Night Sun (1/6) – Introduction

Posted on Mar 7, 2014 in Night Sun

In December 2013 I was asked to pitch a concept for an outdoor musical installation to be part of Light Night in Nottingham.

Light Night is one night where Nottingham is filled with new entertainment, music, installations and projections for all ages. The theme of the event for 2014 linked in with commemorations taking place across the country for the centenary of World War I.

The Concept

In the street just outside a vacant shop, a spotlight illuminates a small toy music box mounted on a chest-height plinth. There is no other lighting, and no sound. Only a small note saying ‘play me’. Intrigued, the audience member holds the turning arm of the music box. With this physical connection, the previously empty & dark shop window begins to glow with light, and when they turn the tiny handle of the musical toy, a musical journey begins.

The concept was commissioned as part of the ’1of4′ set of special commissioning of four local artists, funded by Arts Council England.

The title Night Sun came to me the night before the project briefing. I was half-watching a documentary about extreme UK weather while thinking about the concept, and a Rescue Helicopter Pilot called their searchlight a ‘Night Sun’. Not only did that strike a chord with the theme of Hope, but it planted a seed for what would become the story brief – a narrative about being lost in a place without light.


The project would be more than just a composition/recording. There were more parts to it, and I’ll write separately about the development of each over the next few days.


A new piece of music centered around a toy music-box melody, led a string quartet. At last, a chance to record a professional string quartet! Read More.


A narrative to accompany the music, to lead the onlooker onward, to keep them turning the handle of the music-box, and to elaborate on the themes of hope and peace.


Something that, when combined with the music and story, would give the piece a sense of place (not necessarily Nottingham, maybe an imaginary or ‘any’ place)


At last, a chance to learn to use Arduino! Touch sensitive to light up the shop window when the music-box is touched, and a rotary encoder turned by the cogs of the toy when the handle is turned.

Also, how the music/story/imagery are formatted/played in order to be controlled (play/pause/stop) by the Arduino.


Find a suitable place for the piece. Needs to be pedestrianised for onlookers to stand (with space for the plinth) and a large enough shop window to project onto from the inside.

Date of installation: 28th February. Light Night 2014. From the date of the formal commission, that was a little over four weeks to compose the music, and commission/produce/direct the other bits. Pretty tight, but do-able.

Next: Night Sun – Music

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