Siren is a whirling, spinning spectacle of mechanical movement, electronic sound and light. Twenty-nine large metal tripods, up to 3m tall, have rotating arms that spin around, powered by electric motors. Hand-built electronic tone generators power loudspeakers at the end of each arm, creating an extraordinary sonic texture of pulsing electronic drones. Small LEDs at the end of the arms trace circles of light as the arms rapidly rotate, creating a compelling visual image. The audience, kept at a safe distance from the whirling arms by a safety barrier, is able to move freely about the space and experience different sonic and visual perspectives of the work. Meanwhile the performers move about within the mass of swirling metal machinery, operating their machines and tuning oscillators to change the musical composition while dodging and ducking the rapid movement of the rotating arms. As the arms rotate, the sound pulses past the listener with a Doppler-like effect, while the cluster of closely tuned oscillators creates a rich and pervasive sound world. A minimalist phasing of the rhythmic pulses emerges as the varying speeds of rotation of the arms makes the pulsing tones phase against each other in a constantly evolving polyrhythmic structure. The closeness of the tuning of the separate tones sets off a series of amazing overtones that evoke the sense of an ethereal choir.
“A choir of rotating sirens, their individually strident voices congealing into a thick mutating chord that transfixed listeners in its sticky flux.” David Toop, The Wire
Supported by Arts Council England and Oxford Brookes University