Nattsong is a new multi-sensory stage work in which poet–performer Caroline Bergvall takes an immersive journey into language, refuge and the night. Fusing words and music, poetry and performance, songwork and electronic projections into a singular, dreamlike and mesmerising whole. Nattsong is both personal and political – at once an immersive performance and, where feasible, a sound installation for multiple languages.
Created and performed by Bergvall with unique contributions from composer Gavin Bryars, soprano Peyee Chen, sound designer Jamie Hamilton, film-maker Andrew Delaney and a brilliant creative team, Nattsong is the final stand-alone part of a searching and singular trilogy around languages and poetries in movement and migration, sung, spoken, recorded, that began with Ragadawn (2016), staged at daybreak in locations as diverse as Marseille and the Isle of Skye, continued with Conference of the Birds (2018), and now closing with this rich nocturnal call, premiering at Turner Contemporary overlooking the sea.
The word ‘natt’ in the title is Norwegian for night and carries the same ancient root as its English counterpart. It also calls up Nótt, the personification of night and powerful dream goddess of Norse mythology. The text is in part inspired by the Nordic poetic creation myth Voluspå, spoken by the seeress Volve at the start and end of times.
Language and languages, speech and song, breath patterns and electronic frequencies are all at work in Bergvall’s mesmerising and unique poetic variations. They seek to foster a renewed understanding and enjoyment of the deep connections and richness of our multilingual world, and to advocate ancient and new routes of transmitted speech and song for a multilingual and post-national time.
It is a multi-layered show in which words rise, fall, get lost, re-emerge in large waves of sound and image, and take on the weight of new meanings and old complicities as they pass from speaker to listener to elemental landscapes.
Exploring how words live in perpetual migration, Nattsong finds new resonances in ancient tongues, and draws on the nomadic histories and ancient multilingual routes of medieval love poetry, as well as prophetic nordic texts, and represents them against our current political backdrop of divisiveness, isolation and social and environmental imbalance.
Nattsong is the final creation of Bergvall’s five year long Sonic Atlas cycle dedicated to sounding multiple languages, and ancient migratory poetries, in unusual transformative landscapes and settings. A cycle of works, performances and explorations written and created for spoken and sung voices, breath patterns, minorised or prejudiced languages, in and out of times that stretch from dawn to night. They form companion pieces, taking place at sunrise, at night, one outdoors, one indoors, different dream-times and processes of ancient reconnection with stories and landscapes. The performances all share materials and multilingual concerns developed through travels with speakers of a range of minority languages (both ancient pre-European languages and more newly settled languages). In a sense it could be seen to be an extension of Ragadawn, a different dream-time and reconnection in the unfolding stories of these languages, and the listeners caught in their surf.
Nattsong was commissioned by Cement Fields for Estuary 2021 and was kindly supported by Arts Council England, Rivers Institute and Prototype Press.
Friday 5 November 2021
18:00 – 19:00
Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate CT9 1HG
On Wednesday 20 May 2020, during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Caroline Bergvall hosted a live, online collaborative writing event with five UK-based poets – Vahni Capildeo, Will Harris, Leo Boix, Nisha Ramayya, and Mays Albaik.
Night & Refuge is a part of Bergvall’s cycle of interdisciplinary performances, Sonic Atlas, which explores languages in movement and in transformation through speech, sounds, songwork in a range of performative situations.
Watch a short film of the event in the Journal.
On Thursday 2 December 2021, Caroline Bergvall will be in conversation with Sukhdev Sandhu and Áine O’Brien to reflect on Nattsong as well as the other works in the Sonic Atlas series.
The event will be held online and the conversation will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Book a ticket to join the event.