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Commission to Ann Cleare

line upon line, Austin (USA)

Like in many other countries across the world, artificial lighting in Ireland has increased by more than 20 per cent in the last 25 years, studies show. No more than 300 stars can be seen – compared to about 5,000 to 6,000 stars in pristine regions with dark skies. In the USA, an estimated 80 per cent of the population has never seen the Milky Way in all its blazing light. With natural darkness disappearing, many parts of the world are designating areas as dark-sky-reserves, where the night sky can be fully observed without the haze of artificial light.

Ann Cleare is composing a new work for the percussion trio line upon line, created in the very different landscapes and climates of Birr (Ireland) and Texas (USA). The work will unfold in three interconnected movements, with performances beginning at dusk regardless of location:

Movement 1, indoor at Dusk: Live maps of the stars, which gradually become visible, will be projected onto the ceiling. Using a hybrid of existing and custom-built instruments, the percussionists will translate the shape and motion of the emerging stars into sound, encouraging the audience to experience the mesmerizing activity of these celestial bodies up close. This musical/visual translation will be interrupted with moments of artificial light/sound, where a haze of electronic light will conceal the projections with various degrees of saturation, encouraging the audience to understand the many ways in which different forms of artificial light obscure the night sky and how harmful this is to the health of human life and wildlife.

Movement 2 at night, in transit to the nearest dark-sky location: A live sonic feed will accompany their journey, sonifying the disappearance of artificial light and the emergence of the night sky that was mapped on to the ceiling of the venue in Movement 1.

Movement 3 happens outdoors, at a dark-sky location, where the audience can observe the stars of the night sky free from artificial light. The percussion trio will perform with smaller, mobile versions of their instruments from the first movement, reading/playing the night sky into sound, at a much further visual distance.

Over the past 70 years, percussion literature has produced many important works influenced by the night sky. This new work by Ann Cleare is a contemporary addition to that repertoire. This timely and provocative new project will elicit a different response from every location it is performed in, bringing each audience on an immersive and mobile exploration of their locality, encouraging them to learn how to read the night sky, to appreciate the difference between artificial and natural light, and to understand how much light pollution is affecting our ability to see the luminous wonders of the world around us. The commission to Ann Cleare for line upon line is made possible by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.

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