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PAUL MARTIN  Orpheus Sings  2014

With additional recordings and Sound Design by Ben Martin



The installation Orpheus Sings, which takes centre stage on the ground floor of the exhibition Edgelands by Paul Martin + Idris Murphy, is a circular wooden structure approximately ten feet in diameter, into which four niches have been cut so that the whole, when viewed from above, has the form of Maltese cross. Filled with soil and bark chippings and planted with a range of familiar and exotic succulents from whose midst hypnotic and haunting sounds emerge, Orpheus Sings in part reflects the questions raised by the exhibition about what a landscape is or can be, and in particular reflects Martin’s efforts to not merely depict but also incorporate elements of the landscape in his work. It is also profoundly influenced by Martin’s readings of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, and by the Orpheus myth in general.


The story of Orpheus is the myth of a demigod and hero who knew the worlds of both living and dead, the singing son of the muse whose words could move men and beasts, and rocks and stones and clay, ‘whom universal nature did lament’ after his savage death, torn limb from limb by frenzied Maenads, but from whose disjecta membra sweet sounds could still be heard by those who would listen. It is a myth suggestive of Martins sense that everything in nature has an inner truth, a core truth, its own truth, entirely other to its relations to us and all our human concerns, but which is non the less accessible if we will but attend to it in the right manor.


The music which forms part of Orpheus Sings is constructed through a process of layering, is a collage or assemblage of sampled sounds, single notes or chords or harmonies played on electric and acoustic guitars, bone flutes and prepared mandolin, all recorded in the gallery and making use of the acoustic of India Buildings. Influenced by the work of Kurt Schwitters, it is built on a substrate of pulses and rhythms composed by Ben Martin, percussionist with the group North Atlantic Oscillation. Ben and Paul Martin are currently collaborating further on this piece, intending to produce an expanded version for voice and string quartet, to be performed later this year.


The music and the small garden of Orpheus Sings were created in celebration of the late Maureen Foster whose energy and kindness did so much to inspire this exhibition at the Warburton Gallery. She loved the rhythms, colours and textures of the living world and sought its mystery and the sounds of its secret life.

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