Work: Miserere Mei
Construction: 16 channel and speakers
Size: Dimensions variable
Commissions Available P.O.A
Olivia Webb’s work is impossible to miss on the trail - a haunting melodic symphony of human voice drifting through the natural amphitheatre of the bush. Webb’s multi-channel sound artwork positions itself as a moving homage to the bygone song of the forest. Intended to inhabit the empty spaces within the spectrum of our modern ecological soundscape, this ‘outdoor chapel’ recalls and pays respect to lost bird song, through the performance of historically sacred music.
The largest multi-channel outdoor sound artwork in New Zealand, Miserere Mei is heard through speakers discretely scattered throughout surrounding trees. Sitting directly in the heart of the forest, we can hear each individual voice drifting through the canopy. Webb’s voices aim to blend with their ecological environment, whilst also marking the the absence of birdsong, through years of industrialisation and developments. As Webb has stated: “While retreating into nature offers a tranquil contrast to the manmade hums and drones of today’s towns and cities, the hush and calm of the forest also mark the absence of life [...] certain species can now be discerned by their silence”.
The voices we hear in Webb’s work each belong to a trained choral singer. The piece of music they sing has historic, sacred value as a polyphony, transposed to echo within the empty spaces of the forest. Webb’s experience in this field is profound, drawing on her knowledge as an artist well-versed in sound-orientated artworks and a classical choral singer herself. Through this she effectively captures the spirit of the natural soundscape.