Sirens – English

Sirens is a work about the acoustic sirens used in music and warning systems, the Sirens that appear in stories from Greek mythology to 21st century mermaids, and the warning systems of the planet and the human body.
Link to Live solo Trailer
Volsap Foundation – co-production

The work

Sirens is a work about the acoustic sirens used in music and warning systems, the Sirens that appear in stories from Greek mythology to 21st century mermaids, and the warning systems of the planet and the human body.

We use warning systems. We use them to warn ourselves and others to pay attention to danger and escape demise. These systems come in all forms from physical objects that make noise to stories that perpetually change to fit the times, to physical and psychological messages, to changes in rain and temperature. When the word Siren is mentioned in conversation, everyone has their own vision and comments on what the word brings to mind.

The plan is to uncover and bring to light the many facets of Sirens and to inspire the audience to reflect on some of their historic and present qualities.

The acoustic siren was invented by a Scottish philosopher named John Robison in the 1790’s as a musical instrument to power specific organ pipes. It was improved by Baron Charles Cagniard de la Tour to also produce sound underwater which linked them symbolically to the mythological sirens since they could be used for warning signals on ships. This inspired la Tour to give them the name Siren. For the first time, the sirens could create tones of specific frequencies and measure frequencies of other sounds by comparing them to the measurable sounds of the sirens. This interested scientists as well as musicians and the possibilities and usefulness of acoustic sirens has grown to include the social, industrial and institutional warning systems throughout the world.

The musicians from MAZE will perform guided improvised music in addition to playing synthesized and acoustic sirens. The acoustic siren, historically and currently, is used as an effect in specific moments of a composition from Georg Antheil’s Ballet Mecanique to underground rock and pop bands. Rather than using the siren as a sound effect, we plan to integrate it into the instrumentarium where it is a musical instrument on equal ground with the other acoustic instruments.

The mythological sirens were originally both male or female who had alluring voices and were given non-human traits by various gods including wings, webbed bird feet and tail fins. The male versions disappeared and by the Greek mythology of Homer they were seen as female singers who were half-human and half-animal who were a symbol for the dangerous temptation embodied by women. Later they became synonymous with mermaids with upper female human bodies and fish tails. Homer’s Odyssey has the most well known Siren story of today where he had his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the ship mast so he would avoid their fatal seduction to jump into the sea and drown. A plethora of variations on this myth can be found and throughout western art the term siren song has referred to an appeal that is hard to resist and if heeded will lead to evil or misfortune.

Sirens is a performance that references, re-tells and re-invents stories about warning using music, soundscapes and live performers. Our aim is to inspire our audience to reflect on the crazy collection of myths we think we know and to inspire people to revisit the broad and complex field of Sirens and warning systems. This includes reflections on what the purpose of warnings are and how humanity notices and responds to them.

Our stories are about the ambiguity of crisis, the fascination for gloom and doom, hope, sense of time and place in our imaginations, memories, experiences.

MAZE

MAZE will perform on acoustic and electronic instruments including sirens and devices playing warning system sounds.

Anne La Berge will be responsible for text, music composition and sound design using processed and synthesized audio. She will also be one of the performers as the storyteller and as an electronics instrumentalist.

The Structure of the work
The work will have four basic sections. The order and structure and interaction of these are yet to be decided:

The mythological Sirens are the humanlike beings that appear in literature and visual art prior to the Greek era and onwards. They are most often attributed to dangerous temptations and from the fifth century they are shown as female and hybrid creatures, sometimes mermaid-like, sometimes with birdlike wings and feet, sometimes as an onocentaur.

The physical siren was invented in the 1790’s and was first used as a musical instrument. A few European men have been given credit for its invention and early development including Scottish natural philosopher John Robison and the French engineer and physicist Charles Gagniard de la Tour. Word has it that the name Siren was given to it because it could wail as beautifully and seductively as the mythological beings.

The warnings that our planet is sending us concerning the survival of the human race. The burning topics of climate change and pollution include a long list of disaster stories. We are most interested in those that affect us directly such as: When the tornado blew my house down. When the fire burned my home. When the flood ruined the downtown.

The internal messages of danger and dread that humans carry with them are a form of virtual sirens that relate to the temptations of the mythological Sirens and the whoop, wail and roar warnings of the physical sirens. The shapes of internal messages are sometimes similar to the Doppler effect of a passing sound in that they begin imperceptibly, increase in volume and pitch and then decrease in both volume and pitch after they have passed.

THE PROJECT

2024
Planning and composition
FPK Muziekauteur application 28 August 2024.
Tour
2025 – 2026 concert season