Sounds Like Christmas: installations by Gold Fir

Produced as part of Sounds Like Christmas

Ran from 27 November 2017 to 6 January 2018

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As part of our Sounds Like Christmas season, we commissioned sound artists Gold Fir to create three original soundscapes that draw on the history, objects, architecture and heritage of three gallery spaces in the Museum.

Gold Fir is a collaboration between two friends: composer James William Blades and vocalist Mabel Ray. They have been writing music together since 2013, and are known for Night Walk, an '80s-inspired track that's "a celebration of the night time". The musical duo have created unique soundscapes relating to three spaces in the Museum: Resonance (South Asia: Room 41), Reconstruct (Norfolk House Music Room: Room 52) and Threads (Tapestries: Room 94). The soundscapes can be experienced in these galleries until 6 January 2018. You can also listen below.

Gold Fir spent time soaking up the objects, history and surroundings of each room. They have used a mixture of new commissions, sampled music and historic V&A recordings to create immersive soundscapes evoking each gallery, its content and atmosphere.

We wanted to approach each gallery sensitively so research played a really important role in the composition process. With fresh eyes and ears we combined our own contemporary understanding of each space with reference to the history, objects and rooms themselves.

Gold Fir

Resonance

South Asia (Room 41)
Gold Fir worked with musician Milad Yousofi and singer Unnati Dasgupta to produce Resonance, a soundscape that provides a gateway into the history and heritage of the South Asian gallery. Milad plays the rabab, a traditional instrument of the Mughal courts, to combine sounds of South Asian folk music with his own contemporary improvisations. Unnati sings extracts from Umrao, The Noble Courtesan, a play set in the Mughal period that references Indian classical music. Gold Fir also included extracts of Milad and Unnati talking about their personal connection to their craft and music in relation to their South Asian heritage.

Recordings of traditional South Asian instruments can also be heard throughout Resonance, including the tambura, the sarangi and the Saraswati vina, which are all on display in the South Asia gallery, Room 41. These recordings were made as part of a special project carried out in partnership with Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust.

Threads

Tapestries (Room 94)
Created for the Tapestries gallery, Threads includes recordings referencing 15th- and 16th-century music. The tapestries on display in this space were originally hung on the walls in grand houses, courts and halls across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. In medieval Europe, courts and wealthy families would have used the rooms where the tapestries hung to entertain. Gold Fir recorded musician Rhiannon George-Carey playing the harp, which was a popular instrument for courtly music during this time.

The religious and spiritual sounds that can be heard throughout Threads reflect the biblical scenes that are depicted in some of the tapestries. To represent these themes, Gold Fir went to Worth Abbey to record the monks chanting, an experience which they found "captivating" and "refreshing to record sound in such a large and sacred space". In the medieval period, tapestries were often cut up and reshaped to fit rooms where they hung. With this in mind, Gold Fir chopped up, re-produced and scattered Renaissance music throughout the soundscape.

Reconstruct

Norfolk House Music Room (Room 52)
The Norfolk House Music Room is remarkable for its flamboyant architecture and musical decoration found within its elaborate design. The Music Room was built for the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and was completed in 1756. Both the architecture and music popular at that time were characterised by a restrained, classical style and so the room was designed using simple panelling. But the Duchess wanted a lavish space and asked for decoration in the flamboyant French Rococo style.

Gold Fir reflected this tension with recordings that move between extreme ornamentation and the clearer sounds of the classical era. A clinking of glasses, murmurings and the sound of footsteps are also woven into the soundscape to embody the room's original function as a space for entertaining in a grand house.

Come and be inspired by Gold Fir's soundscapes Threads, Resonance and Reconstruct at the V&A until 6 January 2018.

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