Singing in the Dark
Horticultural Sound Installation, Performance and Workshop
In collaboration with Ruchi Singh (performance and installation) and Duncan Chapman (installation)
Comissioned by Cultures of Place (University of Huddersfield)
Installation: 4 x channel composition -D. Chapman- (18 mins) , rhubarb stimulating sounds (16 mins) , raw field recordings (17 mins) and vibrating chair -D. Vélez-
Consists of a beetroot plant and an artificial lighting system
Performance: Field recoridngs and sine waves -D. Vélez-, cooking -R. Singh-
Workshop: Cooking -R. Singh-
Presente in AME Dai Hall, Huddersfield
June 24th-July 4th 2022
Thanks to Robert Tomlinson
Singing in the Dark is a project studying the sounds and flavour of forced rhubarb in Yorkshire.
Installation and performance
In Yorkshire, it is traditional that rhubarb plants grow in dark shades as part of a process known as forcing. After being exposed to frost, the buds are moved into dark shades to encourage starch production and growth. In forcing, the stems become exceptionally tall and sweet and acquire a red-pinkish colour result of the arithmetical energy calculations that rhubarbs perform in the absence of sunlight. The stems, release acoustic energy after overproducing chemical energy, creating a sound that is as unique as their colour and flavour, which is the focus of this installation. Duncan and David composed a piece using recordings from forced rhubarb yards and sine waves that stimulate the crops; these sounds will blend with the cooking sounds of keer with rhubarb sweet, prepared by Ruchi. In the exhibition, a rhubarb grows aided by acoustic invigoration and LED lights while the audience can enjoy the sounds in a chair vibrating at the frequencies at which plants communicate.
Plants communicate with us through flavour. Maize, tea, potato, and rhubarb have coevolved with humans using it to establish alliances that have helped both species thrive. Flavour is critical in the social circumstances of migration, establishing means of communication that help subvert cultural biases in the hosting community towards the diaspora. It is the case when Indian and Caribbean immigrants in the UK experiencing racism offered food to their persecutors, helping to develop more inclusive and empathetic communities.
This workshop invites the participants to explore gustatory experiences as a means of communication and storytelling. Ruchi will welcome them to her hometown in India and guide them across the trip that embarked her into Huddersfield utilising cooking. Additionally, music inspired by the sounds and flavours of Ruchi’s cooking will expand this multisensory experience. The assistants will use writing and drawing narratives to reflect on their luscious imaginary visit to India and their sensations navigating the vibrant assemblages of Asian migration to Britain.
Photos below: Laura Lalas