Roger Eno makes Music for a Victorian Museum as Ipswich Museum embraces randomness

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 June 2012
A photo of the inside a museum featuring giraffes and various other exotic animals
© Colchester and Ipswich Museums
Installation: Music for a Victorian Museum, Ipswich Museum, Ipswich, June 15 – July 18 2012

The clarinets, bass and electric guitars, cellos, acoustic piano keys and melodeons in this ever-changing piece - the work of ambient music producer Roger Eno – are relatively mundane compared to some of the more elaborate instruments involved.

A gamelan, orgel, harmonium and crystal conjure the electronic interludes in a movement made from 30 foundation “bricks”, 26 musical parts and four silences of varying lengths, relayed randomly by four CDs on four CD players.

There’s also accompaniment from the single-stringed, horn-sounding Phono-Fiddle. Unsurprisingly, this gem is described as “extremely scarce”.

“I call this system ‘aleatoric’, due to the starring role that chance plays,” says Eno.

“The recorded silences allow for random periods of rest in each CD player, thereby allowing the possibility of quite sparse periods during performances. It’s obviously up to chance, though.”

Eno says the concept could be imagined visually, with revolving sets of colours and spaces allowing for 810,000 possible combinations.

“Music for a Victorian Museum was originally conceived as a show of thanks to members of staff who made my children so welcome to this extraordinary place,” he adds.

“They allowed them to be interested.”

  • Runs 11.30am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-3.30pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission free.
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