James Turrell, Twilight Epiphany, 2012. Photo: Florian Holzherr

Skyspace: Olivia Block, 12 Degrees of Sky

Original electronic sound and light composition at the Skyspace

November 09 – 29, 2023
James Turrell "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace at Rice University
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Olivia Block’s 12 Degrees of Sky is a dramatization of/investigation into the limitations and thresholds of human perception. These transitional moments are expressed through sound and color in varying degrees of brightness and loudness. Presented nightly through November 29, at the James Turrell, Twilight Epiphany Skyspace at Rice University, the piece can be enjoyed as a sound composition, light piece, or both.

For this experience, Block drew from the work of Alexander Scriabin, who, in 1910, composed Prometheus, Poem of Fire, Op. 60. Partly based on his interest in tone-color correspondence, he created the work for piano, orchestra, optional choir, and clavier à lumières (color organ). The color organ arrangement of Scriabin’s composition was nearly impossible to produce while the composer was alive. Recognizing that artist James Turrell has expressed interest in synesthesia, suggesting that, like Scriabin, he too is intrigued by the pitch-to-color correspondence in human perception, Block conjoined these creative perspectives.  

Employing Scriabin’s color-to-pitch mapping system with Turrell’s colored light system, Block created a composition that functions like a modern-day color organ. Composed for the multi-speaker system embedded in the walls of the Skyspace, 12 Degrees of Sky combines electronically synthesized tones and the recorded sounds of the grand concert pipe organ at The Shepherd School of Music, performed by Hannah Lingen Cen. In addition to clear tones and colors emanating from the walls of the space, passages featuring white noise playing quietly and dim lights will create a perceptual twilight.

Presented by Nameless Sound and Rice University Electroacoustic Music Labs (REMLABS) with support from Nameless Sound and Rice University's Arts Initiative Fund. Additional support is provided by the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, which oversees, maintains, and curates the Rice Public Art collection.