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Choir [2001]

Choir is, in effect, a dissembled organ played through an elaborate rotating speaker system - Ray Lee

Museum of Modern Art, Oxford October 2001

Choir was the prototype version of the work that evolved into Siren. The installation performance took the rotating sirens that had been first developed for The Theremin Lesson and Spin and tested the idea of using a large number of them on their own as the sole basis of the work. In Choir, sixteen tripods were used and installed, filling the Upper Gallery at what was then The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (now Modern Art Oxford). A series of sixteen minute performances took place over one evening as part of the OX1 Festival, curated by Tracey Warr. Limited speed control over the spinning arms was available and there was only one performer, however, the work showed the potential to be developed into a much larger project.

In Choir the fascination changed from the spinning of sound influenced by the textile factory context that The Theremin Lesson was originally developed for, to the compositional effect of thirty-two separate tones rotating in space. The work existed within a clear harmonic framework. The electronic oscillators were tuned by ear to a discernible mode and this was emphasised by the addition of a root bass note drone to underpin the work. Choir was in effect a dissembled organ played through an elaborate rotating speaker system.


Choir used the same oscillator circuit as in Spin and The Theremin Lesson. The bass drone was generated using a tone generator and the tone amplified and replayed through loudspeakers. The new tripods built for Choir used 12v windscreen wiper motors. The installation followed the format established in The Theremin Lesson and Spin of having a defined installation area surrounded by a purpose made metal post and rope barrier to ensure that the audience could move around the installation, without being in danger from the rotating arms. Each metal post was topped with a small light.


Choir was operated and performed by a single performer, Ray Lee. The sixteen minute composition involved tuning the oscillators to notes within the Aeolian mode, over a bass drone that defined the tonic. Once tuned the arms the motors that controlled the motion of the arm were activated. Over the sixteen minute period, the rotation of the arms was firstly increased then decreased before turning the oscillators off in reverse order.

Supported by:

West Midlands Arts, Oxford Brookes University