Jem Finer illuminates London's only lighthouse for first time in 150 years

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Jem Finer illuminates London's only lighthouse for first time in 150 years
Sonic Ray. Courtesy of Artangel. Photograph: Ibrahim Serra-Mohammed and Ascension Films.

LONDON.- The lantern room of London’s only lighthouse will be illuminated for the first time since the late 19th century from Thursday 30 September by Sonic Ray, a major new light and sound installation across the River Thames. Produced by Artangel, Sonic Ray celebrates the 1,000 year-long musical composition Longplayer created by artist and composer Jem Finer.

Originally scheduled for 2020, Sonic Ray was commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of Longplayer, which began playing from the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf at midday on 31 December 1999 and will continue to play without repetition until 2,999 when it completes its cycle as the longest piece of music in history.

From the lighthouse, a powerful laser is beamed across the river to North Greenwich, encoding and transmitting the sound of Longplayer to a new temporary listening post aboard Richard Wilson’s nautical sculpture Slice of Reality. A short ferry ride connects the two locations, allowing visitors to experience Longplayer as a bridge of light across the river at both locations.

Built in 1864 the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf in East London was known as the “Experimental Lighthouse”, a landmark housing the workshop where Faraday conducted his optical tests. It has been the home of Longplayer for 21 years.

Jem Finer said: “Sonic Ray illuminates the lighthouse where Longplayer has been playing in the dark for 21 years. It’s exciting to have found a way to integrate and project the music of Longplayer in a beam of light, connecting with a kindred spirit across the river, Richard Wilson, whose sculpture Slice of Reality is the destination of Sonic Ray.”

James Lingwood & Michael Morris, co-directors of Artangel, said: “Originally planned for 2020, Jem Finer’s Sonic Ray was amongst many arts events worldwide that were repeatedly rescheduled due to the pandemic. During the months that have elapsed, time appears to have been experienced differently, enriching the meaning and value of Longplayer as a paradigm for change. As inexorable as the tide or the movement of clouds, Longplayer seems more than ever a lodestar for our times with Sonic Ray as its signal of hope made manifest”.

Longplayer grew out of a conceptual concern with questions of representing and understanding the expansiveness of time. Its music changes from day to day, from century to century, conceived to endure and adapt to shifts in the technological and social environment. The 20th anniversary was marked last year with the Longplayer Assembly – an ambitious 12-hour conversation relay between 24 pairs of pioneering thinkers across a range of issues, from public health, climate change and economics, to art, urban design and new technology. You can watch the Longplayer Assembly here.

Sonic Ray forms part of Totally Thames Festival 2021 (1st – 30th September), a month-long season of cultural events stretching the whole 43 miles of the River Thames riverfront.

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