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On Saturday 23 June it's Exhibition Road Music Day. This popular and free cultural music festival returns to our local South Kensington museums and institutes with a big open stage in Kensington Gardens.

 

Here at the Natural History Museum most of our daytime events focus in or around the Central Hall and Restaurant with original English folk and jazz music from the likes of Martin Ledner and accordionist Stephen Best (below right). The voices of the English National Opera community choir (below) will resound around the Central Hall from about 15.00. Check our Music Day event schedule.

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There are two other special events worth a mention: An early afternoon Sound & Space performance over at the V&A and later on in the evening in our Darwin Centre atrium, we  host the UK premiere of prize-winning author DBC Pierre’s Live and Roar: Axolotl Odyssey. Live and Roar is a free event but requires advance booking. It has already attracted media attention, so check our website to see if tickets are still avaiilable.

 

DBC Pierre’s reading, set to music, is inspired by the curious axolotl and its significance for our times. The musicians accompanying Pierre's reading include Andy Mellon (trumpet player with Bellowhead) and Ben Nicholls (double-bass player with Seth Lakeman). They were inspired in their composition by a visit to the axolotls at London Zoo.

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Author of Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre, reads 'in the voice of a parent axolotl' at our Music Day evening event on Saturday. The Mexican axolotl is sometimes kept as an exotic pet and is now on the endangered list.

In today's Guardian Pierre writes: 'The axolotl is a symbol of so much we're about to hit upon – certainly worth setting music to... they have something we badly, badly want. They can regrow themselves. Science wants to know how....The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a type of salamander that never metamorphoses. It might seem strange... but to spend this Saturday at London's Natural History Museum, setting their strangeness and our strangeness and their hope and our hope to music, with marimbas and trumpets and lights … just seems like a signature we should do.'

 

The other special highlight is a talk and performance at the Sound & Space event featuring the art and science behind a new musical sculpture that has just gone on show. This event is in the early afternoon (14.00) over in the V&A Museum on Music Day. It's part of the three-day Supersonix Conference coinciding with Music Day. However, conference events are not free to attend, you'll need to visit their website to book tickets.

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Mira Calix at the launch of her musical sculpture Nothing is Set in Stone. The sound artist talks and performs on Saturday at the V&A, with a panel featuring our scientist Chris Jones. The stone sculpture is now open to the public at Fairlop Waters, Redbridge. All sculpture photos © Sebastian Kite

The Sound & Space presentation includes talks and performance by experimental composer Mira Calix who is joined by our Museum scientist Chris Jones. Chris and fellow Museum mineralogist Anton Kearsley both collaborated with the artist on her recent Nothing is Set in Stone musical sculpture to find a way of pushing sound through rock  – something usually difficult to achieve.

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Nothing is Set in Stone on show in Redbridge's nature reserve. As you get close to the gneiss stones you'll hear fragments of Mira Calix's ephemeral composition.

The experimental composer used striped rock known as angel stone (or gneiss) to create her sculptural installation. Nothing is Set in Stone was unveiled today, 21 June, at Fairlop Waters in Redbridge on the outskirts of London. As the listener approaches the sculpture, he or she hears fragments of the musical score in waves, passing through the solid rock. Researchers from the Museum's imaging and analysis laboratory helped the artist investigate the sound system needed for the installation..

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Left: Testing the sound system inside Mira's sculpture. Right: Museum mineralogists Chris Jones (right) and Anton Kearsley helped advise on how to 'push the sound through the stones'.

Sonic crystals, inhuman sound, the science of speaking, labyrinthitis, nano scales, and demonic sonic fictions are just some of the intriguing subjects to be featured at the Supersonix Conference celebration of the art and science of sound. Also look out for the Talk like the Animals? presentation with animal sound expert Karen McComb and ornithologist/bird call expert Geoff Sample on Friday 22 June at 10.00 to 11.30 in the Goethe Institute.

 

All the events at Exhibition Road Music Day are freeTickets are required for the Supersonix Conference events.

 

Find out what's on at Exhibition Road Music Day here and visit the official Music Day website for all the day's events on Exhibition Road

 

Read DBC Pierre's Mexican marvels article in the Guardian

 

Browse the Supersonix Conference programme of events

 

Discover Mira Calix and her music on her website and her Nothing is Set in Stone project

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The sun shone, the worms were charmed, bugs counted, trees trailed, and ponds dipped while visitors were led a merry dance through the Museum and outdoor gardens by the Insect Parade for Big Nature Day last Sunday. Over 5,000 people came. It was a resounding success.

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Hundreds of excited children made bug hats and got their faces painted at the workshops in the Darwin Centre atrium to join the Insect Parade (above and below). The parade was led by the insect band on stilts who were dressed as a giant ladybird, earwig, leaf insect and beetle. They took the procession twice around the Museum, through the Central Hall under Dippy's tail, back into the Darwin Centre and out into the Courtyard for a final song.

 

The event was also abuzz with about 50 nature groups who had amazing displays in the indoor and outdoor marquees. Friends of the Earth had people dressing up as bees to raise awareness of the decline of bumblebees. The National Trust brought their shepherd’s caravan and did bark rubbing and a poplular log run challenge. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers showed visitors how to make bird boxes and bug hotels to encourage wildlife into their gardens.

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Among the crowd you could often spot members of several Cub Scout packs who joined in the pond dipping and bug counting activities to earn their Cub Naturalist Activity badges.

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Read the news story about Big Nature Day and the Cub Scout resources

 

Enjoy some more highlights in pictures. Select images to enlarge them

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Insect carnival revelry

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The Friends of the Earth stand where you could dress up as a bee

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Getting a painted face

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Admiring bugs

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Leaf shaking for insects in the Wildlife Garden

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Worm charming in the Wildlife Garden

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Pond dipping

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Strumming ladybird

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Insect Carnival on the move

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Darwin Centre atrium workshops

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The peaceful shepherd's hut