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2011 The Organ of Corti by Liminal

The Organ of Corti, winner of PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music Award, was shown as part of the Lake District Summer Music Festival at the Tebay Gorge  on the 9th and 10th July and exclusively to schools on the 11th July. It was visited by 588 people.

The project has special relevance to people interested in Music, Acoustic Science and Landscape conservation. It is an experimental instrument that recycles the sounds of our noise-saturated world (In this case the roar of motorway traffic) and is intended to challenge the definition of music.

Taking its name from the organ of hearing in the inner ear, the Organ of Corti by liminal, allows you to become both composer and audience as you step inside and move around this pioneering, experimental instrument. Inspiring you to explore new ways of listening by re-engaging with the sonic world around you, the Organ of Corti asks, “What defines a piece of music?”

The Organ of Corti is a four-metre high, visually transparent ‘sonic crystal’ that takes sounds from the environment in which it is placed and recycles them, without adding any noise of its own. As you listen to the sounds of road traffic or a weir filtered by the sonic crystal, you will hear musical structures in what many would consider to be merely day-to-day noise of the environments in which we live.

You will be able to climb inside the instrument to discover a different sound experience from one heard on the outside of the structure. The Organ of Corti will accentuate or attenuate different frequencies as you move through and around the instrument, creating an evolving sound experience. The Tebay showing immediately followed the world premiere outside St Paul’s Cathedral during the 2011 City of London Festival. At Tebay it was shown in a different linear configuration to that exhibited at St Pauls.

Chair of PRS for Music Foundation, Sally Taylor, said:

We are delighted that our Award has stimulated and supported this ambitious project, which challenges us to think about how we listen to both music and the sounds which envelope our everyday lives. Like the Award’s previous winners, the Organ of Corti pushes boundaries of musical creation and we hope that visitors in Cumbria will enjoy taking part in this sonic exploration.

Winner of the New Music Award 2010, the Organ of Corti was chosen by a panel of judges from a shortlist of five musical ideas for its imaginative approach which challenges the notion of what it is to listen, reminding us of the value of sound and how beautiful it can be:

Charlotte Higgins, Chief Arts Writer for The Guardian and Chair of the judging panel, said:

It was the judges’ eventual – and unanimous – decision to award the prize to the Organ of Corti. The judges admired the quiet beauty of the idea of ‘recycling’ sound in a world saturated by noise and overwhelmed by music.

Frances Crow, architect and one half of liminal said:

Winning the award has given us valuable support to realise the Organ of Corti, which was conceived as an invitation to the visitor to ‘listen to themselves listen’. Organ of Corti proposes a radical departure from traditional conceptions of what constitutes music, by mediating our experience of sound in the landscape simply by offering us a frame through which to listen to it. It reminds us that the phenomenon we are hearing is of course always changing, always new, and suggests a way of reconsidering the act of listening itself.

The biennial New Music Award began in 2005 and supports groundbreaking new music in any genre. The winner receives £50,000 to support their work, underlining PRS for Music Foundation’s ongoing commitment to new music across all genres.

Previous winners of the New Music Award are The Fragmented Orchestra (2008) and Score for a Hole in the Ground (2005).

Info from the PRSF here and from the Wellcome Trust here.

This project has been supported by the PRSF, Arts Council England, Westmorland Ltd. (Tebay Services and the Westmorland Hotel)


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  1. By Tweets that mention The Organ of Corti -- Topsy.com on November 4, 2010 at 1:51 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christian Barnes, Christian Barnes. Christian Barnes said: Vista projects website update #liminal #prsf http://bit.ly/9kPIf8 […]

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