A museum dedicated to the ancient Egyptian art, with thirteen rooms (“fields”), divided in seven “areas”, with a 64-channel soundscape accompanying the exibition combining abstract and somewhat haunting electronic sounds with partly edited, partly montaged texts spoken from ancient Egyptian poems (with titles such as The Book of the Dead, The Prophecies of Neferti, The Teachings of Ptahhotep).
Sounds like a soundscaper’s dream, doesn’t it?
“As an installed composition the music pervades all chambers of the collection and changes with the moments of the visitor to become his companion. (…). By moving through space the visitor becomes the choreographer of the piece, just as the piece accompanies and shapes the choreography of his visit to the moseum. The music converts the museum space into a stage, and integrates the visitor into its course.”
The installation exhibition opened in june this year, and will be performed in its original multichannel “gestalt” until 2019 once a month (so be sure to carefully plan your visit!).
But for those of us that will not be able to immerse themselves into this installation in Munich, a 63-minute 2-channel CD version of the project has been released recently: a luxury package with a 80-page booklet including introductory notes and the full texts in German as well as translated in English.
It clearly is not an easy task to translate a non-linear 64-channel soundscape installation into a stereo CD version. “The key task was to find a appropriate translation from simultaneity to linearity. How to proceed with distances and directions? How to find a correlation for the 13-room polyphony?”
And, of course, how will the soundscape hold if detached from its relation with the objects displayed in the museum?
The two different experiences may be uncomparable, but also without having experienced the immersive museum installation, the CD-version clearly conveys the mystery of ancient Egypt and its prophetic poems.
It’s probably no surprise that this is not exactly meant as ‘background’ music. The haunting texts (spoken in German) are accompanied by an abstract, eerie, and seemingly random soundscape.
It’s easy to imagine yourself completely on your own exploring the insides of a newly discovered pyramid – and I guess, like me, you won’t feel very comfortable in such a position. Especially when realising that “None comes thence, that could tell”!
What is maybe most fascinating in this project (and perhaps something any any historic exposition can only hope for), is that it manages to link the historic texts, that are thousands of years old, to present times. Which may be best demonstrated by these fragments from “Land in Upheaval”:
“This land is being ruined, and nobody
cares about it, nor speaks about it, nor sheds tears about it!
One laughs with a bitter laugh
one will no longer weep at death
and no longer fast for a dead man,
for everybody is occupied with himself.”
from The Prophecies of Neferti, Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty.
MARK POLSCHER – LAND IN UPHEAVAL