An in-depth exploration of just four notes next week

Minerva Voices is currently rehearsing four notes. No more, no less. Just four notes.

This chromatically-related pitch-collection forms the basis of Alvin Lucier’s remarkable, other-worldly Unamuno, with the Choir is preparing to sing in the sonorous acoustic of Studio 3 Gallery next Wednesday, in the next in the #EarBox series. You’d think that the ear would become bored quite quickly with only four notes on which to focus; far from it. The notes are presented in a sequence of twenty-four variations, providing twenty-four alternative glimpses, almost, of a particular sonic phenomenon, strangely beautiful in its repetitive simplicity. With each sequence lasting for as long as a natural breath, it feels as though a stately procession of glass planets is slowly turning about you.

At some points, you feel as though you are in the midst of a Kubrickian film soundtrack, or the opening to the Alien movie; films often exploit Bartok, Ligeti and the like for their sense of otherness, imparted by dissonance. But the dissonances in Unamuno aren’t fierce or unsettling; rather, they unfold gently, almost reverently, beguiling the ear through over six minutes of intensely concentrated music.

Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier

The event next Wednesday in Studio 3 Gallery is a short, twenty-minute performance, the heart of which is this strange, hauntingly beautiful meditation on chromaticism, in which the singers will be spaced around the gallery, immersing the audience in the middle of the sound. The programme will also include music from Norway, and a medieval Kyrie.

Find out more online here; the performance is on Wednesday 18 May at 1.10pm, and admission is free. Come and be transported to another world…

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