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Hugh Nankivell

alice maud headstone hugh playing wiring pipes

Work made:

  1. Walking and Skylarking (with || Gallery || Tunes
  2. Dartmoor Altitude Harmonium || Gallery || Tunes
  3. Dartmoor Music Diary (A4 diary) || Gallery
  4. Alice Maud Kellaway - a Brief Life (handmade book) || Gallery

Read Hugh's Diary of his time spent on Dartmoor.

Gallery of other tunes made using the same principal (outlined below) but not used in either piece 1 or 2.

 


 

Hugh says:

Creatollecting and Speculative Reconstruction

I think of my Triparks residency as a collaborative journey.  I am a musician who revels in working alongside other artists and while this commission was for me to create an artistic response to my time on Dartmoor, it has also been an interactive collaboration with many different people in many different ways.

I initially set off with a few ideas, but with an open white wall in my mind as to the ending.  On the way I have met people who have affected, influenced and worked with me.  I have let these encounters alter the route of my journey, such that I have ended up with four ‘pieces’ of work here in this exhibition, a whole new set of friends and colleagues and a head full of ideas as to future work.

I have never before created work specifically for an exhibition. Normally, as a musician, my final products have been a performance or a recording.  This challenge of an exhibition end-result, has made me think of myself in terms of visual representation and as a writer, in a way that I have not done so previously.

I will tell you briefly of this journey in eight parts.

One

At the Triparks interview I played a tune I had written on the accordion.  This was a tune from Ashburton in Dartmoor and related the melody to the name of the place. From the outset I had an idea about mapping Dartmoor in melodies, and that idea has remained throughout. This idea is to translate the letters of the alphabet into Music in the following way:

Alphabet

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

Musical notes

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

So that the melody for Ashburton is A E A B G D F A G.

This system only uses the white notes of the keyboard and does not have any sharps or flats.  I make my own decisions on the rhythm the tempo, the accompanying harmonies etc.

Two

In my Dartmoor induction week I was taken into the world of the National Park, and was struck by many things, including the love most officers have for the National Park.  On my first day, when I travelled the sunny lanes of Dartmoor with Val Harrison, one of the historic building’s officers, Val used a phrase ‘Speculative  Reconstruction’ to describe what she believes is the desire that many owners of property in Dartmoor have regarding building alterations and ‘improvements’.  This phrase has stuck with me throughout the residency and became an idée fixe for me, such that the ‘Alice Maud Kellaway –– A brief biography’, is entirely a speculative reconstruction.

Three

I then had a flurry of work, days out on the moor, finding instruments and playing them, collecting and creating (possibly ‘creatollecting’ is a more interesting word) music and words.  I would find a keyboard (harmonium, piano or organ) that was not locked and where I did not have to ask permission to play it, and I would compose the tune for the name of the building at that keyboard.  So it was a ‘collecting and creating’ in both senses, as the word (the name) and the method of translating that word into music existed, I just had to put it into paper and then make the air sound with it.

Four

At the first Triparks artist gathering in Northumberland I played a few of the melodies from names and also sang one of the songs I had composed.  I received praise for both, but I distinctly got the impression that the name/melody had a much bigger impact than the song.  Volkhardt Muller later confirmed that (as far as he was concerned) this certainly was the case.  This persuaded me to continue with names and melodies and to leave aside the songs.  As a result of this decision I also decided to write a ‘story’ which would not be set to music, but would contain the musical ideas I was exploring.

Five

Dartmoor National Park had a staff away day and I attended it, leading a workshop on listening, walking and playing with natural sounds.  This was successful and a wonderful afternoon for the seven of us involved. Again this positive response made me start to think how I could harness the energy and idea of a music/sound walk, but within an exhibition. How could I create an audio journey for an audience to go on which could also be somehow creative for that audience? At this point the idea of the console piece – ‘Walking and Skylarking’ came into being. 

Six

My three day walk on the high moor with Volkhardt also affected my thinking, with him talking about his ideas almost non-stop, and me listening. His wish to create what is essentially a provocation (an idea, a concept) and his stone balancing, both influenced and helped to shape my work, especially in me happily accepting that my melodies can be very short, and that I could write a fiction.

Seven

The second Tripark artist meeting at Pixie’s Holt in Dartmoor was another opportunity to share ideas and to see where each of us was up to.  By this point I had discussed with Bob Lockwood the idea of creating a console piece and he had already begun to develop ideas for ‘Walking and Skylarking’.  I was very happy with how we were progressing with this, but felt (and still feel to some extent) that it does not represent me fully.  I wanted something with a real musical instrument in. I mentioned my idea for the ‘Dartmoor Altitude Harmonium’ as a kind of afterthought.  Richard Povall jumped at the idea, he said it was certainly possible and that he’d like to help make it.  So then this piece was born and (much later) made.

Eight

Finally, the actual making, shaping and finishing of the final works has been shared with other people and through this work I have been able to develop new relationships (with Volkhardt and Richard for instance) and also with designer Nat Tarrab. Additionally I have established and developed my working partnership with Bob Lockwood. This journey feels like the beginning in terms of how these partnerships and friendships develop in the future.

I am very grateful to the following people, who have collaborated with me in different ways throughout this project.  Nat Tarrab, Bob Lockwood, Volkhardt Muller, Richard Povall, Aune Head Arts, Henry Tozer, Paul Wilson, Dartmoor National Park Authority (and in particular Willem Montagne, Val Harrison and Jo Rumble), the other artists and arts organisations involved in Triparks and the many people I met on my journeys in Dartmoor."

 


 

Credits

Walking & Skylarking
Concept, music, playing and recordings: Hugh Nankivell
Musical assistance from Henry Tozer
Photos: Hugh Nankivell, Bob Lockwood, Volkhardt Muller, Eddie Sinclair, Willem Montagne and others.
Design, building, support and inspiration: Bob Lockwood

Dartmoor Altitude Harmonium
Concept, music, playing and recordings: Hugh Nankivell
with assistance from Henry Tozer
Technical competence, encouragement and wherewithal: Richard Povall
Map design: Nat Tarrab

 


 

Artist website: www.myspace.com/nankivell

Contact info: through website

About:

Hugh Nankivell –– composer and musician.  My work is a mix of composition commissions, performances and education projects.

In my teens I discovered Bach and Oscar Peterson, composed music for Milton Keynes’ Concrete Cows, played in rock and jazz bands in Birmingham and spent three months busking in Europe.

In my twenties I gained a degree in music at City University, played three summers at the Edinburgh Festival, became Musician-in-Residence for the Tyne and Wear Museums service, made musical visits to Asia and helped set up Sound Sense, becoming their first Chairperson.

In my thirties I toured Poland, Japan and the USA with East Whistle, worked with the Royal Opera House, Opera North and Glyndebourne on outreach projects, produced a song a week for two years and wrote an MPhil on composing in groups.

In my forties I wrote an opera with communities in Japan and West Yorkshire, led an outreach project for Huddersfield University, wrote a chapter in a book ‘Community Music A Handbook’ and won an award for best music from Scottish Theatre Critics.

I have recently been developing work with playwright Peter Oswald and poet Jackie Kay.  I have been exploring piano playing with nursery age children and in 2009 I am using this work to create a new choreography in Japan.  I am currently creating an audio walk in Torquay.  I have a geographically awkward band called Natural Causes and am working on the music for the puppetry company Faulty Optic.

See:
www.whaletone.co.uk 
www.myspace.com/naturalcausesuk
www.keystothesea.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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