Audacious Festival presented by The Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery
Christchurch, New Zealand
When asked to present a sound piece for the Audacious Festival, which began as a way consider the vacant lots in Christchurch’s central city as fading gaps in the collective memory of those who know the city, the idea of vacancy as something empty but open came to mind. Thinking about a time when Iran was apparently encouraging its pop singers and female vocalists to perform in concert halls, clubs, and cabarets – all of which were forced to shut down following the 1979 revolution, I began to consider the relationship between physical and cultural vacancy. Vacant is the culture’s soul that once occupied those spaces like a building swept away – both leaving only traces and echoes of stories remembered. But while a space physical or cultural is still vacant, there is an open gap of imagined possibilities. Past stories and new dreams.
I’ve reinterpreted my score ‘Celestial’ (from the khal series) – one of the 16 sculptural scores I originally made in Iran for artists (outside Iran) to perform publicly – into a sound installation which will occupy the corner of Manchester and Armagh street (a vacant lot since Christchurch’s 2011 earthquake).
The sound is comprised of twelve solo vocal recordings from female artists in Iran singing the well known Iranian song, Morq-e sahar (translated as Dawn Bird) sung by many renown singers including the iconic Qamar-al-Moluk Vaziri, who was the first Persian female vocalist to sing without the obligatory veil in 1924. Her performance of ‘Dawn Bird’ left a lasting impression on future generations of female vocalists. Most people in Iran know the song by heart. The first stanza is lyrical, and the second refers to more social and political issues.
The collected solo recordings (each recorded privately in Iran) have been layered one on top of each, forming an orchestra or group vocals (to be broadcast publicly). The physical vacancy of one city will be filled by remnants of the cultural vacancy of another.
The ‘Celestial’ score was made out of what was once a plastic table cloth found in Tabriz. The tablecloth was cut into squares following the floral design. The stack of squares is fluid, unbound, and unattached allowing for open interpretation. On October 24th, starting at 10am at the vacant lot on 281 Manchester Street, the square pieces were sewn back together reforming its past sequence as the sound of ghostly non-choir, out-of-sync voices vibrated out of a single mono speaker mixing into the vast sounds of nearby construction projects.