Diverse Voices to Start Telling Time in Birmingham, England

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Diverse Voices to Start Telling Time in Birmingham, England

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Birmingham, the English city often identified as Britain’s most diverse, is going to use time to celebrate its variety of voices.

An aural clock, a sound and sculpture installation by the Scottish artist Susan Philipsz, will be installed in 2021 near the city’s new high-speed rail terminal.

“Station Clock,” which won the city’s Big Art Project competition this year, will be more than 65 feet in diameter and laid into the surface of a pedestrian courtyard. The 12 notes of the chromatic scale will be in the positions normally filled by the hour numerals. Audio tones will be created by the voices of 1,092 residents, with a different combination of their voices sounding each hour and the full chorus at noon.

“The idea is to work with a diverse range of voices from all over Birmingham,” said Ms. Philipsz, who is based in Berlin. “It’s the most ethnically diverse city in Britain, and like any big city, there are elements of harmony and discord but we find a way to coexist.” Work will start in January, and she estimates that the process of finding and recording the right combination of voices will take as long as two years. It is expected to cost 2 million pounds ($2.6 million).

Ms. Philipsz often uses untrained voices, including her own, to create installations. In 2010,she won the Turner Prize, presented each year to a British visual artist, for a sound installation using a 16th-century Scottish lament that played beneath three bridges on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

The artist said “Station Clock” would explore how sound defines space: “Sound is visceral; when you hear the sound you become more aware of the space that you’re in, and it heightens your sense of self. I like to work with sound in a public space where there is that element of surprise, and I think that it draws attention to the architecture and space.”

“I hope people will respond to it in different ways,” she added. “There will be people who gather on the hour to hear it, or there will be those who will come across it unexpectedly as they rush to get their train.”

By | 2017-09-04T13:46:56+00:00 September 4th, 2017|Comments Off on Diverse Voices to Start Telling Time in Birmingham, England