I was a guest at Spill Festival and had the honour to experience one of their commissions, Clarion Call.
Clarion Call was a large scale sonic artwork which played out on the Ipswich waterfront, drifting across the city and out to sea. The sonic intervention marked the city’s connection with the First World War, using all-female voices, including the transcendent tones of Elizabeth Fraser, the chilling rasp of Beth Gibbons and choirs of young local women, The Roma Choir and the wives of military service people.
Fraser sang the old folk refrain ‘Our Captain Cried All Hands’, intoning the line “What makes you go abroad, fighting for strangers?”, and later “I’ll roll you in my arms, my dearest jewel” from amongst muted murmuring and a haunting low-level drone.
There was more, much more – staccato atonal bursts, choirs, sonic and vocal magic – but the short clip below is all I feel should share. You had to experience it for your self.
Clarion Call was a soundwork on an epic scale – 450+ ‘speakers’ dotted along the skyline – and is the brainchild of Melbourne based artists Byron J. Scullin, Hannah Fox and Thomas Supple working with Folk revivalist Shirley Collins. The audio exhibit used audio technology originally employed in war and emergencies to deliver an incredibly clean stereoscopic sound.
In a moving and reflective call out to the setting sun, not dis-similar to the Indian practice of improvised raga, the various vocal artists have created a moment of reflection for people to explore the local area’s experience of the First World War.
Clarion Call was mesmerising, polyphonic, startling, ghostly, siren-like, moving and all too fleeting – momentary.
A few days later Fraser was announced as one of the guest vocalists on the Massive Attack tour to mark 20 years of its dark, glittering masterpiece, Mezzanine, for which she had provided vocals on three songs including the groups largest hit, Teardrop.
Is this Clarion Call a hint of things to come?
Here’s a very short clip:
Clarion Call – Ipswich Waterfront, October 2018 by Byron J. Scullin, Hannah Fox and Thomas Supple working with Folk revivalist Shirley Collins