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New artwork celebrates the sounds of Milton Keynes

Date Posted:15/09/2017

City of Things Milton KeynesCity of Things - a large-scale sound installation by composer and sound artist Caroline Devine - will be presented in the centre:mk from 6 October until 5 November. Running daily from 10am to 8pm, this ambitious new artwork celebrates the sounds of the unique city of Milton Keynes in its 50th anniversary year.

Led by Bletchley Park working in partnership with The Open University and MK Gallery, this commission forms an integral part of City Club – an Arts Council England funded city-widearts programme inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes.

Describing the piece, Devine states: 'City of Things focuses on the voices, sounds and signals of Milton Keynes - exploring the city through the ears, rather than the eyes. The sound installation comprises field recordings, song, chant and poetry that I have recorded and developed in Milton Keynes over the past year. Local choirs, Buddhists, football fans, traffic, the dawn chorus, bats, insects, the wind and the rain are among the sounds of the city woven throughout my composition. I will present the work via a system of resonators across the large windows of the grade II listed shopping centre building and it will also be played periodically over the tannoy system - spreading the voices of the city throughout the entire shopping centre building.'

As well as combining the voice of nature with the voices of the people of Milton Keynes in song and chant, Devine invited performance poet Murray Lachlan Young to collaborate with her on a number of site-specific compositions. Lachlan Young has written six poems in response to the landscape of Milton Keynes that Devine has woven throughout the work.

Lachlan Young has also provided the voice of poet, William Cowper - who lived locally in the eighteenth century and wrote extensively about the area. Devine has sonified a number ofCowper’s works and these together with the site-specific compositions explore Milton Keynes and its surroundings over a period spanning three centuries.

Iain Standen, Chief Executive Officer of Bletchley Park Trust said ‘This has been an interesting project for Bletchley Park to lead on as it combines the use of technology, art and the sounds of the city. We hope that this will be an exciting immersive experience for all to enjoy and to experience Milton Keynes as never before’.

Anthony Spira, MK Gallery Director, said ‘We are pleased to support this innovative new commission by an artist living in Milton Keynes that celebrates the city’s 50th birthday. MK Gallery has a longstanding relationship with Caroline Devine and we look forward to delivering creative workshops inspired by the artwork to engage local schoolchildren with the soundscapes and heritage of their hometown’.

Alongside City of Things, Bletchley Park, Cowper & Newton Museum and MK Gallery will deliver creative artist-led activities inspired by the artwork. Bletchley Park will provide playful activities for families with children aged five years and upwards, Cowper & Newton Museum for families with children aged seven years and upwards, and MK Gallery will work with secondary schools.

Devine’s site-specific sound installations provide playful and unexpected encounters with sound outside of a conventional gallery setting. She has twice been nominated for a BASCA British Composer Award for work based in Milton Keynes: in 2014 for On Air, a large scale outdoor sound installation for The Open University campus in Walton Hall; and in 2013 for 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun, an outdoor multi-channel sound installation in a sound dome formerly sited in Central Milton Keynes.

City Club is a programme of new art, performances, family activities, commissions, happenings, events and talks which enable thousands of people throughout Milton Keynes to explore, enjoy and be inspired by their surroundings. Led by MK Gallery and delivered in partnership with the city's arts and heritage organisations, the project takes its name from the unrealised national leisure complex proposed for the city by Milton Keynes Development Corporation in the 1970s.

City of Things is free of charge. The artwork will be installed outside John Lewis in the centre:mk. The nearest door is South 16. For further details visit www.cityofthings.co.uk and www.cityclubmk.org.