The Ecclesiastical Space | Miriam Bean
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About This Project

The Gregorian chant known as the Dies Irae is a ubiquitous melody that has echoed through time, even more so than the echoes that can be heard in the interior of ecclesiastical spaces. From composers such as Rachmaninov to the opening titles of The Shining, the Dies Irae has been quoted in countless compositions throughout history. The uncertainty of where this morbid melody came from is reflected in the improvised vocals, which were recorded with no particular direction or structure. It was essential to record in the church itself, allowing the vocalist to take advantage of the acoustics, and hear her own voice reverberate around her. The purity of her disembodied voice is faithful to the time of recording, with no tuning in post production. With every groan, rumble and creak of the traffic outside the walls of the church, the sounds leak into the sacred environment like ink bleeding into wet paper. But the vocalist perseveres. The work is in three movements, the melody slowly collapsing with each. The first is a duet, two voices weaving in and out of the space, harmonising completely by chance. The second is a deconstructed improvisation, with an undisturbed drone in the background, before it comes forward and takes control in the third.


The Ecclesiastical Space

Site-specific sound installation


Vocal improvisation by Martha Bean. Recorded at St. Mary Le Wigford Church, Lincoln.

Installation, Sound