As the Earth spins on its axis, and day becomes night becomes day, our view on the near universe changes as seen by the changing positions of the stars in the sky. One star appears to stay stationary (the North Star) and the rest take about 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds to complete one complete revolution.
The aroundNorth sound installation offers its listeners the opportunity to hear this phenomenon in real time. As stars cross equally spaced virtual lines emanating from Celestial North Pole, their sound is heard corresponding to their position in the sky, as well as their size, distance from Earth, brightness and temperature, creating a mesmerising sound map of the universe as viewed by our turning planet. On a clear night, in an average dark place, it might be possible to see around twelve hundred stars, depending on the weather, eyesight and light pollution. By contrast, aroundNorth refers to twelve thousand nearby stars, and thus genuinely opens up how we think about our stellar neighbours and our place in the Universe.
For each presentation the installation is adjusted so that the stars heard are specific to the hosting location. That is to say, the installation plays the stars potentially visible from the site where the installation is to be placed, and in real-time, tracking their movement across the sky. In this way, an audience is able to listen to an accurate portrayal of what is actually happening directly above them, as Earth turns on its axis and moves through space.
As well as the gallery version of the work, there is also a touring ‘performance’ version which has been designed for outside presentation. This uses eight battery-powered loudspeakers, each with their own built in synchronised sound system, and so the installation can be set up without wires, and without access to an electricity supply. This version of the installation will run on battery power for at least ten hours.
Surprisingly perhaps, aroundNorth works very well in daylight and therefore also in gallery conditions; however, under a clear dark sky the experience is very special indeed. In this case, the installation benefits from an area of land with a good view of the sky, and preferably without nearby light pollution.
aroundNorth humanises the astronomical, giving us an emotional key to help us relate the unfathomable heavens to our own experiences of time and space. With echoes of a Neolithic monument of ancient myth, the installation introduces us to a universe full of interest, encouraging us to think differently about the cosmos and our place within it.
A4 Info - installation details (same as this page).
Audio Extract (1) - a two-minute audio example.
Audio Extract (2) - another short audio example.
Background Info - further details about the installation.
Blog - news from the life of the installation.
Exposure - list of the installation's public appearances.
Guided Notes - example of provided listening guide for each performance.
Poster - advertising debut performance at Stowe Landscape Gardens.
Stars Experienced - stars experienced listening to aroundNorth.
Antrim Guardian - "Reach for the stars - and enjoy the music of the night".
BBC Radio Ulster - 'Your Place & Mine' interview on touring 'aroundNorth' in N. Ireland.
INTO Magazine - "Sounds of the New".
Mid-Ulster Mail - "Stargazers all set to flock to Beaghmore Stone Circles...".
News Letter - "An astro symphony".
Nightlife - "Culture Night Sligo: Around North @ The Model".
Ulster Gazette - "Observatory to feature in New Music Award contest".
Creativity NI - aroundNorth arrives at Armagh Observatory.
Explaining aroundNorth - at the Kyma International Sound Symposium, Portugal.
Feedback from the Launch - public response to Observatory installation.
Installing aroundNorth - permanent installation of aroundNorth at Armagh Observatory.
PRS Teaser - Installation concept explained.
Return to Beaghmore - the 2016 performance at Beaghmore.
The Music That Fell to Earth - 'aroundNorth' performances at Armagh & Stowe.
Touring aroundNorth - the 2015 Northern Ireland tour of aroundNorth.
Workshop Performance - students perform astronomically inspired music.