The Pilgrimage Project was a unique four-room performance installation at Wilton’s Music Hall, one of the London’s oldest music halls.
The project utilised a series of Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air speakers, creating a multi-channel sound installation that accompanied both the actor’s verbatim narratives and the visual art installations in each room of the gallery space it was situated within.
Director Matthew Lloyd recorded dozens of interviews in the months prior to the weeklong nightly performances of the project (16– 24November 2012), capturing myriad experiences of pilgrimage, from personal to political, comical to tragic. This material, edited and heard back by actors through in-ear headphones during the performances, characterised the actor’s improvisatory narrative as they guided nightly audiences through the stunning four-room gallery space surrounded by visual and auditory art installations.
The verbatim narrative was accompanied by four long-durational sound installations in each of the four rooms of Wilton’s Music Hall, created by composer and sound artist James Bulley. These sound works investigated the self-referential and cultural precedents of Pilgrimage, exploring notions of situation, both real and imaginary, acoustic space, and the grain of self-focus.
Each room was considered as one quarter of the whole sound composition, in tribute to the tendency of the four rooms to form one aural space – a quality of the acoustics of the beautiful old building and its permeable walls.
The composition of the first room, based on hundreds of very short sound fragments sampled from the voyage of Ichi the pilgrim in Kazuo Ikehiro’s 1966 movie Zatôichi Umi O Wataru, isolates and recomposes a pilgrimage that takes place within the medium of film, removing all voices, and focusing on what the fictional pilgrim character, Ichi, might have heard in the seconds between the assembled interactions of this fictional film (his breath, the natural sounds around him etc). The soundtrack to the second room unfolded the rhythmical aspect of travelling, through field recording, polyrhythms and concrete compositional technique. In the third, derived from over fifty film and radio recordings of the comedian Tommy Cooper, we hear the act of performance from Cooper’s perspective, his voice removed, a portrait of his personal pilgrimage for laughter, happiness and appreciation. In the fourth, the listener finds an uneasy rest, with references to scored rearrangements and chance-based extrapolations of Franz Liszt’s ‘Years of Pilgrimage’ piano suites.
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air speakers used for The Pilgrimage Project proved perfect for the portrayal of these complex, quiet and detailed sound environments – they were discreetly embedded in each room, and provided a wide stereo spread, excellent fidelity, frequency response and the huge bonus of wireless connectivity. Audience members commented on the feeling of ‘total immersion’ in the sound environments and the near invisible integration of the speakers within the space.
James Bulley, Sound Artist / Composer
On behalf of Wilton’s Music Hall I’d like to deeply thank Bowers and Wilkins for their generosity and support for our Pilgrimage Project. The quality of the speakers, their compactness and the way they emanated the soundscape was powerful and detailed – yet no one knew where it was coming from. One of those happy moments where technology and art are seamless.
Frances Mayhew, Artist Director at Wilton’s Music Hall
As the director of The Pilgrimage Project at Wilton’s Music Hall I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bowers & Wilkins for their donation of the Zeppelin Air speakers. This was an experimental piece of theatre, which explored profound themes through a documentary-style approach – it was integral to the artistic vision for the raw reality of the words to be counterbalanced by a more abstract and suggestive soundscape.
Matthew Lloyd, Director The Pilgrimage Project
James Bulley is a rising star in the world of theatre sound and it was fantastic for his creative contribution to be realised with such wonderful sound quality. As a donation to Wilton’s, offering them a superbly flexible and high calibre facility that will have all sorts of artistic uses as the venue evolves, it is a really generous and enlightened gesture.