Susan Philipsz: Timeline
Other-worldly chorale from Turner Prize winner
This article is from 2012.
It only takes a few seconds, and the lunchtime Calton Hill day-trippers may not even register the three-note female vocal harmony emanating from Nelson’s monument, and which segues into the faint sound of a cannon being fired for the One O’Clock Gun. In its clarity, however, as Susan Philipsz’ major citywide intervention ricochets into the ether at exactly the same time in five other sites, it becomes an ancient siren’s call that transverses history as well as geography.
Inspired by the electrical cable hung between the monument and Edinburgh Castle in 1861 to mark out the speed the sound of a gun travels at by way of Homer’s Odyssey, Timeline is part classicist gift-wrapping, part Eno-esque jingle that permeates the air with a purity that transcends the cannon-fire, and arguably makes the daily ritual even more iconic. Of course, the cable Timeline travels along is long gone now, as invisible as much as the half-built tramlines and drill-battered roadworks clogging up the city’s physical presence are visible.
Timeline, then, is an intangible reimagining, a call to arms that both acknowledges and cries out for a better place as Philipsz’ own voice maps out possibilities that are about infinitely more than simply getting from A to B. It’s barely there, but if Philipsz’ other-worldly chorale were made a permanent fixture, the city would be singing every day.
Timeline can be heard outside Nelson’s Monument on Calton Hill; at Old Calton Cemetery; on North Bridge; on Waverley Bridge; behind the National Gallery of Scotland on The Mound and in West Princes Street Gardens, until 2 Sep, daily 1pm.