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Oct ’16 Lilja’s Internship 1: Sheep, Oxford & ribbons…

I am currently extremely lucky at the moment on two counts (well, lots more but I’m just talking about work here!).  1) I am on OCM‘s BOOM scheme, to encourage musicians to make first steps towards public art and outdoor work.  2) I have Lilja Maria Asmundsdottir with me for two months, coming as an intern after her degree at the Iceland Academy of the Arts.  We’re thinking about installations and possibly pianos.  At the moment, installations are definitely taking up our time as we both have installations to make/create (due in March & April 2017).

Lilja arrives in my studio!

Lilja arrives in my studio and puts earplugs in my piano! Hopefully not a metaphor! 🙂

Lilja's Hulda instrument, the centre of her installation

Lilja’s Hulda instrument, the centre of her installation

We began with some piano playing, Lilja played extracts from a young Icelandic composer, Ornolfur Eldon.  We began to talk about fluidity at the keyboard, phrasing, gesture, dynamic depth.  That day we also improvised duets between the Inside-Out Piano and the Harmonium, which we really liked!  Some of the questions we’re contemplating are the differences in being a pianist or an installation artist.  As we both have installations to make, we’re both very much wondering about what shape these should take, what they look and sound like, and more fundamentally, what are they about?  For me, the main thought to hold on to is the sense of a collective experience.  For Lilja, she’s working with the concept of hidden things but also a world (a room) which is completed by an instrument being played, and vice versa.  We’ve been quoting Aristotle today (watery retinas!) and thinking about the impact of weather sounds indoors.

So, we made a trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where my own installation will be for a special OCM Live Friday on Friday 3rd March, entitled Supersonic.  My thoughts began with the idea of the journey of sound and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the slides that were at the Tate Modern several years ago.  I began to mull on the concept of what a museum fundamentally is – a collection of people’s stories and experiences – and immediately got the sense that this was how my work would take its own form.  See below for pics of the incredible atrium I’m therefore hoping to fill by collecting people’s stories, experiences and memories.  My whole idea is based on a tree shape and the question is what material to build the tree out of.  The first main idea (and one I want to do eventually, somewhere) was to create a structure out of transparent drainpipes.  The contact mic under the table has been collecting the sound of Lilja and I writing stories and we’ve begun playing with processing these sounds, to really interesting effect.  I’ve also been drawing lots of sketches about how to capture stories and make music out of them whilst avoiding unending wiring or soldering…

The Ashmolean atrium is an incredible space but also enormous.  The way that the space allows visitors to view the possible journeys into the museum is rather profound, as a central place from which to look any way in time or culture. Its main exhibit is the Apollo statue at the ground floor level.  Beyond that, it is a collecting space, somewhere to explore on the way to somewhere.  It is cathedral-like in its scope, height, light and openness.  On a Live Friday night it will be bustling, noisy, busy.

Next stop was a lovely walk right from my studio up to the Westdene Windmill where we really randomly chanced upon the conservation grazing sheep.  Lilja and I felt very mellowed out by being with the sheep and carried home a lot of random, natural items including bits of plants, nut casings, dry leaves… The views of the brightly reflective sea were also amazing that day.  The sheep reminded me of the Louis Andriessen opera I saw at the Ruhrtrienniale, which had a whole herd on stage…  As my idea revolves around a tree, I’ve also begun looking at how differently trees are shaped and structured.  This enormous been in the nearby woods has a beautiful twisting, spiral sort of momentum, as if it kept looking for light in different directions.

Meanwhile, having visited the Ashmolean and been impressed again by the size of the atrium but also the rapidity required in the get-in and get-out and the fact that actually the gig is only one evening, I began to think much more about things we could install in a much lighter, easier, quicker way.  Randomly, I happen to have a lot of ribbons currently, so I’ve started wondering if these can be the thing that people write their stories on and Lilja has used her sketching skills to illustrate how the finished piece might look.

Lilja's sketch of the ribbon tree

Lilja’s sketch of the ribbon tree

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Leaves as bigger image: colour richness