July 31st, 2011 | Published in Blog
Bang the Bore X: Zone of Alienation
Featuring variations on scores by Iannis Xenakis and Alvin Lucier and a performance of Frederick R.C. Clarke and Richard Granville Jones’ God of Concrete, God of Steel
7pm – 10pm, Saturday 6th August 2011
John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ
Free entry/donations gratefully accepted
An accompaniment to Jane and Louise Wilson’s exhibition of photographs taken around the Chernobyl exclusion zone (which runs 12 July – 3rd September), Bang the Bore’s tenth event – their first at Southampton University’s John Hansard Gallery – presents music themed around nuclear energy in the context of the wider energy industry, culturally embedded fears, environmental impact and humanity’s ceaseless and increasing demand for more power.
In the immediate aftermath of Fukushima and the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear power barely seems out of the headlines. Yet while newsreel footage of Japan and photographs of Pripyat are filled with apocalyptic imagery, humanity is facing what many believe could be an actual apocalypse in the form of global climate change. Many scientists, environmentalists and politicians believe that nuclear energy is a compelling alternative to environmentally destructive coal power stations at a time when the industry is beset by controversy. Across the world, commentators are reassessing the risks of safety, cost, waste storage and potential proliferation against our baseload demand for power, its position within the wider portfolio of energy options, their environmental footprint, and the governmental logistics required to manage adequate infrastructure in the face of increased unease amongst their electorates.
The Zone of Alienation is the literal translation of the Ukrainian name for the radioactive exclusion zone around Chernobyl. The zone stands as both a monument to one of the worst disasters in the history of the nuclear energy industry and as a question mark, an ambiguous metaphor for many of the assumptions we make about radiation, energy and the environment. Bang the Bore will present an afternoon of music – as well as audio and visual presentations – dedicated to questioning these assumptions.
Clocker (for Geiger Counter)
Based on the composition by Alvin Lucier
Alvin Lucier’s contribution to the field of psychoacoustic composition is unparalleled. His original score for Clocker explores our psychoneurological relationship with time by modulating a clock’s ticking with delays controlled by galvanic skin response sensors. Richard Thomas (of the A Band and Magnus Spectrum) will substitute the clock for a Geiger counter, replacing time with radiation in the composition’s conceptual framework and thus providing a musical metaphor for the World Health Organisation’s conclusion that some of the worst long-term effects of the Chernobyl disaster were on the mental health of the evacuated residents.
Concret PH (for Oil Shale)
Based on the composition by Iannis Xenakis
Originally composed to accompany the opening of Xenakis and Le Corbusier’s Philips Pavilion for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels – for which the famous Atomium building was also created – Concret PH is a seminal electroacoustic work in which burning coal is close mic’d and subjected to electronic treatments. This variation sees Skjølbrot’s Dan Bennett substitute coal for oil shale gathered from the shores near Hinkley Point nuclear power station, with added counterpoint from other sound sources. Oil shale is a controversial source of liquid hydrocarbons which is found in abundance beneath some of the UK’s most beautiful and significant conservation areas, and the process by which the oil is extracted is both environmentally damaging and prolongs our unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.
God of Concrete, God of Steel
Frederick R.C. Clarke and Richard Granville Jones
J. Robert Oppenheimer’s infamous quotation from the Bhagavad Gita, commenting on his own role in the Manhattan Project, is the most elegant example of the religious awe that underpins and confuses many of our preconceptions regarding nuclear energy. This peculiar 1971 hymn, with its undercurrent of energy utopianism and proclamations of a “God of atom… God of physics,” will be extended and interpolated via improvisation, with the lyrics made available in the programme for anyone wanting to join us in worship.
Zone of Alienation will also feature a multi-channel audio-visual presentation intended to interact with the Wilson’s photographs, collated with help from contributors to the Bang the Bore and Liminal Nation internet communities.