Audio & Text Alternative: Where Light Falls at St Paul's Cathedral

From the Log Book by Keith Jarrett

Wednesday 16 April, 1941
‘5am: Report very bad night, everyone behaved splendidly’

This building, dressed in a collar of smoke,
at whose feet only fog and ash flower,
whose bricked heart hides Wellington’s monument,
prepared for the inevitable blasts.   

Unsleeping structure, lit by the Thames’ glow,
building of contradiction, vulnerable,
and yet, still, imposing in its stature,
patrolled by volunteers who douse the fires.

‘2.30am: Bomb through North Transept. Blast terrific.’ 

The North Transept only whispers of scars:
like the barely-visible giveaway
of a recapitated statue’s shine
by the shrine, once upturned, now candle-bathed.

Or the old High Altar, blown apart
by a quarter-tonne bomb dropped through the roof;
built up again to be a remembrance
of Commonwealth members who died in war. 

‘1.52am: Cathedral roofs pelted with incendiary bombs’

Members of the Watch unite in resolve
to protect you from the flames at all costs,
knowing how to navigate by dark each inch.
At the nave’s west end, a tile remembers them.

You, who intone grand hymns of survival,
who holler out chords of determination,
under your breath, you whisper other tales:
the legacy of loss, of grief’s debris.

When morning came, the light overpowered the darkness

Sunken into this Cathedral’s fabric,
a tile bows in its commemoration
of determination and defiance,
but who now can sing humanity’s song?

Does rubble speak the same language as hope? 

Where do shadows hide when no light is cast?
Shall we salvage this too from our history – 
the toll of uncertainty’s sleeplessness?
Can we find un-silent sanctuary?

My childhood home, a memory made of longing:
if it stood still through time, maybe I could too.

Who can measure fear’s wingspan, its claw’s reach?
When morning comes, may my structures rebuild,
may the light overpower the darkness,
may my landscape be rewritten in bold.

Bravery and protection matter more than ever before.

Firebomb turns to fireweed, wounds are salvaged
from wounds, safe becomes our treasured mantra,
and this city surrounds itself with shells
of memories passed down, of photographs.

Hope finds breath between sirens.

The fireweed outside has long-since blossomed
to buildings that reflect a watchful sun
and we summon the aftermath’s silence  
through this structure of endless echoing.

When morning comes, I’ll wear a dome of hope, intact.

Audio Description of the projections

Scene setting and instructions

Transcript: Scene setting and instructions

Site 1: South side of St Paul's Cathedral

Transcript: Site 1 (south side)

Site 2: Front façade of St Paul's Cathedral

Transcript: Site 2 (front façade)

Site 3: North side of St Paul's Cathedral

Transcript: Site 3 (north side)

Written description of the soundscape

Low-toned music evokes a serious atmosphere. String instruments become louder as a bass drum beats out a regular rhythm.

The music becomes warmer, swelling and soaring. As the poet Keith Jarrett announces the title of the poem “From the Log Book”, bells ring out and a high-pitched flute plays in quick, small bursts which can be heard over the warmer sounds.

The music is hopeful, optimistic, and inviting, but it also suggests we are about to see something that is weighty, grave and solemn.

The music starts to quieten, as if announcing something is about to happen, with faint choral singing in the background which connects the sound to the religious nature of the building. The notes of the music draw together quickly and increase in volume. Cymbals crash before there is a rush of noise, reverberation and then quiet.

Keith Jarrett begins to narrate the poem. In the background layers of sounds build up to create a soundscape. The sounds become regular, but rise and fall in waves with the ebb and flow of the words being spoken.

The instruments are used to make sounds that jar and distort, alongside large, low, reverberating noises that suggest the arrival of low flying aircraft. Sometimes, instruments are played in high pitch and drawn out to create suspense. Underlining the cathedral’s religious significance, celestial choirs and organ music are heard in the background as Keith reads the poem. The sounds are faint, as if we are only catching a glimpse of a picture or the shadow of a sound. There is a magical, otherworldly atmosphere as sounds combine.

Out of this, a noise that sounds like something heavy, falling rapidly is heard – it represents the bombs that fell on St Paul’s mentioned throughout the poem.

Celestial choirs and organ music start to increase in volume as Keith reads out the words “who holler out chords of determination”.

As the “legacy of loss, of grief’s debris” is said, strings start to spiral down, taking a darker tone and distorting.

This does not last for long, with the words “when morning came” signalling a more hopeful, light tone as the string music changes to a melody which takes a more regular, medium volume tone for a section of the poem.

With the line “silent sanctuary” the sounds tail off, leaving just the reverberation of organ music, and those words hanging for just a second.

With the line  “My childhood home” the layers of sound return, this time in more regular waves, swelling and dropping in full and warm tones. The feeling is hopeful and gentle.

As the line “we summon a hopeful sun” is read out, the pitch of the music continues to rise, suggesting the first, calm rays of a new dawn.

As “when morning comes, I’ll wear a dome of hope, intact” is read out, the high-pitched flute played in regular, small bursts from the beginning of the piece starts to fade in. Strings swell and horns can be heard, making the sounds warmer and fuller.

The flute continues in small, regular bursts as the sound fades away, as the fireweed starts to climb up the building.

The soundscape starts to disperse, with layers of sounds disappearing irregularly, signalling our time with this period of history is at an end.

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