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The University of Southampton

Art, performance and engineering fuse in new exhibition

Published: 30 November 2015
The Trembling Line
Audio system for exhibit, 'The Trembling Line'.

A new exhibition at the University of Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery is the culmination of a unique collaboration between a world renowned artist, composers, performers and engineers.

The Trembling Line is a collection of works by Aura Satz , exploring acoustics, vibration, sound visualisation and music. The exhibition, which opens in December, is the result of her year as artist-in-residence on campus, funded by The Leverhulme Trust and the University.

Aura worked with Southampton’s department of Music and its Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) to explore different art-forms, acoustics, and technologies – collaborating with composers, performers, acoustic engineers and students.

Professor of Music, Jeanice Brooks , who led the artist-in-residence project comments: “Aura Satz’s residency at Southampton has provided an exciting way to join art and science, combining old and new musical technologies and fostering innovative exchanges between contrasting disciplines.”

Aura Satz adds: “It has been an incredible privilege to be able to work with University of Southampton staff and students over this past year, they have proved extremely generous and open-minded towards the project.”

The exhibition includes a number of audio visual installations, including the title piece of the show, The Trembling Line. This explores visual and acoustic echoes between decipherable musical gestures and abstract patterning, orchestral swells and extreme slow-motion close-ups of strings and percussion.

The piece features a score by composer at the University Dr Leo Grant and a film made with the help of student and staff string players. The sound is projected through an innovative spatial audio rendering system built by ISVR, as part of a research project on immersive listening. The multi-channel speaker array pries apart each element of sound and reconfigures it, to create a disorienting sonic experience.

The Trembling Line
Installation, 'The Trembling Line'.

The exhibition includes The Absorbing Wall (2015), dedicated to the memory of artist and film-maker Stuart Croft and based on an anechoic chamber , along with five closely inter-connected films: Vocal Flame (2012); Oramics: Atlantis Anew (2011); Onomatopoeic Alphabet (2010); Theremin (2009); Automamusic (2008).

The Absorbing Wall provides an acoustic vacuum, a silent nexus separating the various films. Five photographic stills of the ISVR’s large anechoic chamber convey a visual patterning of sound-absorbing elements, positioned in off-kilter angles that break away from the geometric regularity typically associated with the space.

The name of the show, The Trembling Line, refers in part to the basic principle of vibration, a tense line stimulated into motion and sound through friction, but also to the possibility of challenging static notation systems and destabilising the experience of seeing and hearing.

The Trembling Line opens on 3 December 2015 and runs until 23 January 2016 at the John Hansard Gallery , Highfield Campus, University of Southampton. The gallery is open 11am – 5pm Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 4pm Saturdays.

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