Daniel K. Brown
Proposal for the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand

Digital Animation | 0:01:10:00, 25.00 fps, 720 x 1650
Media: Sound, animated projection, water
Music: © 2017 Mark K. Johnson 

In this proposal for the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington, the five Rivers of the Underworld appear – one in each gallery. The five rivers are Acheron the River of Sorrow, Phlegethon the River of Boiling Blood, Cocytus the River of Frozen Tears, Styx the River of Hatred, and Lethe the River of Forgetfulness. Five framed images lead from the entry to the first gallery showing concept design images for the five river installations.

Lethe is sited on the entry floor gallery. Letters of the alphabet cascade like a waterfall, filling the blackened river with reflections of a myriad of disjointed letters. As the falling letters gain in intensity and momentum, they spell out lines from works of literature that refer to the river Lethe – before disappearing into the turbulence. As the letters tumble into the pool, they become reflected back up onto the lower segment of the screen to create a cacophony of illumination. The work begins and ends with a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “… in Lethe steep; If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!” (IV.ii.61).

The soundscape by Mark K. Johnson is derived from the structural characteristics of the quoted texts. The number of syllables in a word, the location of stressed syllables, the length of phrases, and the word order determine the musical notes and their durations. The upward and downward direction of the melody alternates between adjacent words, while the voices represent the lines of the poems. In this way, the texts are transformed into the soundscape itself, as well as the visionscape.

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