Susan Stenger’s new sound installation is based on a cross-section diagram of coastal geological formations from the River Tyne to the Scottish border, drawn by the local mining engineer Nicolas Wood in the 1830s. Using the diagram as a graphic score, Stenger transformed the geologic into the sonic in a 58-minute work that travels from the coal seams of Tyneside to the porphyritic rocks north of the Tweed, layering instrumental sounds, melodic patterns and signature rhythms extracted from traditional Northumbrian music and dance. Responding to history, culture and place-names as well as the drawing’s structures, she combined surface detail of fiddle and Northumbrian smallpipe patterns with deep shifting seams of brass band harmonies, voice, Border and Highland pipes to create a unique portrait of place.
Susan Stenger also took part in a Q&A session with filmmaker Pat Collins after the screening of his film Tim Robinson: Connemara, for which Stenger was one of the soundtrack artists.
Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland toured throughout 2015 to: The Gymnasium Gallery, Berwick; Woodhorn Museum; and The Lookout Tower, Holy Island. A fully illustrated publication with CD accompanied the tour. For more information here.
Susan Stenger was born in Buffalo, New York. After intensive classical flute studies in Prague and New York, she joined Petr Kotik's Brooklyn-based SEM Ensemble and devoted herself to performing music of twentieth century composers, including John Cage, Christian Wolff and Phill Niblock. She soon began making her own work for flute and electronics, as well as touring with Rhys Chatham's all-electric-guitar band.
In 1986 she founded seminal drone-rock guitar group Band of Susans with Robert Poss; who went on to release nine critically acclaimed CDs. After moving to London in 1996, Stenger formed performance group The Brood and all-bass-band Big Bottom, and began collaborating with acclaimed dancer/ choreographer Michael Clark. Stenger has toured as bassist with John Cale and Nick Cave and has composed soundtracks for several films including Pat Collins’ Tim Robinson: Connemara, as well as collaborations with writer/filmmaker Iain Sinclair since 2007 for Analog Festival, Dublin; and Sketch Gallery, London.
In 2006 she created a 96-day sound installation as part of Soundtrack For An Exhibition, presented at Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon. She was commissioned by AV Festival in 2012 to produce The Structures of Everyday Life: Full Circle. More recently she participated in the Barbican’s Dancing Around Duchamp in 2013, performing music by John Cage, and has been granted an Appalachian Sound Archive Fellowship for research towards the completion of a composition for the Kronos Quartet.
Curated by AV Festival. World Premiere. Supported by the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
Launch: Fri 28 February 2014, 6–9pm
Sat 1 March – Sun 6 April 2014
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Newcastle NE1 8AG
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