Launch of First Permanent "aroundNorth" Installation, and Tours of Portable Exhibit Around Northern Ireland


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Armagh Observatory and award-winning sound artist and musician, Robert Jarvis, are launching the first permanent "aroundNorth" installation at the Observatory on the afternoon of 19 March 2015. "aroundNorth" is a multi-speaker sound composition that gives listeners an inspiring aural experience of the movement of the stars across the night sky, demonstrating the continuous motion of stars in the near Universe around the North Celestial Pole as the Earth rotates on its axis. Funding for "aroundNorth" was made possible through the Beyond Borders programme of the PRS for Music Foundation, Creative Scotland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Arts Council of Wales, and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which supports the Observatory’s programmes of research and education and public outreach in Armagh.

The permanent exhibit is a new addition to the Observatory’s Astropark. Mark Bailey, Director of the Observatory, explains: "The sonic-art composition was inspired by discussions between the artist and astronomers at Armagh, both of whom were seeking new ways to explain the stars above our heads, including the fact that they are always present even if we can’t see them owing to cloudy skies, light pollution or bright daylight. One of the Observatory’s research projects, led by astronomer Simon Jeffery, is to monitor on a nearly continuous basis the brightness of the stars rotating around Polaris, our familiar North Star — and so the idea for "aroundNorth" was born."

As the Earth rotates on its axis, the stars appear to rotate around the pole star. The installation tracks their movements and interprets them as an evocative musical score. As the stars cross imaginary lines in the sky, they trigger musical notes rather like the pins of a musical box, with sounds whose qualities are informed by the stars’ brightness, size, temperature and distance from Earth.

This creates a fascinating and mesmerising sound map of the universe as viewed from our turning planet. By mapping the various stellar parameters through the medium of sound Robert Jarvis has unlocked the heavens and provides us with this phenomenon in real time. "aroundNorth" humanises the astronomical, and gives us a new emotional key to help us relate to our stellar neighbours in a completely unique way.

Robert Jarvis said, "With echoes of a Neolithic monument of ancient myth, "aroundNorth" introduces us to a Universe full of interest and diversity. It encourages us to think differently about the cosmos and our place in it."

Robert Jarvis will be available to explain "aroundNorth" at the Armagh Observatory from 2.30pm on 19 March 2015. He will also be participating in evening guided listenings of a portable version of "aroundNorth" from 7.00pm to 9.00pm at various other locations in Northern Ireland during the ten days commencing 12 March.

These guided listenings of "aroundNorth" will take place at the evocative locations of The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island (12 March), Divis and the Black Mountain, National Trust, Belfast (14 March), The Colin Neighbourhood Partnership Allotments, Upper Colin Glen Road, Belfast (18 March), St. Cecilia’s College Sports Ground, Fanad Road, Derry (20 March), and Beaghmore Stone Circles, Cookstown (21 March).

The music of "aroundNorth" is a chorus, rather like birdsong in spring, specific to the exact time of day, season and place in which it is played. It is designed to help us become more familiar with the slow, constantly adjusting pattern of stars, visible and invisible, above our heads.

Mark Bailey continued: "The 'stars' of "aroundNorth" are quite literally the stars themselves. They are ever-present, even when hidden behind clouds or made invisible by our bright, light-polluted city skies. The new installation is a unique addition to the Observatory Grounds and Astropark, and because our human brains have a remarkable capacity to interpret music and its associated patterns of rhythm, tone and pitch, "aroundNorth" gives us a totally new tool to obtain insight into the stars’ properties themselves."

"aroundNorth" has great education and development potential in addition to being an award winning creation in its own right, and will be of special value in bringing "the sky" down to Earth, particularly for people who may have a visual impairment or who might otherwise find it hard or impossible to see and interpret the stars.

By providing new links between art, music and science, "aroundNorth" makes a tangible contribution to the Northern Ireland Executive’s Creativity and Innovation Strategy, supporting creativity across science and the arts, and strengthening the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) agenda by including Art. This year it will also make a distinctive contribution to DCAL’s Creativity Month 2015.

The official launch of "aroundNorth" takes place at the Observatory at 1.00pm on Thursday 19th March 2015, with an explanation by the composer and tours of the exhibit and of the Observatory starting at 2.30pm to 4.00pm.   As this is an outdoor event please be prepared for inclement weather.

To reserve a free place at this event, please telephone 028-3752-2928 or email: ambnat stating how many places you prefer. CONTACT: Mark Bailey at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; mebat

aroundNorth March 2015 Tour - high resolution movie

aroundNorth March 2015 Tour - low resolution movie

Installing aroundNorth at Armagh Observatory - high resolution movie

Installing aroundNorth at Armagh Observatory - low resolution movie

aroundNorth Listening Notes - PDF

aroundNorth at Beaghmore Stone Circles - PDF

aroundNorth Radio Ulster Interview - mp3


1. When and Where

Thursday 19th March 2015 — Armagh Observatory
Explanation and Tours: from 14:30 to 16:00
This is an outdoor event; please be prepared for inclement weather. To reserve your free place please telephone 028-3752-2928 or email: ambnat stating how many places and which time you prefer.

2. Partners

The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage. Founded in 1789 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, the Observatory is one of the UK and Ireland's leading astronomical research establishments. Around 30 astronomers are actively studying Stellar Astrophysics; the Sun; Solar System astronomy; and the Earth's climate. The Observatory is funded by major grants from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for Northern Ireland (DCAL) and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The aim is to advance the knowledge and understanding of astronomy and related sciences through the execution, promotion and dissemination of astronomical research nationally and internationally in order to enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the community.

Robert Jarvis is a musician and sound artist based in the South of England.  For the last thirty years he has been engaged in performing his music and exhibiting his installations in a wide range of places — from the Northern climes of Scandinavia to the densely populated cities of mid-China.  Throughout this time, his compositions have taken many forms: from solo concerts to surround gallery installations, as interactive games or as large-scale nature-inspired compositions.  He has won the British Composer Awards on two separate occasions for his sonic art installations, and has been short-listed twice for the New Music Award for his environmental musical works.  His latest astronomical work, aroundNorth for the Armagh Observatory, was shortlisted for the New Music Award in 2010. It offers a reinterpretation of our changing window on the Universe as the Earth rotates on its axis.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the development and funding agency for the Arts in Northern Ireland. The Council distributes public money and National Lottery funds to develop and deliver a wide variety of arts projects, events and from theatre and literature to art in the community. It works in partnership with hundreds of artists, arts organizations and venues. Art has the ability to reach across boundaries, inspiring, teaching and bringing people together.

The PRS for Music Foundation has been a leading UK funder of new music across all genres since 2000, their mission being to stimulate and support the creation and performance of new music throughout the UK and to ensure that this music is enjoyed by a wide audience. They do this through open grant schemes, which are available to musicians and organizations four times per year, and partnership programmes led in response to specific needs and gaps in funding.

QTX is part of the AVSL Group Ltd, a leader in the UK consumer electronics market place. The company has a vast product portfolio covering the general electronics, audio visual, sound, light, public address and MI trades, and continuously strives to develop and diversify these product ranges in order to meet the demands of an ever-evolving technology climate. QTX is supporting aroundNorth with its range of portable speaker units.

3. Links to Images and Sound Clips

aroundNorth March 2015 Tour - hires
aroundNorth March 2015 Tour - lores
Installing aroundNorth at Armagh Observatory - hires
Installing aroundNorth at Armagh Observatory - lores
Outdoor Culture
Robert Jarvis
New Music World
National Trust Facebook
National Trust

Last Revised: 2015 May 21st