A sound installation in Gloucester Cathedral
Each chamber in the crypt of Gloucester Cathedral has unique acoustic qualities. Ann-Margreth Bohl, sculptor and installation artist, has been collaborating with a team comprising musicians, a composer a sound designer and a sound engineer, to record and transform sound qualities discovered in the crypt and culminating in this sound-installation.
Through many visits to the chambers singing, playing the cello and recording some of the crypts resonance, a library of sounds was created by holding on to acoustic surprises and treasures found.
This site specific collection of sounds was revisited and edited to form the abstract compositions you can experience today. You are invited to listen and connect with the architecture and atmosphere of this crypt through what you hear.
As you are moving close or further away the sounds naturally change, creating a individual experience for everyone.
For your own experience and the experience of other listeners be as silent as you can whilst visiting ‘Lüsenen’, turn your phones off and don’t take any flash photography.
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What I kept thinking about, both during and after, was permanence and impermanence. It was hard not to with the weight of the cathedral bearing down from above, and surrounded by the sense of centuries of faith.
The use of a Middle High German word to name the installation really interested me. Not only was it contemporaneous with the building of the crypt, but those who had used Lüsenen as part of their everyday language would not have ever imagined that it would fall out of use. That the words with which they communicated with each other were not permanent, and would not be commonly spoken or heard a few hundred years later. And it combined with the idea that while the sounds played in the installation had been recorded, they are not actually permanent, they only really exist in the moment in which they are heard.
The siting of the installation in the cathedral crypt grounded the experience in centuries of tradition, history and human experience. Moving through the spaces in such low light conditions created an atmosphere of attention, participants had to listen keenly, had to be aware of who and what was around them. The resulting experience was highly personal, each participant heard the sounds from their own physical perspective, and I was struck by how it commanded total commitment to the moment. There could never be any repetition of the combination of sound or light. I am aware, a couple of weeks later, of how clear my memories of the experience are. I can remember certain moments with much more clarity than I would normally expect, they are imprinted on my memory. My own version of a permanent record.
Queues of people outside the big red door of the crypt.
Limiting the numbers of people at any given time down there as it is quite unbelievable how much the amount of visitors and their way of experiencing a work like this influences the piece itself. In my experience every project presents some magical surprise and with ‘Lüsenen’ I have a feeling it was how people interacted with the crypt when in the almost dark, a few battery operated candles dimly lighting the way.
Entering the same chapel on a previous night, two people sitting in a corner huddled up to each other, silent, absorbed. I stand close, we are silent together, absorbed in the same silence, more people join, stand close to us, entering the same silence, the layering of atmospheres, of absorption, having a, experience together.
I suddenly feel like I am in a play, I am the audience, observing how people want to find their way, how unsure they are, how some help each other without words joining candles together, moving them towards the floor so to show the way.
Something is so familiar and ancient about all of this and it is not just the space…it is what makes us humans human and how we recognise each others searching.
So I find myself wondering how it came that a experience of sound has joined into a experience of humans in the dark, how has it turned into this performative space, how can it be that I am the one that wanted to understand something of the architecture of this space ends up to understands a bit more how humans share some experiences and behave in similar ways if we allow ourselves to have a experience.
Circles of light moving up and down the solid, roughly carved walls of the crypt, hands touching into the circles of light, silently stroking them… dark figures standing around, watching the hand move over the stone whilst listening to the atmospheric screeching sounds.
Little orange flames at the end of the corridor dancing up n down like fireflies, dark figures moving towards them. Closer to the dancing flames and when turned toward the ‘candleholder’ shadows dance over the wall behind them up and down up and down as the arms move in search for finding a way into the unknown.
Sitting silently on a step in the most remote of chapels in the crypt, by us revered too as ‘death chapel’… people in the form of dark cut out shapes coming close, hesitating to move into the pitch black… I am sitting there watching their hesitation their vulnerability, their human ways of moving when not sure if and how to move, if it is safe to do so or not.
Nobody knows that I am here, sitting on this step, silently..I do not want to frighten them, I tap my phone pressed on my knees for the screen to gently glow… I am here, don’t be frighted.
‘I saw this figure in the dark it did not move, was it alive or dead?’
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