DARE Art Prize 2018-19 is due to be announced in the coming weeks.


Image: Samuel Hertz recording source material for Gunslinger. Credit: Reba West Fraser.

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