Installation: Audio-video Fugue (2016), filmed in situ
Created for Polyphony: Experiments and Adventures in Voice 2011-16, a solo retrospective exhibition by Ellen Southern at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol, September 2016
Twitter: @ellen_southern , see #polyphonyexhib
A fugue in vocal music is where melodic themes enter one after another, layering, transforming, and re-combining in counterpoint to each other. This polyphonic (‘multi-vocal’) effect combines independent individual parts into a larger multi-layered work, which can almost seem to generate itself. A familiar example may be singing a rhyme like London Burning round and round in ‘canon’.
Inspired by this long-used vocal form, I have taken two projectors, with an audio-video work playing through each. So at any one time, two audios and two videos can be experienced, to form an ever-changing audio-visual polyphonic fugue of four ‘voices’. Four is a standard number in SATB choral music (soprano alto tenor bass).
Over the duration of the exhibition, the differing durations of the paired audio-visual works will subtly, gradually, and incrementally shift the looping repetitions in ever-changing combinations and juxtapositions. This is a device I have often used in my work, since listening to early music like Pérotin (d. 1230) and Guillame de Machaut (d.1377) in which melodic ‘cells’ of different lengths were placed in tandem, a technique which modern composers such as Ligetti, Stravinsky, and Cage adopted. In this way, the works can be interpreted in new ways in relation to each other, always shifting, always returning in new ways, and presenting an ever-changing audio-visual polyphonic fugue.
Current works in the Fugue:
• Art in Romney Marsh – residency with dancer Clare Whistler at a selection of medieval churches in Sussex, 2013
• Live vocal / movement performance with Clare Whistler at ‘Testing Ground’ scratch night curated by Ellen Southern, The Others, London, 2013
• Engaged Voice – vocal residency at The Edwardian Cloakroom, 2014
• Haunted Voices – Ellen Southern and Ensemble at Brighton Fringe Festival 2013
• Luminaire – Ellen Southern and Ensemble perform an immersive vocal work at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton, 2013
• At Her Music – live performance with live and recorded voices, viewed from within a camera obscure, De La Warr Pavillion, 2012