Artist's Statement: Saskia Moore on Dead Symphony

By Ben Miller | 20 June 2013

Artist's Statement: Australian artist Saskia Moore on Dead Symphony, her collaboration with ensemble Apartment House performing music and sounds from the moments before death and the afterlife...

A photo of a female artist standing in an empty darkened room
© Meredith O'Shea
“It’s a digital, synthetic sound – that's how a lot of people describe it. Very beautiful, often like a choral sound but with sustained notes.

Some said it was melodic, almost like chimes but not like church bells and not religious.

It has a cascading pattern, almost like a vibraphone duelling with itself in an endless pattern.

One listener told of 'a hum of electricity...silenced by a crack.’

For the past two years, I have been an artist in residence with [Danish national centre for sound art] Sound & Music, and Dead Symphony has been the sonic documentary art project I have been working on.

The residency has allowed me to travel, talk and research about Near Death Experiences in the UK and abroad. It culminates in a workshop with Apartment House, who will perform Dead Symphony at Turner Contemporary.

Through this travel and research, I discovered there is no formal medical or scientific research to date the auditory aspect of a Near Death Experience, or NDE.

It has been extraordinary and fascinating to be at the beginning of it all. Transcribing this music has been an interesting process, devising ways and means to talk with non-musical people to describe, hum, and even at times colour and draw the sounds.

What I have heard and transcribed is a profound similarity of sonic atmospheres people hear during a NDE – it’s wild, fascinating and the stuff of goosebumps.

I read many books, documented people’s accounts of their Near Death Experiences and spoke with many scientists, doctors, people of religion, spiritualists and quantum mechanists.

In a short breath in time, my perspective of death has changed irrevocably. And in equal breath I remain wholly fascinated, confused and curious about it.”

  • Dead Symphony takes place at Turner Contemporary on July 6 2013. Performances at 4pm and 6pm, talk at 5pm. Tickets £6/£5. Book online.
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