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13,671,060 Minutes

Audio installation – Hidden Door Festival, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, 2017

Hidden Door 2017 took place at the wonderful but derelict Leith Theatre, which closed its doors to the public on 26th May 1992. 13,671,060 minutes later, on 26th May 2017, they reopened for the festival. This piece marks the intervening years of melancholy yet beautiful disrepair, using recordings made in the theatre.

When I first visited the Leith Theatre I was struck by a palpable sense of time: the rich heritage, the potential for development, the present state of decay. The inception of this ‘present’ was 30 years ago, when the theatre was abandoned. Since then wallpaper has peeled, walls have crumbled and wood has rotted in gradually forgotten corners. There is sadness to such decline and sensitive redevelopment will be welcome.

One of four speakers hidden in the installation space

But what of this 30-year chapter? In celebrating the old days and looking to the future, the present can be framed as an interim state, best forgotten. However, I believe it is equally worthy of commemoration. Abandoned places are often photographed but rarely recorded. I decided to make a sonic document of the Leith Theatre in its current state. The rumble of the still-operational boiler in the basement, the flutter of pigeon wings, the wind through broken windows. I hid microphones in the building overnight, capturing a rarely heard sound-world.

Through creative recording techniques and subtle manipulation of the environment I investigated the acoustic qualities of the various spaces, which will have been affected by the decay. I went on to compose a series of soundscapes that explored and emphasised this palate of recorded sounds. The pieces evoked the melancholy-yet-beautiful state of disrepair of the last 3 decades whilst whispering of the heritage and future of the building: faded glory, decay and promise.

Daniel Dumnov & Matt Wright from Sink improvising in the Leith Theatre

Complementary instrumental parts were recorded in the theatre itself, that hinted at the theatre’s history as a live music venue. The resulting 62.32 minute-long compositions were played at random through 4 hidden speakers in a forgotten storeroom in the back of the Leith Theatre. The total number of possible combinations of this ever-changing soundscape was 13,671,060. If each iteration were played back to back, it would precisely span the theatres 25 years of emptiness and decay.

½(3+√5+4√13671061) = 62.3168

Tim Vincent Smith: violin, voice
Daniil Dumnov: accordion
Matt Wright: saxophone, whistle, voice
Atzi Muramatsu: cello
Lizabett Russo: voice
Matt Webb: double bass
Darragh Quinn: violin
The Leith Theatre: itself

© Dave House 2020