Amongst the various acoustic settings explored was a scupltural belvedere, entitled ‘Arch’, designed by the Russian architect Bernaskoni. Constructed from stacked timber planks, this perforated viewing platform provided an opportunity to experiment with the acoustics of another informal performance setting. Freya wrote a simple contrapuntal piece inspired by her time at Nikola Lenivets which we then rehearsed with a number of other volunteers from the unit and eventually performed inside the structure for our Russian hosts and peers. We saw the Arch piece as another example of how performance can be used as research towards the development of our project.
In November 2014, we spent a week in a small Russian village called Kvizzhi, part of Nikola-Lenivets art park. Working alongside a group of students from the Moscow School of Architecture, the Free Unit took part in a workshop focussed on the refurbishment of a former Soviet-era shop. We took this opportunity to test Freya’s initial sketches for Permutations in a range of different acoustic environments within the ruin of the shop as well as elsewhere in the art park.
Permutations Family Portrait
Our compositional exercises in expressing counterpoint in an architectural form culminated in a design iteration which focuses more on the idea of six architectural figures: individual ‘characters’, each with its own acoustic and spatial personality, corresponding to the individual solo-parts of the musical composition. This began to address our concerns regarding the acoustic and visual homogeneity of the previous proposal that we had begun with. These ideas are expressed by this timber model, all constructed in a similar manner but with proportional differences which came about through experimentation. Each volume - when struck against the walnut base pictured - resonated at different frequencies due to their differing masses and forms.
Contrapuntal script performance
With the help of Freya and three volunteers, including Robert Mull and visiting critics’, Ellis Woodman and Maria Smith, we performed a spoken piece in basic counterpoint for the rest of our peers in the Cass Free Unit. The script for the piece was a concise description of our aspirations for the project. The intention of the performance was to express some of the compositional ideas at the heart of the project, both in the music and in the architecture, whilst involving individuals external to the project in expressing the scope of its intent. It was an exercise in the use of performance as a didactic tool, a form of cultural production that is at once expressive of a set of creative values and at the same time teaches the participants and audience about a musical phenomenon. In many respects, the performance embodied more than just the spirit of the project; it also defined a way of articulating our broader aspirations for our own creative practices.