This is a photo taken in Dublin’s National Concert Hall. It’s mainly a venue for classical concerts, and in fact I have a dim memory of being brought to the first ever piano recital that was held there. These days they seem to cater for a fairly wide range of other forms of music too and I have found myself there twice over the last year or so. It’s a beautiful space but for some reason I hadn’t really thought about making it part of this project until Leagues O’Toole of Foggy Notions suggested it to me one night.
The venue management were very open to the idea of taking some photographs at a concert there, but it took quite a while to arrange, as it is not often that the upper balcony level is not being used. I finally got in there for the re-scheduled Irish stop of the Whale Watching tour. This tour involves a group of artists that release music on the Icelandic Bedroom Community record label – Nico Mulhy, Sam Amidon, Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurosson. It was a pretty stunning gig. The core four performers were joined by four or five other musicians and basically took turns playing each others music in various combinations. Nico Mulhy’s modern classical pieces were not really my cup of tea but I enjoyed all the rest. In particular, I was really taken with Ben Frost‘s huge and intense ambient soundscapes.
Since it was my first time trying these photographs at NCH I had no idea what sort of light levels to expect and hence no idea what aperture to use on the camera. I also had no idea what length songs to expect. So, I brought 12 sheets of film and basically shot every song in the main part of the set – opening the shutter at the start, closing at the end, and then quickly switching the film holder to get ready for the next one. I used a variety of apertures but concentrated on f32 as I felt that was going to work. As it happens it did – I am becoming a human light-meter. The shot above is one of Valgeir Sigurosson’s songs, which they did towards the end of the set. It’s a six minute ten second exposure.
I really like how this picture came out. There was a lot of interesting lighting going on during the gig but I was hoping one of the songs with the pebble-dash pattern above would work out. I am often looking at light patterns when doing this and trying to imagine what they are going to look like when captured on a long exposure. This one, happily, was just as I expected. The huge organ at the back of the hall also really adds to the picture. I like the way it dwarfs the musicians and with the addition of the lighting rig in front of it, it looks like some kind of giant alien mothership coming in to land.
Here is a live recording of a Ben Frost track, recorded in Belgium on the Whale Watching tour in 2009. On the SoundCloud site this is categorized as unclassifiable, which is probably about right.