Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Marcus Coates: "Follow the Voice" Unitarian Church, Shrewsbury, UK

A moving image and audio work by British artist Marcus Coates ‘Follow the Voice’ will be presented in Darwin’s birthplace of Shrewsbury. It also accompanies a major new Opera North touring production produced to coincide with the Darwin bicentenary in 2009.

In a playful echo of Darwin’s publication ‘The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals’, ‘Follow the Voice’ establishes striking parallels between a range of familiar man-made sounds and an equally evocative chorus of animal cries and calls. Chasing (and carefully recording) pockets of sound around the contemporary urban landscape of Shrewsbury, Marcus Coates uncovers and explores unexpected patterns of sonic kinship.

Isolating a number of sounds from the continuous hubbub of everyday background noise, including the ‘beep’ of the supermarket checkout, the siren of a police car and the noises of a school playground, Coates subjects the audio components of each video sequence to varying levels of manipulation (speeding them up or slowing them down to alter their pitch). As if tuning in to the right wavelength on this sonic sliding scale, he then adds to the mix by introducing field recordings of animals and birds whose songs and cries are uncannily identical to his newly-dislocated, disembodied sounds. Highlighting the rising-and-falling, one and two-note structure of primitive calls expressing recognition or alarm that are common across disparate species, ‘Follow the Voice’ captures the heightened feeling of interconnectedness at the heart of Darwin’s view of the world, while reminding us of the spirit of curiosity and discovery that infuses Darwin’s ideas.

Alongside an exhibition presentation at the Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury, Coates’ work will also accompany Opera North’s latest production ‘The Weatherman’, at:
11 July 2009 Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury (World Premiere, Shift Time Festival)
15 July 2009 The Sage Gateshead
17 & 18 July 2009 Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
For more info visit

‘Follow the Voice’ is co-commissioned with Shropshire Museums Services and funded by Arts Council England.