Hear music from the Ruskin Rocks project

Composer, artist and sound performer Dr Robert Mackay will be premiering his composition Living Waves on Thursday 20 January at 6.30pm in Earth Sciences Seminar Room 8.119.

The piece was created during the recen Ruskin Rocks project, which was led by the School of Earth and Environment. The project was set up to create musical instruments using rocks from Cumbria, and to introduce local children to ideas in music and science through their local landscape and industries. 

Speaking about the new composition, Dr Mackay said: "Living Waves has been inspired by the thoughts, writings and paintings of John Ruskin. It is the sub-title he himself gave to Deucalion, his book on geology. It is also the name of a recent exhibition at Brantwood (Ruskin's former home) of some of his drawings and watercolours in which he explores the many repeated patterns which occur in nature. Mountains are viewed as fluid and dynamic forms, living waves created by the shifting of the earth's crust.

"In Modern Painters IV, Ruskin describes this fluid nature of the rock: 'And, behold, as we look farther into it, it is all touched and troubled, like waves by a summer breeze; rippled, far more delicately than seas or lakes are rippled; they only undulate along their surfaces - this rock trembles through its every fibre, like the chords of an Eolian harp - like the stillest air of spring with the echoes of a child's voice'.

"I have attempted to weave sound paintings of Cumbria together, dissolving from one another, connected by the sounds of the underlying rock and a sense of fluid motion.

"The sense of repeated form and connectedness between the different elements of creation is reflected in the medieval concept of Musica Mundana, or 'music of the spheres': a celestial harmony. The three branches of the medieval concept of music were laid down by Boethius as Musica Mundana, Musica Humana (the internal music of the human body), and Musica Instrumentalis (sounds made by singers and instrumentalists). In the context of this piece I have interpreted these as: sounds naturally occurring in nature; speech and the sound of manmade machinery; and instrumental sounds (in this case, improvisations on the new stone percussion instrument created by the Ruskin Rocks team, played by Dame Evelyn Glennie).

"Thanks to Ruskin Rocks for commissioning this piece, and also to Howard Hull, the Brantwood Trust, and the Ruskin Foundation (Ruskin Library, Lancaster University) for providing reproductions of Ruskin's paintings for inspiration, Martin Seddon for the use of some of his field recordings, and to Dame Evelyn Glennie for her insight, patience, skill and talent."

For more information about Ruskin Rocks visit here.  

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