score for a hole in the ground
This image is of the horn protruding from the ground at the site of the sound installation project Score for a Hole in the Ground, which was built after Jem Fines’ proposal won the PRS Foundation New Music Award in 2005. The installation was constructed and can be found in Kings Wood, Kent, England. It is set inside a very deep hole in the ground, suspended in which are a series of metal bowls of varying widths and depths. As natural precipitation occurs in the forest, water drips from slits in the metal grate above, and in striking the bowls, makes a chiming sound that changes as the bowls fill and eventually overflow into others below, making different sounds in turn. These sounds are amplified by a gramophone-style horn, constructed for the installation, that has its own artistic presence, and which quietly projects the sounds from underground out into the forest, to be heard both by those who have sought it out and those who come upon it unwittingly.
The idea is based on the Japanese suikinkutsu, an overturned metal bowl with a hole in the top that allows water to pass through and chime against the metal, and on John Cage’s ideas about silence as unlimited soundscape.
I like the way that the goal of something like this is to help the listener to hear not only the sounds produced by the work in question, but also to become more aware of what is ambient. It reminds of the Jeanne-Claude and Christo wrapped series, in which a larger goal of the art seems to be to help us to look beyond it and at something more interesting and impressive.
On the homepage linked above there is a nice audio clip of the sound the installation makes as the water drips into the bowls below the ground.
This is somewhat of a departure from the idea behind ambient sound, which Cage points out is so nice because it makes no effort to communicate emotion or insist upon an idea, but here is the Debussy piece my professor played this morning in my Paris VII class, Les avant-gardes musicales et poétiques.
Debussy Preludes, Book I: X. …La Cathedrale Engloutie (Profondement Calme)
I love when my professor plays piano in the mornings during my classes. She plays flawlessly and with this nice earnest look on her face that is soothing to see. She held the score of this piece up to the class and pointed out the way in which the tall, weighty chords, made up of at least ten notes each, resemble the sturdy structure of a cathedral. The piece sounds so architectural to me, with its heavy foundations and light top parts like stained glass.