From silence into song
A collaboration with the charity Shout at Cancer celebrating life-affirming stories of survival shaped by the powerful legacy of radiation.
This project will manifest as live musical performances, large-scale video installations and workshops: listen to our story covered on BBC Radio 4:
Hiroshima on 6th August 2020
The Dual Legacy of Radiation
Radiation has had a dichotomous history, as an instrument of both healing and war: in the late 19th Century X-rays were first used to treat cancer and in 1918 Ernest Rutherford split the atom, leading to the development of the first atomic bomb. We explore this parallel legacy and its profound effect on humanity.
In August 1945 the USA detonated two atomic bombs over Japan, destroying the biological and man-made landscape and killing over 200,000 people. Scientists believed that nothing would grow there for 75 years. But amazingly over 200 trees survived, including a Weeping Willow less than 400m from the Hiroshima blast epicentre. These trees are known as the Hibakujumoku, ‘Survivor Trees’. Many are still alive today and continue to be a symbol of overcoming adversity.
Radiation has also been used to heal and is a powerful treatment for cancer. In 2015, 70 years after the bombs were dropped, Dr Thomas Moors launched Shout at Cancer, a choir for cancer survivors who owe their lives to the healing powers of radiation. Each member has had radiotherapy in combination with a laryngectomy: the surgical removal of the voicebox. Like the Hibakujumoku, the choir is an inspiring symbol of survival against the odds, with Dr Moors literally teaching members how to rediscover their own voices.
Survivor tree in Hiroshima recorded on 6th August 2020, 8:15 am
The Creative Vision of the Project
In 2020, in the shadow of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, we’ll celebrate life-affirming stories that have been shaped by the powerful legacy of radiation. We will pair stories of survival from members of Thomas’ extraordinary ‘choir of the voiceless’ with the histories of individual survivor trees. Using sound recordings from the trees we’ll develop new musical compositions with the choir to deliver an inspiring message from previously silent witnesses, now ‘singing’ in harmony.
Dr Thomas Moors, creative lead – “This project celebrates life and explores the power of nature and healing. Thanks to modern technology we are now able to capture the ‘voice’ of the survivor trees and pair that with choir members who have rediscovered their voices after losing their voice boxes. We will be unifying the healing and destructive force of radioactivity into song and celebrating the fact that radiotherapy has increased cancer survival rates. Our immersive audio and video installation is a place where the audience can sit and reflect.”
Philip Clemo, producer & director of content – “I want to celebrate the survival instinct dwelling within each living thing & the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. In my work I use cutting-edge and novel technologies to capture imagery & soundscapes in unusual ways, delving beyond ordinary perception. For this project I will use filming techniques including thermal imaging, infra-red, aerial, close-up & slow motion, capturing each tree’s character in all its defiance and magnificence. Surface & environmental sounds of the trees will be captured using contact microphones and sensors attached to leaves and trunks, in collaboration with Bruel & Kjaer and IRCAM, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.”
Prayers written on a small lantern floating on the river in Hiroshima
These creative collaborations will be showcased at events in three main phases:
PHASE 1: (new post-Covid dates TBC): Bloomsbury Theatre, London, Kino Teatr, Hastings: Shout at Cancer choir live, with tree imagery & sound recordings & Tate Britain, Glastonbury (with Reeps One).
PHASE 2: World Choir Games, Ghent, Belgium (new dates TBC) – live choir concert with tree imagery & sounds + workshop linking research, performance, patients and the public in innovative and valuable ways to achieve public engagement and education.
PHASE 3: S.Y.P Art Space, Shinjuku, Tokyo & Assembly Point, London (new dates TBC): Video & Surround Sound Installation: large-screen installation pairing 15 choir member interviews with ultra-HD video portraits of individual trees. With an immersive soundscape of tree recordings.
There are several sister projects currently in development.
The Cenotaph, Hiroshima
Thomas Moors: creative lead
Philip Clemo: producer & director of content
Rob Alexander: film production
Colin Gray: director of photography
Manuel Poletti, IRCAM, Kevin Pollard & Hottinger, Bruel & Kjaer: sound recording & post production
UCL, Kino Teatr: venue + promotion support
Hiroshima & Nagasaki Film Commissions: location support
Shout at Cancer is the world’s only charity specialising in speech training with music after laryngectomy, the surgical removal of the voice box, following throat cancer. The Shout at Cancer choir has performed around the world.
Philip Clemo is a composer, sound-designer, film-maker and performer. He brings them all together in his Dream Maps live project. The imagery for that project comes from his Breath Project, made in collaboration with members of David Attenborough’s team.
Not everything went to plan during our recordings on 9th August at 11:02 local time in Nagasaki, control rooms in London
Thanks to generous support from Alice, Jenny and Sean Riddell AND
© Thomas Moors/Philip Clemo 2020