Emily Peasgood’s sound piece Halfway to Heaven is set in a Baptist graveyard, a high hump of soil, weeds and tumbling headstones wedged between a road and a terrace of houses. Studio International talked to her about its inspiration and meaning.
It dates back to the 18th century, when Baptists were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground because their democratic and anti-elitist practices went against the Anglican doctrine. Peasgood has composed a work for five voices, whose songs emerge from funerary boxes adorned with wild flowers. Activated by visitors through passive infrared sensors inside the boxes, each voice is haunting enough in isolation, relating the story of the person buried below, but when sufficient people visit the spot to trigger all five voices, it coalesces into a moving, 17-minute-long ensemble piece that combines a churchy melodiousness with less orthodox contemporary harmonies. The work is not about religion, says Peasgood. “It talks about the history of the site and stories of the people, but the main premise is that people have to work together as a community to trigger the music.”
Emily Peasgood: Halfway to Heaven
Folkestone Triennial 2017
2 September – 5 November 2017
Interview by VERONICA SIMPSON
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY