Continuing our Kent tour, we headed to Kings Wood near Ashford, where there is a sculpture trail organised by Stour Valley Arts. We were there particularly to see (and hear) Score for a Hole in the Ground, conceived and created by Jem Finer.

The ancient woodland was chosen as the ideal site for Finer’s award winning musical sculpture. It’s a 7-metre tall steel horn, in the style of an old-fashioned gramophone. The structure blends in harmoniously with the surrounding beech trees. This is music made in the rain: drips collect on the lip of the horn and the leaves above, falling onto the steel cover and adding a metallic percussive accompaniment to the sounds rising from below, from inside the hole.

Finer describes Score For A Hole in the Ground as a “hybrid water instrument”. A large dew pond supplies running water to an underground pit, which houses steel discs and blades of different shapes, sizes and thicknesses. As the water from the pond, or rainwater, fall onto the steel instruments, sounds are formed. The horn acts as an amplifier.

Inspired by suikinkutsu water chimes found in temple gardens of Japan, Score for a Hole in the Ground uses tuned percussive instruments, played by falling water, to create music. Finer describes his piece as ‘both music and an integrated part of the landscape and the forces that operate on it and in it.’ The piece was the first ever winner of the PRS Foundation New Music Award

Unfortunately, there were no sounds when we were there: it looked as if a problem that had arisen in 2007 had repeated itself. Then, the problem lay in the drip pipes which had become totally clogged with clay and chalk particles. Now, not only was the dew pond just a muddy bowl, but it looked as if the pipework was again clogged up. Pity!

Jem first found fame as a founder member of the Irish folk rock band The Pogues, with whom he played banjo and saxophone. After leaving the band in 1996 he turned his hand to art, usually with a musical theme. Jem was artist in residence at Oxford University’s astrophysics department for two years, but his most famous work made headlines around the world on Millennium Eve. That was the day he started Longplayer, a computer generated piece of music that will play constantly, without repetition, for one thousand years. The piece has been heard at the Trinity Buoy Lighthouse in Docklands, London for nearly seven years now, but according to Jem it is “movable” as technology and the building changes.

Proposal video for Score for a Hole in the Ground

There were several other sculptures on the trail, including Chris Drury’s Coppice Cloud Chamber. This is made of over three thousand stacked coppiced chestnut logs built into a steep bank over an old flint pit. There is a small Z-shaped passageway in and a lens in the roof which projects treetops and sky on to a circular disc on the floor.

Another work was Ring by Rosie Leventon.  In this video clip she talks about her two works in Kingswood:

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