S E A S C R I P T (Access Space, Sheffield - open 11am-5pm, Wed-Fri until May 31st)
I was given the opportunity to exhibit work related to BOAT (for Peter) this month.
S E A S C R I P T runs Wed-Fri, 11am-5pm, until May 31st at Access Space, Sheffield. The exhibition explores a single aspect of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes: the representation of the sea, and the role of scripts and scores in music production. Hugely inspired by Frank Bridge’s The Sea, Britten gives the changing character of the sea a role of its own in his opera. Agnes Martin’s 1963 work The Wave suggests the sea using minimalist graphic notation. As well as two new works on paper, both 'scores' for the sea, and a film work on loop, I displayed three paper pianola music rolls. Acting as score, and somehow also as a recording, for player pianos, these are fed into the pianola manually. The machine reads the perforations to make the prescribed sound. Despite the physical programming of the paper roll, the pianola (human) 'player' can effect real variation in speed and volume. The rolls, like waves, represent variation possible within repetition and proscription.
The exhibition is silent – there is no sound on the video loop, and my painted and perforated ‘scores’ (as well as the pianola music rolls) hang inertly against the walls. Sound is suggested and scripted in the exhibition, but not performed or heard.
THEMES within the work made for BOAT (for Peter)
As studio time for BOAT (for Peter) comes to an end, I’ve begun grouping pieces of work into themes. I’ll use these ideas to organise the work in the exhibitions in Snape Maltings and Sheffield.
PLANS If Peter were to be rescued from drowning at sea, would he need a boat? What form would such a boat take? Plans would need to be drawn up and transferred to watertight materials. Materials would need to be selected and then carefully divided and apportioned into necessary and unnecessary, needed and offcut.
SCORES How could a character be ‘rescued’ from an opera that has already been composed, performed and recorded? An intervention would need to be made into Britten’s score – I’d have to hack the libretto. I’ve drawn on the format of paper music rolls for pianolas and music boxes, in which perforations represent both score and recording.
STARS “Who can decipher / in storm or starlight / the written character / of a friendly fate [?]” Peter asks as the storm rages in Act 1, Scene 2. The ghostly lines of constellations presented here suggest an alternative fate is written for Peter and his apprentices.
(SEA) FLOOR There will be a site-specific installation at floor level in each gallery. The installation will explore the process of using templates, or patterns, to make something, and will stand in for Peter and his apprentice John, the two characters presumed to have come to rest on the sea floor at the end of Britten’s Peter Grimes.
Produced in collaboration with music researcher and presenter Dr Katy Hamilton, this 44-page A5 booklet of alternative ‘Listening Notes’ explores themes in the opera and my work for BOAT (for Peter). It was designed by Mark Devereux Projects and was printed on 100% recycled paper by RAP Spiderweb.
The booklet is available at both exhibitions or by emailing me – helen [dot] stokes [at] cantab [dot] net (£7 inc. P&P).
BOAT (for Peter)
Pond Gallery, Snape Maltings, IP17 1SP / Thursday 8th – Wednesday 14th June / 11am-7pm
Meet Katy Hamilton in the gallery, Monday 12th June, 2.30-4.30pm
APG Works, Sheffield, S1 4RH / Wednesday 21st June – Saturday 1st July (closed Sundays) / 11am-5pm
Evening Opening, Friday 23rd June, 6-9pm
In conversation with Katy Hamilton, Access Space (opposite APG Works), Saturday 1st July, 2pm (free)