Louisa Fairclough:
Absolute Pitch

This video documents Absolute Pitch, a 16mm film installation, developed out of research with composer Richard Glover and Gloucester Cathedral choristers, exploring the experience of sustained tones in music and the relationship of pitch to colour. The work takes as its starting point a sketchbook by the artist’s sister, and continues a notional collaboration between the artist and her deceased sister. The work uses song, as the artist says, to “make beautiful my sister’s departure from this world”. At the end of the sketchbook, there’s a monoprint consisting of five lines that divide a rectangle of paper.

Five filmstrips thread across the width and length of the space and loop back to the machines. The filmstrips draw a kinetic diagram that echoes the five lines of the monoprint. On each filmstrip is a single sustained note sung by a chorister, who was given these instructions: “Close your eyes and sing a (B above middle C). Sustain this note for as long as you can. As you sing, picture a colour. Remember that colour”.

Printed onto each filmstrip in parallel with the voice is a single block of colour. The five film loops criss-cross through the space slicing through the semi-dark. With the lenses pulled out of focus, the projectors throw large diffuse spots of colour and filmstrip shadow onto the walls and ceiling, the voices coinciding as the pentatonic harmony shifts through differing degrees of consonance.

Co-commissioned by Whitstable Biennale and ICIA Bath


Louisa Fairclough is an artist who lives and works in Bristol. Her work uses film loops, performances, field recordings and drawings to create contemplative space, and explore grief and loss. She co-founded BEEF with the core aim of supporting and nurturing experimental film practice in Bristol. 


Filmed by Bernard G Mills at the Whitstable Museum & Gallery, Whitstable, June, 2016.