Constellation is a performance-based composition, devised by Sheena Phillips of CoMA Singers.
We are all like stars, isolated (or in small clusters), separated by great distances – but shining and brilliant (or faint and delicate). Each performer records their own audio, which is assembled into an evolving cosmic soundscape.
Dominique Golden created this visual response to the music which she describes as:
“Physically distant individuals coming to together to make a virtual whole – was my key with regards to a moving image response to the 19 musicians that make up the work ‘Constellation’ by Sheena Phillips.
I focused on the use of micro and macro image making as well as anything I could find around the house that had a home-made yet out of this world dimension such as glitter balls and snow globes.
I am a multimedia artist and much of the material used in Constellation had been previous footage captured that had not yet come into fruition via other project endeavours.
One of these being journeys shot whilst in the car. I have also made many drawings, musical compositions and writings in the past on this subject;
Growing up in the 70’s the family car was always the vehicle of choice for summer holidays in which we would travel up to 9 hours on a trip to Wales or Devon from our home in St Helens Lancashire. I would make games to pass the time, trees verses lamp posts, registration plate decoding holding my breath between telegraph wire posts. I considered the car a time travelling machine as time passage was different on these journeys compared to normal life; a free falling of day dreams with intervals of quick passage, a stretching and compressing of time.
Whilst travelling to Nottingham from my home in London on numerous occasions in recent years (to see my sister) I would film the headlights gliding like ghosts locked into pathway systems, automating together. Also, I filmed endless mesmeric shots of lamp posts passing in rhythm depending on our speed through frost bitten windows. We would have the radio on and the sound of the motorway with all its rhythms and frequencies resonating.
Motorways are ready-made graphic score, and the car you are in is the instrument. Therefore, the rest of the cars on the motorway are your fellow musicians, the orchestra obey the system of rules the highway code provides and we make wonderful abstract shapes, patterns and sounds as a result.
This material makes up the backdrop for the film, other worldly becoming the everyday experience – which is pretty much lock-down in a nutshell!
Our worlds have expanded and shrunken simultaneously. Our physical world has reduced, but we have new reams of unexplored virtual territory. I hope that I have expressed this notion in the film to accompany the COMA work ‘Constellation’. It was a joy to work on and always a pleasure to meet and collaborate with the lovely, talented and open-minded people that make COMA -a fertile ground for new voice and experimentation.”
A companion piece for Constellation, also devised by Sheena Phillips: an audio collage based on numerous small individual contributions.
Constellation evoked our distance from each other and our isolation. Contact (3m40s) evokes how much social contact has changed during the pandemic. Sounds of the beach, of the hubbub of a pre-pandemic gathering, of music in a pub, and chanting in a church, give way to a lonely piano improvisation. The old forms of social and personal contact become the stuff of memory and we move online into a sound world full of distortion and interruption.
Contact includes contributions from Eleni Aristotelous, Chris Brew, Danilo Buenante, John Crews, Liz Herbert, Chris Holmquist, Guy Johnson, Janet Oates, April Parkins and Smitha Vishveshwara. It briefly features recordings of Belsize Community Choir performing in The Washington Pub, Belsize Park, and CoMA Singers rehearsing a zoom piece by Janet Oates called Can You Hear Me?
Constellation evoked our distance from each other and our isolation. Contact evoked how different social contact is now from how it was before. Consolation will be about what we do – on our own or with others – that helps us get through the pandemic. I’d like to frame your responses around the traditional Welsh song Ar Hyd Y Nos (All Through The Night), whose original Welsh lyrics – and beautiful melody – paint a moving picture of how we can all help each other through times of darkness.
Contributions to the piece are invited. Download the score to find out what to do.
Constellation will evolve as more contributions are added and you will be able to listen to the different mixes. Here is the first released mix (the first mix was a prototype) with contributions from Chris Brew, Ken and Elaine Edwards, Frances George, Dominique Golden, Chris Holmquist, Linda Leroy, Diego Monsalve, Janet Oates, Chris Shurety, Julia Usher and Smitha Vishveshwara.
Sheena writes “So far, the objects in the universe are mostly isolated. There’s a lot of silence – though you’ll also hear some sounds that overlap and some that are repeated from time to time. I’d love to get more contributions so that I can play around with repetitions and layering – as well as extending out into space and time. Faint, loud, sudden, slow, sparkling, deep, rumbling, melodious, noisy…. anything goes!”
Here’s the second released mix of Constellation, which includes contributions from Chris Brew, Danilo Buenante, Karen Burnell, Matt Dennis, Ken and Elaine Edwards, Frances George, Dominique Golden, Liz Herbert, Alison Holmquist, Chris Holmquist, Mick Kahn, Linda Leroy, Diego Monsalve, Janet Oates, Michael Singer, Chris Shurety, Julia Usher and Smitha Vishveshwara,
The piece now falls into two sections. The first – essentially the first mix, although it now includes a little extra material – runs just over 12 minutes. The second section – incorporating the new contributions as well as repeats of material from the first section – picks up there and runs to the end. So, listen from 12 minutes 10 seconds if you’d like to hear the new stuff. And if you have a full 17 minutes 30 seconds to spare, plug in some headphones, sit back and let yourself be taken into some slow, deep spaces.
There hasn’t been much uptake on Dom Golden’s invitation to send in video so she’ll probably just put something together herself.
Things have changed since March. We’re a little less locked down – yet contact with people continues to be risky. Is the audio piece finished? I think it might be. Thank you all so much for your very inspiring, eery and beautiful soundtracks.
Sheena Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org