The sound of white

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Commissioned as part of ceramic artist Edmund de Waal’s festival ‘White’ in November / December 2015, Psalm was conceived as a reflection of de Waal’s own interdisciplinary approach.  While Psalm is a ‘traditional’ through-composed piece of instrumental music, de Waal’s practice and aesthetic informs the composition on a number of levels.  The artist’s day-to-day creative process as revealed in his writings, conversations and documentaries provided a model for a new approach to my compositional practice.  At the level of the musical discourse, De Waal’s artworks suggested a musical language based on repetition, subtle variation, and extreme focus on a limited set of materials.  In addition, de Waal’s play with the seen and partly-seen in his ceramic art suggested an unconventional approach to placing the musicians, who surround the audience as a kind of sounding sculpture. Many of de Waal’s titles explicitly reference the poetry of Paul Celan, bringing his work into a literary orbit; with Psalm, my music follows this lead, engaging with Celan’s poem of the same name and giving voice to some of the poet’s musical allusions. Finally, the performance situation of Psalm – first at the RA, ‘embedded’ within de Waal’s own intervention-exhibition in the library, second at King’s Place, embedded within Celan’s poetry – sought to underline the interdisciplinary nature of the project.  Underlying all this was de Waal’s challenging invitation on requesting the piece, a question which he asks in his book The White Road: ‘what is the sound of white?’

This talk will combine a brief consideration of the above areas with a performance of the four channel surround recording of Psalm (15’35”) as performed by the Aurora Orchestra.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
EventMusic Composition as Interdisciplinary Practice - Department of Music, University of York, York, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 201629 Jun 2016


ConferenceMusic Composition as Interdisciplinary Practice
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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