Guarea was first performed by Phillipa Mo at the Tate St. Ives Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculture Garden on the 9th of April 2016 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
In 1953 Hepworth’s son Paul died in a plane crash while serving with the Royal Air Force in Thailand. Exhausted in part from her son's death, Hepworth travelled to Greece with her friend Margaret Gardiner in August 1954. They visited Athens, Delphi, and many of the Aegean Islands. When Hepworth returned to St Ives from Greece in August, she found that Gardiner had sent her a large shipment of Nigerian guarea hardwood. Although she received only a single tree trunk, it arrived at the dock weighing 17 tons, and the six pieces were manhandled up the cobbled streets to her studio. Between1954-1956 Hepworth sculpted six pieces out of the guarea wood, many of which were inspired by her trip to Greece.
When I visited the Tate Britain’s exhibition of Hepworth’s work Sculpture for the Modern World, I was astounded by both the beauty and scale of the hand carved sculptures of guarea wood, and in particular Delos, Corinthos and Delphi. I knew at once that these sculptures would be the inspiration for this commission, and I would translate the three physical sculptures into sonic sculptures.
When I saw the sculptures they appeared to ‘speak to one another’ despite being separated throughout the gallery. The violinist is therefore required to perform the movements separately, in different locations.
The two circles are represented in the first few bars comprising of a melodic fragment that is played on two strings. In Hepworth’s sculpture, the circular motion appears to spiral out from the two circles and in much the same way, the melodic fragment unravels into larger and transformations.
This sculpture is the most substantial of the three, and to represent this, the movement is played exclusively on the lowest string of the violin. Hepworth appears to have carved very much with the grain to create the sculpture. In a similar vein, I have worked with nature of the violin to create the music by using natural harmonics, which are slightly ‘out of tune’. The microtonal characteristics of the harmonics are also employed in the melodic material, creating an earthy timbre to the movement.
Endless Night- mosand
Guerea is available to purchase for £10.00 excluding postage.
Delphi’s appearance closely resembles that of the ancient harp-like instrument - the lyre, hence why the violin is plucked throughout the movement. The music has an arching structure, like the sculpture, and opens and closes with a chant-like melody. This melody is a re-imagining of the first section of the Frist Delphic Hymn, which is one of the earliest examples of notated music, written by the ancient Greeks on a slab of marble.