Candlestick – French (Limoges), 16th Century, painted enamel

When writing this piece, an image of lighting the candle in a quiet, cosy room, perhaps on a dark winter’s evening, and watching the images on the stick come to life in the light of the flame. This led me to start the piece in the way I did, as I wanted to incorporate the story of the candlestick itself, which likely could have belonged in a church or wealthy household. As these images come to life, some depict non-specific scenes, and I wanted to explore how each of these scenes might sound if it were to materialise around you. Others are more story based, and so I aimed to tell these stories along with creating the soundscape of the scene in which the story takes place. The two scenes in particular with a clear story are in the centre and at the base of the candlestick. The scene in the centre depicts a scene of Icthyocentaurs, possibly rescuing the companions of Dionysus after they were cast into the sea by a Thrakian king. The scene around the base of the candlestick shows a part of Exodus 32, in which Moses returns from the mountains to the Jewish slaves who recently escaped from Egypt, with orders from God to kill any of them who had become ‘corrupt’ and no longer followed God. I decided to end this piece with the candle being blown out, to show the story has ended once again, and the scenes on the candlestick return to still images once more.

Section 6 – The Ichthyocentaurs

The candlestick is divided into 9 very clear sections, so I decided to structure my piece in this way, adding a short introduction to present the candle itself being lit. The first section depicts several statues, which I interpreted to be in a formal garden, so this section presents a soundscape of a formal garden, accented with the sound of a stonemason carving a new statue. The second section is simply a few blocks of colour as opposed to a scene or story, and so this is the most abstract section of the piece, with a smooth low underlayer representing the red, and a brighter, shimmering layer over the top to represent the gold. The third and fourth section are very similar, with a regular pattern of leaves, although section four also depicts several cherubs, and so I decided to add some slightly more unnatural elements to section 4, whereas section 3 uses much more natural, unprocessed sounds. Section 5 also features some cherubs surrounded by gold ribbons, so I took a more ethereal approach to this section, with the sounds of several choirs layered over one another building into a crescendo towards section 6. Section 6 is one of the two sections of this artwork that depicts a very specific scene of Icthyocentaurs saving the companions of Dionysus form the sea. For this section I created a soundscape of a storm at sea, and aimed to create the sense that we are seeing the ghost of the story being told, with the sounds of hooves and horns and weapons, which fade away as the storm calms towards the end of the section.

Section 9 – Exodus 32

Section 7 is very similar to section 5, with the return of the cherubs. I created a similar atmosphere here with the sounds of the choirs, but this time they were also layered with the sounds of birds. Section 8 shows a few portraits of unknown figures, and so I decided to create a soundscape of an art gallery for this section, cutting off section 7 with the sound of the door to the art gallery closing behind. The voices in the gallery lead us into section 9: the base, with one of the indistinct voices gradually becoming clearer until we start to hear part of the story of Exodus 32. As the story progresses, the soundscape builds, leading towards a festival. This festival is cut off abruptly as the wrath of God is brought down, and chaos builds, reflecting the story in which half of the people in the camp suddenly turn on their friends and family who no longer followed God.

Overall I felt the images in this work depicted mostly natural scenes, with a few supernatural or otherworldly elements, and this is what I tried to reflect in my work. Almost every sound in this piece has been recorded, and while several have been processed in some way, very few are fully synthetic sounds. To bring about my idea of lighting the candlestick and watching the images come to life in the light of the flame, I continued the sound of the flickering flame throughout the piece, although very quietly, so it can just be heard in the background when everything else is quiet. I also decided to take the physicality of the stick into account, as it is not a flat painting, and I wanted to reflect this in my work. I achieved this by shaping the piece in terms of dynamics and panning to roughly follow the contours of the candlestick itself.