Built in 1892 – and inaccessible for decades – the Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester is now being transformed into a public space for urban nature akin to New York City's High Line. In a new work, Scottish artist and musician Tommy Perman draws on the characteristics of the iconic viaduct to map the contours of an ambitious and beautiful piece of modern classical composition.
In 'The Resonant Viaduct', the structure's cast iron supports sound as sub-bass rumbles, whilst its latticework sides map intersecting arpeggio patterns, and the flutter of a butterfly's wings through self-willed blooms of wild flowers becomes a skittering drum. Close listening to field recordings from the site revealed that tram horns echoing from surrounding streets play in D Major, the same scale as the buzzing drone of a hive of worker bees – the emblem of Manchester's industrial urban heritage.
Throughout the ambient new work – originally commissioned as a site-specific installation by viaduct managers, The National Trust – Perman evokes these lines of nature, culture and industry that thread through the site. Recordings of the viaduct's rumbles and resonances made by Raz Ullah are combined with those by Manchester musicians Peter Philipson (guitar), Nancy Elizabeth (voice) and Danny Norbury (cello).
Wordless vocals and cello wash over the metallic minimalism of 'Six Million Rivets', where repeating patterns clack like steel on train tracks, echoing into resonant harmonies and ghost notes.
Time bows and bends through the granular loops of 'Lament for the Forgotten', an elegy for the local communities of men and women who built and supported the viaduct's construction but whose voices are largely lost in its historical telling.
The echo-located clicks of bat calls and trilling bird calls sound out the viaduct's built spaces in 'The Verdant Viaduct' over the slow-motion ebb of strings and digital glitches.
/// About Tommy Perman ///
Tommy is an artist, designer and musician with an interest in the spaces where these three disciplines meet. He has exhibited and released lots of records. His visual work has been projected onto the Sydney Opera House and permanently installed in Edinburgh World Heritage Site historic closes and the National Museum of Scotland.
His recent projects include 'Emergent Slow Arc's (2019), an audio-visual reimagining of Modern Studies' 'Welcome Strangers' LP for Fire Records, 'Sing The Gloaming' (2020), a collaborative project by Simon Kirby, Tommy Perman and Rob St John and 'Positive Interactions', an album made entirely from happy sounds sent to Tommy by 50 friends from all over the world.
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