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Students bring whaling heritage to life

Music students from the University of Hull teamed up with students at Hull School of Art and Design, working with the Maritime Museum to create a lifelike audiovisual installation of a mighty Bowhead whale.

23rd March 2017

One of the stunning centrepieces of the first season of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 programme, Bowhead attracted more than 90,000 visitors to the Maritime Museum in Hull city centre to the end of its run earlier this month.

Visitors were able to get up close with a full sized Bowhead whale in this intimate cinematic encounter accompanied by a changing soundtrack specially composed to complement the film.

Two interactive exhibits to accompany the exhibition, and enhance its learning potential were also created by students from the University’s School of Arts. These exhibits featured a touchscreen quiz, which can only be successfully completed by exploring the museum, to an interactive computer game where visitors can become the whale, escaping the whalers’ harpoons

The vast interpretation was deliberately designed to scale so audiences could see and appreciate the enormous size of the Bowhead, which can grow up to 110 tonnes. The Bowhead whale is the longest living mammal on earth and can live for up to 200 years, meaning that there are whales around now that would have been alive at the time of Queen Victoria.

George Marshall, studying a PhD in Composition at the University of Hull, said:

“It has been a fantastic opportunity and challenge, composing for animated film and being a part of Hull 2017 proceedings. Additionally, collaborating with students within the University, with regards to performance and production, Hull School of Art and Design and Hull Maritime Museum has been excellent.”

George added: “I composed several short film scores in the past but Bowhead is the first for which I recruited a sizeable number of students to help me bring it to life. The Bowhead films are the first group of films that have allowed me to utilise the huge amount of resources and facilities the University Music Department has to offer: from high specification microphones to state-of-the-art recording and mixing studios, not to mention the pool of talented students available to perform and help produce the music. Had I not been a student at the University myself I, wouldn't have gained what from it's very core was a great opportunity and also complete the brief in the manner I did, gaining further experience composing and producing music for film.”

Students used the state-of-the-art facilities at the University, including the industry standard recording and mixing studios located in Middleton Hall, to create their contributions to the exhibition.

Another of the students involved, Sarah Dew, who is studying MMus in Composition at the University, added: “It’s been wonderful composing music to enhance the beautiful bowhead whale film. Hopefully the whole project will remind the public that we share our planet with truly precious, graceful and awesome creatures, who need our protection.”

And Adam Courtney, who is studying BA Creative Music Technology, said: “The project was something totally different to what I’ve worked on in the past, as I was given complete freedom in the direction I wanted to take the music. When I first watched the whale swimming around on its own, it just looked really isolated, sat in this environment by itself, so I took the route of something quite dark, with flickers of gentle melody creeping through here and there. I wanted there to be a lot of layers and detail to the music, and for the music to emphasise what was on-screen as well as the unsettling lonely atmosphere I wanted to give people watching.

“Thank you to Rob Mackay and Helen Mitchell from University of Hull for their extensive help, suggestions, and guidance throughout the project, Hull Maritime Museum for the opportunity, Hull College of Art and Design for their excellent work bringing the Bowheads to life, and also to Nadira Hendarta for her suggestions and encouragement.”

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“It has been a fantastic opportunity and challenge, composing for animated film and being a part of Hull 2017 proceedings. Additionally, collaborating with students within the University, with regards to performance and production, Hull School of Art and Design and Hull Maritime Museum has been excellent.”