My Secret Heart

Music, video and art come together to create a unique experience.

by Sarah Artt

This 50 minute film and music installation is on exhibit now at the recently opened Dovecot Studios on Edinburgh's Infirmary Street, a refurbished Victorian baths that is now gallery space. Though Dovecot normally houses exhibits relating to sculpture, textiles and furniture, they have graciously agreed to house My Secret Heart while it runs as part of EIFF 2009.

The work is designed as a 360 degree projection in the round. The video art created by Flat-e (who has previously worked with Aphex Twin and will soon be supervising visual effects for Mighty Boosh director Paul King's forthcoming film, The Bunny And The Bull) was designed to compliment a vocal performance of Allegri's 17th century choral work, Misere Mei. The singing is performed by the Streetwise Opera company—an organisation that provides music outreach work with the homeless. The singers recorded for this installation are a combination of performers drawn from homeless centres around England, alongside professional opera singers . The performance and arrangement of Misere Mei is by Mira Calix, a composer and producer signed to Warp Records who began her career in the club scene and has since gone on to work with The Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North, amongst others.

The piece has a ritualistic feel as it opens with the sound of witchy, seductive whispering. Out of this emerges a single voice, slowly joined by others, against images of a liquid night sky. At this moment, you can hear why Misere Mei was originally embargoed by the Vatican, considered too exquisite to be heard outside the Sistine Chapel: it's the kind of choral singing that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

This image of a liquid night sky slowly evolves and transforms into ropes of light that move in patterns, like DNA unravelling or x-rays, or cobwebs. Silhouettes of performers begin to appear, filled with furious scribbles of light. Approximately 20 minutes in, there is a radical shift in the composition and the previously angelic tone is shattered by discordant flashes, like lightening, interspersed with sound of a camera shutter. The crescendo is scored to images that resemble fireworks or Yeats' “god's holy fire”, shining through bars of shadow into a vortex of light. Run, do not walk, to Dovecot studios to experience a unique and thrilling combination of cinema and music.

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