'Vital Signs' has been created by artist Jo Coupe who has used data from the castle, such as visitor numbers, relative humidity and temperature readings, to compose a musical score which will be played on a selection of medieval percussion instruments.
Curator at Durham Castle, Gemma Lewis, explained: “Durham Castle is nearly a 1000 years old, but it’s not like so many other castles and museums frozen in time – it is a living castle where spaces like the kitchen and chapel have been used for the original purposes for hundreds of years. Today it’s also the home to University College, the oldest of Durham University’s colleges, and has over 1000 students associated with the building and over 100 actually living in the Castle. All this makes for interesting fluctuations in the data Jo has been looking at.
“Jo has used some of the data that is collected here at the castle – such as temperature readings and even the amount of post that we receive – and translated it into several pieces of music which people will be able to hear performed at a live event in the castle’s beautiful Great Hall.”
Jo Coupe worked with percussionist and composer Brendan Murphy and three other musicians, who were hand-picked for their ability to play instruments similar to those which might have been played at the castle many hundreds of years ago.
The instruments used in the performance include a variety of frame drums made with wood and animal hide, a riq or timbrel which is an early tambourine, tuned bells and cow bones played like spoons. The various fluctuations which can be heard in the music reflect all sorts of activities and changes in conditions in the building.
“By using medieval percussion instruments I hope to create a connection between the building today and the sounds that might have been heard here in its earliest life,” Jo Coupe
Vital Signs took place at Durham Castle Friday 21 October 2016.
Video created by Peter Spence for Meeting Point