'Siren Song' to be broadcast over Hobart as part of Dark Mofo festival



June 07, 2017 17:34:22

As dawn breaks on Hobart tomorrow, voices broadcast from 450 loudspeakers atop city buildings will gently wake the city from its slumber.

And as the sun goes down, a helicopter strapped with a tsunami alert public address system will augment the chorus from the buildings to rally the city’s denizens to celebrate the night.

The city-wide alarm system will ring in the arrival and departure of light each day for the next two weeks as part of Tasmania’s Dark Mofo festival.

Loudspeakers might sound like a rude awakening, but producer Byron Scullin described the large-scale public artwork, called Siren Song, as “sedate, beautiful and interesting feminine incantations”.

Mr Scullin said the morning and evening sounds would be similar, but with the addition of a helicopter at dusk and with slightly different content, which is designed to get people excited about the looming night and darkness.

So how does it work?

The loudspeakers are positioned on top of six buildings across Hobart’s waterfront, including the CSIRO building and the Grand Chancellor Hotel.

Mr Scullin will control the sound remotely, and will play Siren Sound for seven minutes, at 7:40am and at 4:40pm each day during Dark Mofo.

Co-producer Hannah Fox said the sound was designed to “come from everywhere and nowhere” and will be able to be heard two kilometres away on a clear day.

“Byron has worked with all the material to create this special sound that reacts to the buildings, the water, and the time of day, to create this piece of sound that sits in the sky,” she said.

Ms Fox said the helicopter’s tsunami public address system was a bonus.

“We approached Rotorlift [a helicopter company] and it just happened that they had a tsunami warning system that he had in his shed — how can you say no to that?” she said.

“The way Byron has designed it is that … the helicopter is sort of speaking to the city, and the city is calling back.”

Drawing inspiration from North Korea

Mr Scullin said the artwork was not inspired by religion, although loudspeakers were used by mosques in some countries.

“We definitely wanted the piece to have a spiritual quality to it, but it is not influenced by any particular faith,” he said.

Ms Fox said the artwork was exploring sound as an expression of authoritarian control.

The North Korean Government reportedly wakes up Pyongyang citizens every morning by playing a song over loudspeakers throughout the city.

“I think we were more influenced by the North Korean warning alarm,” she said.

“That was more of our research path than call to prayer.

“[It’s about] repurposing these tools that are used for emergency, and for the voices of authority, into a use that is really beautiful and abstract and invisible.”






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