Of This Parish: Bath Abbey Installation · 02:04:14

Of This Parish: Bath Abbey Installation

Of This Parish:Bath Abbey explores the territory of Bath Abbey’s bells and will be shown at the American Museum, Bath from 5-12 April.

Of This Parish:Bath Abbey explores the territory of Bath Abbey’s bells and was conceived by David Prior and Frances Crow and realised in Bath with ICIA through a participatory field recording workshop held on weekend of 22 – 23 March 2014. The final recordings were made in the evening of Sunday 23 March 2014, to a quarter peal of 1,288 Grandsire Triples, composed and conducted by William Willans and rung by the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers at The Abbey Church of SS Peter and Paul, for the evening service. The original version of Of This Parish was devised for the Parish of Sul in Northern Portugal with the support of Binarual/Nodar, the Arts Council England and the Falmouth University’s Sonva.

The idea of a ‘Parish’ – a common device used to delineate territory while also defining a sacred community – was an articulation of acoustic space: the Parish was the zone in which a church bell could be heard. This notion of ‘Parish’ as phonosphere is the point of departure for Of This Parish; a piece which explores the relationship between various acoustic spaces: the personal and the shared, the secular and the sacred, the near and the distant, the historical and the contemporary. Bells have been associated with their intense power to evoke, to impart a feeling of time passing, to foster reminiscence, recover things forgotten, and to consolidate an individual’s identification with an auditory site. In our piece, the tolling bell is used as a device to both unify acoustic space, while also invoking the multifarious cultural uses of bells: as calls to prayer and worship, as keepers of time, as tocsin; an alarm or warning and as a voice of authority.

In the piece, four walks are made simultaneously by four synchronized sound recordists, all starting from the central location of a Church with a tolling bell. When these field recordings are played through four corresponding pairs of loudspeakers arranged around the perimeter of an installation space, the recordings will begin with this integrated 8-channel surround recording; each recording rendering the acoustic scene from an only marginally different perspective to the others. However, as the recordists begin along their respective walks, only sounds loud enough to permeate each local environment – such as the church bell – will permeate all four recordings. The rationale for the presentation of these four recordings in a single space is to provide the listener with an impossible listening experience, collapsing the entire acoustic territory of the Parish into a single space.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks goes to sound recordists; Finnian Evans, Fiona Fraser-Smith, Rory Gracias, Fiona Haines, Sara Mark, Margherita Consanza Salvini, Jerry aka Yue Zhuo and Lizzie Hawthorn. Also to bell ringers; Hazel Spence, Fiona Hartley, William Willans, Robert D. Bell, Maggie Willans, Martin Pearson, Roger Haynes and Thomas G.A Wareing for ringing the quarter peal and to Tower Master, Richard Sweet and Matthew Butler for welcoming us into the ringing chamber. Thanks also to Maggie Willans for the design of the Peal Board for Of This Parish: Bath Abbey. We would also like to thank Liam Gibbins who introduced us to interesting paths through Bath. Thanks also to Michael Bassett and Joanna De Pian of ICIA for hosting and producing the field recording workshop and its’ installation at the American Museum in Bath.

Opening times see: ICIA website


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