Music rings out from rocks
Rock music with a difference will soon ring out across the Lake District, thanks to a project – Ruskin Rocks - the sound of nature: the nature of sound – being led by the School of Earth and Environment which will encourage children to create a new percussion instrument from rocks.
Most rocks simply give a dull thud when struck, but some types of rock ‘ring’ – including a number of those found in Cumbria. With the help of music and multimedia technologies, the project will use real-time digital signal processing to bring out the qualities of the rock sound beyond the range of natural hearing – making an innovative percussion instrument.
Rocks will be donated by quarries in Cumbria, reflecting the range of geological time and the different types of rock represented in the region. Local schoolchildren will make quarry visits and collect rocks for instruments of their own. As well as constructing instruments from ‘ringing’ rocks, the project will link multimedia, computer vision, computer music and digital media, to create interactive explanations of the geology and musical properties of the selected rocks.
“This project is a great example of bringing together different disciplines to create something that is unusual, exciting and accessible,” said project co-ordinator Bobbie Millar. “The project is designed to make geology fun and understandable by blending it with music and technology.”
The project leader is Professor Bruce Yardley, School of Earth and Environment, and geologists with extensive knowledge of the Lake District are also taking part. Other participants are Dr Kia Ng, director of the Leeds University Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music, instrument specialists and the staff at Brantwood (which is hosting the project).
Renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie is backing to the scheme, which has been made possible by a grant of nearly £198,364 from Natural England, through Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF).
Dame Evelyn Glennie will demonstrate the completed rock instrument at its public launch at Brantwood – the historic home of John Ruskin – on 19 August, and it will then be available for visitors to play.