George Square is the main civic square in Glasgow. Laid out in 1781, George Square is a busy public site containing an important collection of statues and monuments.

George Square

Reconnecting with Public Art - George Square Site Specific Music >

Reconnecting with Public Art - George Square Site Specific Music


Summary

The George Square Site-specific Music project was funded by a Creative Scotland R&D grant and, in collaboration with internationally-recognised composer Sally Beamish, has developed an innovative prototype system to deliver an original musical composition inspired by the public art of Glasgow's George Square. Developers at the School of Simulation and Visualisation have designed and implemented a publically-available mobile app that mixes and remixes the composition as the user walks around George Square, exploring its Victorian statuary, for a unique, dynamic, aural experience.

The mobile app and full suite of music, called Set Round A Square, is now freely available from Google Play.

 

Research Context

Public works of art have a long history in the United Kingdom occupying highly visible locations in our major towns and cities. However, a whole swathe of public art from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century has become so much a part of the urban landscape that it is, to all intents and purposes, ignored by the population in general. This is particularly true for Victorian public sculpture, even those that were originally paid for by popular public subscription, as many of them were. It is a common experience to notice a statue of a notable individual from the past, wonder who they were, why they were so important and even to wonder who the artist responsible was, and then to simply let the question slip from mind as there is no easy way of discovering this information. As we more regularly pass by these works of art the frequency with which we ask ourselves these questions lessens until ultimately the sculptures are no longer even noticed. Their familiarity leads to, if not invisibility, then at least a form of anonymity.

This is unfortunate from two distinct perspectives, one is that the vast majority of this art is comprised of memorial statues that are the major works of some of that era’s finest artists and secondly they represent historical figures and incidents whose significance and importance may be forgotten, but which are part of a rich local, regional and national story. These works of art have a lot to tell us both about the development of artistic style, practice and technology and also a huge amount about our heritage; scientific, political, industrial and social, as well as and the national and imperial identity construction narratives dominating at the time of their erection.

This project will research and develop a prototype system designed to deliver an innovative new musical composition that connects directly to these forgotten works in order to re-inspire interest in both the artists and their subjects and to re-engage citizens with a pre-existing body of artwork that has the potential to enrich their everyday lives. Bringing a largely forgotten layer of interest, information and artistic merit is brought to the fore-front of their minds through a combination of two distinct art-forms, music and sculpture. In order for this to be achieved an alternative approach to that of traditional performance and didactics is required. What is ultimately envisaged is the performance of bespoke commissions that relate specifically to discrete parts of the cityscape and that combine music, narrative and evocative sound design which intimately relates to the stories of the statues. This project will demonstrate the technical potential for a new kind of artwork enhanced by the listener’s location in space. Recorded music can be delivered via a GPS/IMU enabled mobile device downloaded and mixed ‘on-the-fly’, as the listener moves around the space, sonic elements and themes that vary with proximity to a particular sculpture. Thus for each audience member the experience will be momentarily unique, their journey through the area dictating the combination of elements they hear and each composition rich in musical and aural cues describing each work of art. Just as the musical and sound design elements will respond directly to themes inspired by the sculptures, narrative elements will be comprised of information relating directly to the sculpture subject, poetry for a poet, spoken word for a writer, speeches for a politician and so on. Additional factual information can also be delivered via text and images from the same mobile device application that creates and delivers the dynamic aural experience.

 

Contact

For more information about this project or other School of Simulation and Visualisation research please contact Stuart Jeffrey or Daisy Abbott.