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Sound House

We’re just back from a fantastic week in Snape Maltings. Aldeburgh Music gave us the beautiful Kiln studio, 6 speakers, some nice mics, a projector and screen and left us to it. We moved in with four harps, two dulcimers, a renaissance guitar, a viola bastarda, a violone, nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, Hardanger fiddle, a tromba marina and a lot of percussion. We also brought some ‘scientific’ equipment consisting of a 2 metre length of 6 inch down pipe, 6 metres of 2 inch plumbing pipe, a selection of bells and some very large pieces of thick paper.

Our aim for the week was to test some of the experiments and observations that Francis Bacon’s lays out in his Sylva Sylvarum ,’ A Natural History in Ten Centuries’, and to use the sounds that emerged from that process to make new compositions - 21st century translations of Bacon’s ideas. When we perform Sound House, these new pieces will be placed within a musical context of 17th century music that Bacon would have been all too familiar with.

In Delation of Sounds, the enclosure of them preserveth them, and causeth them to be heard further. And we finde in Rowls of Parchment, or Truncks, the Mouth being laid to the one end of the Rowl of Parchment, or Trunck, and the Ear to the other, the sound is heard much further then in the open Air. The cause is, for that the Sound spendeth, and is dissipated also in a Piece of Ordnance, if you speak in the Touch-hole, and another lay his Ear to the Mouth of the Piece, the Sound passeth, and is far better heard than in the open Air.
Sylva Sylvarum - century 129





There is a common observation, That if a Lute or Vial be laid upon the back with a small straw upon one side of the strings, and another Lute or Vial be laid by it; and in the other Lute or Vial the Unison to that string be strucken, it will make the string move; which will appear both to the Eye, and by the straws falling off. The like will be if the Diapason or Eight to that string be strucken, either in the same Lute or vial, or in others lying by: But in none of these there is any report of Sound that can be discerned, but onely Motion.
Sylva Sylvarum - Century 279

We are grateful to Aldeburgh Music, Arts Council England and The Golsoncott Foundation for supporting this project.