The exhibition Dovetailing will explore the art of luthiery through an installation of wooden mobiles by Juliet Gutch and a sound installation and film made by Clare Dearnaley featuring the first ever performance of Sally Beamish’s Prelude and Canon on two violas, played by Sally Beamish and Sophie Renshaw. The installation will be exhibited at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York in June 2021 as part of the postponed summer 2020 Bloom! festival.
The project will consider the care and craft which has enabled musical instruments to evolve. Over many hundreds of years, the shapes and forms of stringed musical instruments have been developed by hand by luthiers from natural materials and have become part of our world, capable of creating enduring and transformative music. There is a human significance within this process and in the quietness and humility with which these shapes are crafted before being sent out into the world. It is almost as if the music made on these instruments speaks back in a cyclical way to the raw materials from which the instruments were formed. In this way, musical instruments represent a connection and a potential for harmony between humans and nature.
The exhibition will aim to consider the humility of this quiet craft which dovetails with the natural world to have a transformative and positive effect.
Sound and film:
The sound installation will start with a short composition created from recordings of the process of making an instrument, and leading to the performance by Sally Beamish and Sophie Renshaw of ‘Prelude and Canon’ by Sally Beamish, heard for the first time on two violas.
The sound installation will be accompanied by, and form the soundtrack to, a film which will visually document the journey of the instruments and will include footage of Sally Beamish and Sophie Renshaw playing the music in the workshop in Glasgow where their violas were made. Sally’s instrument was made by her daughter, Stephanie Irvine, and Sophie’s was made by Stephanie’s partner Linus Andersson. The film will tell the story of the making of these instruments. There will also be footage of the process of making a mobile, showing shared techniques such as wood bending, varnishing and stringing. The mobiles will be filmed suspended and moving quietly, echoing the craft of the luthier.
The sound installation and film, made by Clare Dearnaley, will aim to suggest the sense of natural rhythms and harmonies within the craft of making instruments and the music itself.
The sound of a played stringed instrument is the result of interactions of its own many elements, producing notes of music which radiate from the body of the empty sound box into the surrounding air. The constantly moving and changing mobiles will give a sense of this balanced interaction of varying parts and empty space. Furthermore, the notes, once played, are a unique performance; the composition is never repeated in exactly the same way. The fleeting nature of the configurations created by the mobiles will reflect this transience.
Through the balancing of quietness and sound, emptiness and materiality, and transience and permanence the mobiles will aim to suggest the dovetailing of nature and human craft which creates potential for music.
The following images show the starting point for the project and how the first shapes for the mobiles have been found and the two short films feature the first completed mobiles from the series.