February 24, 2013

A Symphony for Waterlanders

Museum Night in Rotterdam is THE night that the City's Museums pull out all the stops in creating wow-ing exhibits, spectacular shows, join-in-the-fun happenings, blow-the-roof-off parties... It's a big damn Cultural Fandango, a Wild Evening of Fantabulous Art and all the Essential Fantastically Wonderfully Weird People and Things that goes with it.

Tear Bottle
(ca. 1870)
The theme for the coming edition of Rotterdam's Museum Night on the 9th of March is Waterlanders. We've been commissioned by Museum Rotterdam to create an interactive musical composition using 'water' instruments.  For this we are composing a symphony which we are calling 'A Bottle of Tears'.

The name was inspired by the ancient ritual of collecting ones tears, usually a womans, in small tear bottles or lachrymatory. There are stories of hired mourners who were given little bottles to collect their tears. At the end of the funeral for which they were hired to grieve, their bottles would be measured and so the mourner would be paid accordingly. It is also said that a widow would start collecting her tears in a bottle directly after the death of her husband till after his burial at midnight. The bottle would be left upon her husbands altar perhaps on her mantel. The moment the tears had all evaporated signaled the end of her first phase of grieving. In Victorian days these bottles of tears were corked and saved as a momento to their departed loved one. On a more joyful note, upon the birth of a child, the mother's tears would be saved in a small bottle as a keepsake. 

The theme of 'tears' takes on yet an extra poignant meaning for Museum Rotterdam. Due to drastic and idiotic cut-backs in the funding of Arts and Culture the museum is being forced out of their original location in the beautiful Schielands huis. Tears of grief, thus. On the otherhand, there are tears of joy for the fact that the Museum will be opening it's doors at a new location unlike countless other cultural organizations that have been forced to close their doors for good. Museum Night is the last event that Museum Rotterdam will be holding in the Schielandshuis.

So far in preparation we've constructed such hydrophones as a Glass Harp, A Bottle Xylophone, A Human Bottle 'Organ' and we've also used the sounds of Drops of Water into various receptacles. We've been collecting glasses and bottles for a couple of weeks now and there have been bottles and long stemmed glasses and measuring cups and water all over the place for days. The tuning of these various intruments is the 'cussing' part of the creative process. I'm now teaching myself to play a glass harp and that ain't easy, y'all. All respect to this smart ass. DANG.
We still have LOTS of work to do. After we get the piece written and a demo recorded we have to figure how to make it interactive so that the audience can participate plus there is the staging, technical aspects of sound, lighting and extra curiosities which we want to add to enrich the experience. We have lots of nifty ideas. A tearful update is bound to follow in the coming weeks, hopefully joyful tears rather than tears full of 'what-the-f*ck-were-we-thinking-of' woe.

If you would like to know more about the interesting history of Tear Bottles, get your hanky ready and click here for an interesting article on the subject. 

'The Queen's Tear Bottle', illustrated by Norman Price for
'The Golden Apple Tree' written by Virna Sheard, 1920

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