Enharmonic is a multimodal project consisting of a musical composition, sound installation and publication, ending with a performance on the closing night. It was commissioned by ArtReach for Journeys Festival International Leicester, a citywide annual arts festival which curates and develops a varied programme of work about the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers.
The score for Enharmonic was written collaboratively between Miriam Bean and her mother, composer Alison Bean, between May and August 2019. Musical material was developed from motifs in the Lebanese song ‘Atouna El Toufoule‘ or ‘Give Us Childhood‘, (originally by Remi Bendali in 1984). The work was influenced by this song after hearing a 10 year old refugee called Hamza sing it – showing what the music means to him and how he feels about his country.
For this work, five musicians recorded several short fragments from Atouna El Toufoule; varying the speed, dynamics and rhythms of the original. Alongside these fragments, they played a selection of sustained notes with their instruments, as well as improvising around these tones. By employing a mixture of decision making and indeterminacy, the audio arrangement heard in the installation is never exactly the same, as multiple tracks are left to play at random. The work uses a combination of conventional speakers and audio transducers (known as exciters), which vibrate the surface they are attached to, allowing sound to resonate from that material. Incidentally, this method of amplification is how the métallique (one of the speakers made for the ondes Martenot), creates its ethereal timbre. Several exciters are attached to a dilapidated grand piano left in the church, causing a low frequency drone to resonate through the metal strings and soundboard, slowly shifting in pitch throughout the day.
During the research stage of Enharmonic, processes of making and recording sound took place within All Saints’ Church – exploring its acoustic potential as well as utilising historic features and medieval documents within it. Throughout the project Miriam worked with local refugee and asylum seeker groups, introducing them to ways of translating their stories into music and reflecting upon whether people from different countries, who speak different languages, listen and respond to sound in different ways.
Ondes Martenot // Josh Semans
Piano // Martha Bean
Viola // Mirka Hoppari
Cello // John Bean
Double Bass // Alison Bean