INWARD | OUTWARD – Song of the Human


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11 Feb – 5 March – Performances at 11:00am & 3:00pm Wednesday – Sunday 
An immersive sound installation by renowned English composer and musician Pete M. Wyer that considers the sound of our voice as part of nature as well as exploring the nature of being human. Uniquely set for the building “Song of the Human” comprises a choral score by Philadelphia choir The Crossing and the dawn chorus recorded simultaneously at 18 locations. The musical layering of language allows the listener to recognise and consider the question of how and why we communicate through sound.

Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce Part lll of the series of exhibitions exploring the Human Form.  Following the success of Part I Conceal | Reveal, the dance performance by the internationally renowned Russell Maliphant Company, and Part II,Deformation l Transformation, in which Laurence Edwards, Sean Henry and Brian Taylor explored the language of figure through sculpture, the 3rd and final element in this series, Inside | Outside, will opened on 12th February 2017, with an immersive choral sound installation, featuring Philadelphia based choir The Crossing by the international British composer and musician Pete M. Wyer.  This will be the first time the piece has been performed in the UK and is inspired by the theory that human speech is derived in part from birdsong.
Song of the Human, was created as a sound installation and concert work for the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place in New York. Inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin who thought that of all things in nature, birdsong came closest tohuman speech. It comprises a forty-minute choral score performed by The Crossing that creates a soundscape that includes the dawn chorus recorded simultaneously at 18 locations including Cornwall, London and Suffolk. This musical layering of language allows the listener to recognise and consider the question of how and why we communicate through sound.
In 1871, Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man: “The sounds uttered by birds offer in several aspects the nearest analogy to language, for all the members of the same species utter the same instinctive cries expressive of their emotions; and all kinds that have the power of singing exert this power instinctively.” This idea was expanded in 2013 by Shigeru Miyagawa, Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.  He and his colleagues suggested that human language relies on two distinct systems, both of which had previously evolved in simpler animals. The first lexical system gene rates words used by our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees. The second system is expressive, expressing patterns that don’t include words, such as a tune that you hum.  It is this system that Miyagawa says is similar to those underlying birdsong.  Composed in seven movements, in the sixth the choir battle the elements in the form of a storm, acting as a metaphor for the struggle we each face in reaching a point of acceptance of our own nature.  In the first movement, Amaranth, Wyers intention is to create a feeling of encountering other humans as though they are a different species. The modern human is a relatively recent evolution of the Homo genus of apes and we tend to see ourselves as very different from our forebears, but Wyer believes that there is little reason to believe that the music of speech has changed in the last 70,000 years. Song of the Human is both a concert work and a sound installation, intended to recreate the dawn chorus of birds in an English forest about an hour before sunrise. It places birdsong alongside human sounds and features unique recordings of dawn choruses from different places around Britain. Made by recording birdsong at 18 points simultaneously with playback over 18 speakers it becomes an extraordinary, immersive recreation of standing in the English woodland at daybreak. Set in the context of Messums Wiltshire Wyers piece will be resonate throughout the cathedral-like proportions of the building echoing the natural world outside using 21st century technology.
The piece will be performed twice a day at 11am and 3pm.

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