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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, March 23, 2003
    Sun Rings / Awe Struck
    Back home; very full after a good week of retreat and engagement, quietness and conversation with friends and family on my travels. Used today's Greenbelt blog* to celebrate last night's wonderful Barbican show:

    [*edit, Oct 2008 - Greenbelt blog text added below as it's no longer available elsewhere]

    Awe Struck

    Someone has stolen our awe away. It was the only word we had to describe the way we felt when we looked up at the sky and watched stars shimmer, glow, slide, collide. Those intent on filling the skies with weapons of mass destruction, have stolen the word 'awe' away this week. A holy, helpful word.

    I claim it back. I do so having been awestruck in the realms of the stars, whilst sat on a comfortable seat at The Barbican last night.

    This is why: a bloke in NASA has spent the last forty years using radio receivers to record the sounds which outer space makes, whistles, sirens and booms collected from hundreds of millions of miles away. Then, NASA commissioned Terry Riley and The Kronos Quartet to integrate these sounds with music of their invention. And lastly, the artists brought in celebrated ex-Greenbelt mainstage compere and top-notch live stage designer Willie Williams, to provide the visuals to complete a unique and strangely wonderful event.

    It's called Sun Rings and it helped the awe return last night. Not least because although Riley insisted that his work was apolitical, he found himself lulled by the sounds and sights of space, into a meditation about our place in the vast cosmic mystery:

    "Do the stars welcome us into their realms? I think so or we would not have made it this far. Do they wish us to come in Peace? I am sure of it. If only we will let the stars mirror back to us the big picture of the universe and the tiny precious speck of it we inhabit that we call Earth, maybe we will be given the humility and insight to love and appreciate all life and living forms wherever our journeys take us."

    Good to meet up with some much-loved Greenbelters at the show last night, including one or two who saw photos of themselves up on Willie's massive screen. Good to be at something which seemed to me to be Psalm 8 on a massive, ultra-modern scale. Awe inspiring.