Permutations: an interactive artwork in Dartington.

Exhibition: An installation involving architecture and music.

Curated by the composer and the architects involved.

The music for violin was composed by Freya Waley-Cohen and the acoustic chambers were designed by architects Finbarr O’Dempsey and Andrew Skulina.  The music was played by Tamsin Waley-Cohen.

There were 6 chambers in the performance space and there were 6 pieces of music.

Permutations is described in the press release as ‘an interactive artwork and a synthesis of architecture and music.  It invites the listeners to explore a new work of music through playing the acoustics of six adjustable chambers.  Audience members can treat the space itself as a musical instrument: the listener becomes the performer.’

I loved how the 6 chambers were placed seemingly randomly in the performance space.  I also found myself distracted by the interplay of the architecture in the place rather than how the music responded to my movement within the chambers.  The ceilings in the chambers were reflecting light and sound and they were interesting aesthetic elements of the whole:

The lights in the ceilings interacted with the fabric of the surfaces to create their own compositions.




The outside of the chambers were made of wood laminate and that added to the aesthetic of the whole with the occasional mirror squares adding interest as they reflected and echoed what was going on inside:

The mirror squares reflected and distorted the lights.

The wood panels pivoted so you could walk in and out through any of a number of swivelling panels and this affected the music.  I found that there were so many people coming in and out of the chambers that I was not convinced that the music reacted to the people’s activity.



The distorted curtains reflected in the mirror echoed the undulating padding on the inside of the opening panels.


The press release states that the composer and architects were muses for one another.  There is a lengthy biography for the composer but nothing about the architects.Although I thoroughly appreciated the novelty of the idea of an audience creating the music arrangement, I am not convinced that that in fact is what was happening.  Because I have no ‘control’ to verify the assumption, I cannot decide.  the chambers as structures were great to photograph.

Because I am hoping to have either a piece of creative writing or a music piece linked to my exhibition, I came to this with an open mind to see the possibilities.

I recorded this short extract of my experience in the performance space at Dartington.


2 thoughts on “Permutations: an interactive artwork in Dartington.

    1. You are right, it was cacophonous – perhaps that’s so that, in comparison, the performance of musicians would be appreciated – i.e. spectators should remain passive recipients instead of cacophonous performers?? Jokes aside, I do think that it was a genuine attempt at doing something different.


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