The Observatory by Steve Bentley-Klein and Sarah Grange is a wonderful multi sensory opera. Based on the life of Annie Jump Cannon a physicist working at the turn of the century who went profoundly deaf, the piece explores how sound can be translated or interpreted for deaf audiences, as well as how sound can be manipulated to speak to a hearing audience about the experience of deafness.
My role in The Observatory opera was very unusual. Steve asked me to process the sound of the singers live, underwater. Me and steve worked together once on TITUS where i did a similar thing but for a film so this time it had to be done in real time. I created some underwater microphones and positioned speakers at a large metal tank that contained the microphones. Live I recorded the sound, played it through the water again and again and added other effects to create spacey soundscapes. To get this to work live was a challenge and different techniques had to be played with. If you want a more in-depth technical explanation on how I achieved this click here.
The Soundcloud player is from when we played live on In Tune on Radio 3. Start at about 14 minutes to hear my section.
I also helped create different visual ways of displaying the music. For instance corn flower and water on a speaker playing the cello note so the material dance about in time with the music, and a speaker playing the bass notes of the piece hung from the ceiling to hold to your chest to feel the music. These different ways of interacting with the sound in a way that could be enjoyed by all types of people made the piece a very immersive performance. We played at Greenbelt festival in August and have plans to perform again on a bigger scale in 2015.