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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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 free. Tickets are required for the Supersonix Conference events.