U

8 part choir, sine oscillators.

U was commissioned by Louise K. Wilson for her installation at Orfordness, Suffolk. Recorded by the Exmoor Singers of London, directed by James Jarvis. The recording is to be installed in one of the so-called 'Pagodas' where the early British nuclear bombs were tested. The title refers to U of Uranium, and the text used is from George Perec.

“ Space melts like sand running through one's fingers. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapless shreds. ”

George Perec, "Species of Spaces".

“ A sequence of tall cruciform grooves incised into the laboratory walls makes the lofty chamber of the Lab 5 pagoda even more cathedral-like, even more funereal. A new commission by Cypriot composer Yannis Kyriakides inhabits the interior. It’s a piece shot full of holes. Scattered human notes, struggling for concordance, are overlaid by the persistent electronic glide of a sine wave sweep. The voices are fragile and vulnerable, wavering as they run out of breath. Words are stretched to a point of disintegration. A fragment of text by Georges Perec slips elusively past: “…Space melts like sand running through one’s fingers. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapeless shreds...” The title of Kyriakides’ composition, U, is both a homage to Perec's memoir W, with its double-narrative of real and imagined lives: and the chemical symbol - U – Uranium. "It’s the absence of uranium which intrigued me," says Kyriakides. "Uranium was like a religious thing: the holy ghost of these vessels being tested here." Although every type of missile component was stressed to destruction on Orford Ness, the fissile material itself never made an appearance. Each warhead casing was like an empty reliquary. Fully assembled, the A-bombs were transformed into mutually assured amulets to keep enemy demons at bay. ”

Judith Palmer, "Echoes of Destruction".