Artists: Ben McDonnell, Zorka Wollny
The Swiss Church, London, UK
19 Dec 19
Constructing Site with Sound: Zorka Wollny
A performance resulting from a two day long workshops with artist and composer Zorka Wollny, dedicated to architecture and voice.
The workshops was based on creating the relations between points in the space, making drawings creating lines and plains, measuring distances, building the walls by sound. The questions that the artist poses and was aliased with the group include: What is the audio dimension of the space? How to measure it with the voice? How to sing the line? How to sing the series of points? The flat surface? How precise can we be in directing the sound?
Modest Proposals: Ben McDonnell
An immersive piece of music for tone generators, drum kit, guitar and electric bass. Modest Proposals was written for the JEMP festival and makes use of a blend of improvisation and written material making use of graphic scores to consider how musicians can work together within a fixed structure.
Ben’s last work The Sound We Inhabit was based around the dissonance between his desire for quick, responsive and temporary architectures and the need for longer term stability and support. Focusing on sound and music as a form that is both inhabitable but inherently amorphous and temporary, the work was context contingent. The space it is performed in influences note choices, pitch interaction and duration.
Modest Proposals work along similar themes but will consider sound as a temporal sculpture, reacting to the space it is performed in but also the formal properties of sound itself. Two tone generators will play pitches that interact and cause ‘beating’; the audible pulse created by the sound waves hitting each other in the space. The drummer will take this beating as a pulse and use it to stimulate a series of improvisations with the ensemble. An important aspect of the work is the installation elements that Ben incorporates into the piece, these can take the form of large scale temporary structures that help tune the space, stools, music stands and other support structures for the performers and graphic scores used to communicate the work to the musicians.
Modest Proposals is site contingent and will respond to the resonant space of the Swiss Church.
About Zorka Wollny
Zorka Wollny creates acoustic compositions for institutions, factories and empty buildings. Her works inhabit a space between art, theatre and contemporary music, and are always closely connected to the historic and functional context of specific architectural sites. Wollny’s collaborative production style often involves public rehearsals and workshops in which she creates structures of cooperation with individuals as well as groups and communities, such as composers, students, actors and activists. In one of her most recent works, “Unmögliche Oper” (2017), she involved several choirs and citizens of the German town Oldenburg in an exploration of the voice as a tool of expression and public debate. “Order” (2015) was composed for the Teutonic Castle in Swiecie, Poland, a 15-person volunteer choir, three percussionists and electronics. In "Ophelias. Iconography of Madness" (2012), presented at the Museum of Art in Łódź, Wollny staged a performance of eleven actresses, representing the figure of Ophelia as depicted in several historical theater productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In "Oratorio for Orchestra and Warsaw Citizens Choir" (2011), developed for the Warsaw Autumn international festival of contemporary music, Wollny devised a concentrated, polyphonic manifestation in the city centre of Warsaw, that was produced in collaboration with NGO’s and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and is based on the political manifestos and agendas of the participating activists. At the 2018 CTM Opening Concert, Wollny will create a new work especially for the occasion using her 2016 installation “Vox Populi” as a starting point. The piece will feature a tesla coil and two live vocalists. www.zorkawollny.net
About Ben McDonnell
Ben graduated with a masters degree in photography from the Royal College of Art In 2017, his undergraduate degree was jazz composition and performance from Leeds College of Music. His studio is in south east London, UK. His work uses photography, sound and sculpture to raise questions around stability, support and structure. He draws inspiration from sound, music and the built environment.
Ben was recently selected for the Chisenhale Studio Residency in 2019 and by Outset Contemporary Art Fund for a residency in Vancouver, this was supported by the British Council and Vancouver Biennale. In 2018 he completed a studio residency and exhibition with PADA in Lisbon, Portugal, and was commissioned to make new work for Concealer, part of Peckham 24 photography festival. His work has been shown internationally and is held in public and private collections. Ben is lecturer in photography at Manchester Metropolitan University www.benmcdonnell.co.uk
Financed from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland, within the scope of the Multiannual Program INDEPENDENT 2017-2022, as part of the "Cultural Bridges" subsidy program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
In partnership with Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
Supported by the National Lottery Project Grant of the Arts Council of England.
Photograph Credits: Natalia Janula