Mira Calix on Oresteia at the Globe – sculpting sound

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Award-winning artist, composer, performer and sometime Bowers & Wilkins collaborator, Mira Calix combines technological innovation to create multi-disciplinary installations and performance works.

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Her highly original score for London’s Globe Theatre’s current production of The Oresteia, utilises our T7 Portable Bluetooth® speakers within the Greek Chorus; they therefore remain a musical source throughout the play, as well as create a human version of a multiple diffusion speaker system as the cast move throughout the unique open aired amphitheatre of the Globe each with their own speaker. In this exclusive blog, Mira explains how she developed the concept using our speakers.

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Earlier this year I was contacted by director Adele Thomas, about creating an original score for a new production of The Oresteia for The Globe with a translation by Rory Mullarkey. Adele was familiar with my work and wanted to create a dystopian and disquieting production. I came to the conclusion that in order to create the darkly textured sonic landscape Adele was after, I would want to combine both electronic and orchestral instrumentation. However, The Globe, which was rebuilt on London’s Southbank to Shakespeare’s original theatre specifications, has no integrated amplification/soundsystem.

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This was an issue. I wanted to create something contemporary but with a nod to the original musical accompaniments for Aeschylus’s and other Dionysian plays. We know that the Greek Chorus, so typical of these tragedy’s would have sung/chanted throughout. With a limited rehearsal period, this wasn’t really an option, but I wanted to continue that tradition of making the Chorus the centre of the musical output. To me this felt so right, that no matter the style of vocal delivery of their words the Chorus would conceptually always be the core musical element at the heart of the performance.

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Having worked with portable speakers hidden within costumes on a recent installation of my own in Sydney , I thought it would be really exciting to use something similar at The Globe. The practicalities were very different. As The Globe is an open space we would need more powerful speakers, and as the actors weren’t dancing we could afford to go with something more powerful.

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I had worked on the sound design for the Bowers and Wilkins T7 portable Bluetooth® speakers, so I had intimate knowledge of their power and clarity. It seemed a perfect fit. These devices are Bluetooth enabled but in a performance environment, that wasn’t going to be an option. As I’d done previously, the multiple speakers – we’re using 10 in total-receive radio transmissions on an internal network.

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All the electronic parts are mixed during the show by my sound engineer – David Meckin – a regular collaborator – using Abelton Live. Alongside the electronics, I have written music for a small ensemble, 2 B flat clarinets, 2 bass clarinets, soprano and tenor saxophones and french horn. The instrumentalists sit in one of the boxes and are unamplified as is the norm at the Globe.

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I chose this particular combination of instruments as the Greeks would have used Aoulus, which are ancient wind instruments and loosely relate to the clarinet. The play is now up and running and I’m so pleased with the combination of instruments, and I include electronics in that. This is my first play, mostly I create multiple speaker diffusion installations, and I was excited by creating a human diffusion system, with sound being spatialised by the choreographed movements of the actors. I take a sculptural approach to sound. At The Globe, and in our production, the actors, tend to move throughout the audience, who stand in the yard, as well as all over the stage area. It’s a very physical theatre space in the round. I couldn’t have realised my musical ambition without Bowers & Wilkins support– so huge thanks to them.

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Oresteia is on at the Globe until 16th October

Read more about Mira’s unique project at the Globe.
Discover more about T7 Wireless speaker.

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