Saturday, 11 April 2009

Dawn chorus

At this time of year as dawn breaks over Hackney rooftops our urban dawn chorus turns up the volume, accompanied by the occasional police siren, the clattering of trains heading out of Kings Cross and the drone of early morning flights into Heathrow. It starts at 4.30 am with a blackbird solo - you could set your alarm by it.

One of the works in the opening show at the Whitechapel is a sound piece by Colombian artist Oswaldo Maciá called Something going on above my head, 1999, first shown in the Gallery in 2000. It lasts for 30 minutes and is a symphony of 2,000 birdsongs from around the world, 500 from each continent. The diagram arranges them as instruments in an orchestra. Speakers are sited at ceiling level on the stairs outside the old cafe. Above the buzz of conversation and clinking of wine glasses at the opening, the work might have gone unnoticed, but is a touch of magic when chanced upon unexpectedly. The video clip combines Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday dawn choruses in Hackney with an audio clip from the WAG opening. Why dawn? Well, just because it's the quietest time according to the BBC leaflet from their dawn chorus website. It gives the males a better chance of attracting the attention of an impressionable female.

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