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Eight Bells

New Commission/New Collaboration artist: John Keffala Kerr
Inspired by: Factory Night @ Dove Marine Laboratory, Whitley Bay (with Scientists)

John’s new piece – for solo violin and digital sound – commemorates the centenary of the distinguished American artist Winslow Homer who was a resident of the village of Cullercoats on the north east coast during the early 1880′s.  The work contributes to a long-established tradition of seascape art by attempting a ‘sound painting’, which both references and evokes Homer’s work on the one hand (one of the artist’s most well-known paintings is entitled Eight Bells) and depicts the marine environment on the other.

John says: “The piece triangulates three north east coasts of auto/biographical significance. The first connects me to Homer – I was born not far from Cullercoats. The second – Portland, Maine – is where Homer had his studio, and the third – Pelion, Greece – is my mother’s birthplace, a place where I live and work for part of the year.

“I’m collecting sounds from these three locations, in particular those persistent “soundmarks” that connect the present to the past, including some sounds that Homer himself  would have heard during his lifetime, such as the sound of the sea off the rocky headland at Prout’s Neck and the bells at St Paul’s Church, Cullercoats. With the addition of the bells from the 14th Century Orthodox church in my home village in Pelion, Greece, the autobiographical/nautical mix which forms the conceptual framework of the piece is completed.”

A significant collaborator in the project is the Dove Marine Laboratory, a research facility of the University of Newcastle dedicated to the study and preservation of the global aquatic environment. Here researchers have contributed experimental data that will find its way into the music.

The other partner in this unusual and ambitious project is Scarborough, Maine High School and the Winslow Homer Studio Restoration Project of the Portland Museum of Art, who are contributing location audio from Homer’s sea-facing studio.

Eight Bells was premiered in St George’s Church, Cullercoats in June 2011. The project can be viewed at www.johnkefalakerr.com/rednile-commission

This commission is supported by North Tyneside Council’s Year of the Arts programme, Dove Marine Laboratory, Newcastle University and St George’s Church. North Tyneside Council website

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