Ragadawn is a sunrise vocal performance to be performed outdoors from the last hours of night until the very early morning. A multisensory composition for two voices, multiple recorded languages and electronic drones to accompany and celebrate the slow rising of day.
It draws on ancient and contemporary musical and literary sunrise traditions, while also addressing the linguistic territories of the UK and EU.
Language and languages, song and speech, sites and sounds, breath patterns, electronic frequencies and passing noise are all at work in this project. Ragadawn recalls the large rhythmic patterns that connect all beings both to nature and society, and the awakening of mind and body. It is a powerful and moving voicework performance which fights off contemporary isolation and reconnects audiences to time, place and each other.
I was transported! Seemed she was collaborator to breeze, birds, passing
boats. Made me relaxed yet hyper aware of surroundings.”
In collaboration with Gaelic speakers on the island, Bergvall devised a powerful and entrancing piece, which took the audience on a sonic journey as the sun rose above the mountains. The dawn chorus' of birds and a passing rain shower added to a multifaceted work.
When Peyee Chen’s glorious voice soared above the verbal confetti I felt the event reached its high spots. The whole experience was extraordinary, taking us out of our beds and our comfort zones into a fresh awareness of time, language and ourselves. The weather could have been worse; the cloudscapes were memorable as dawn broke and the breakfast was superb.
The threshold spaces where Ragadawn is performed are not only points
of conflict but of fluidity: where cultures blend, languages overlap, people trade and fall in love. Places where understanding and solidarity become possible
A polyphonic dawn chrous in the Essex edgelands. Caroline Bergvall's Raga Dawn is a mash-up of English, Punjabi and Romansh, poetry, music and performance art.
Artistiquement, Caroline Bergvall redessine, elle, les contours de la langue. Elle la sculpte comme un matériau en mouvement.
This year we are performing on the northermost coast of the Scottish islands and in the harbour of the biggest Southern city of France.
Isle of Skye: 25 August, 5:14am start.
Photo credits: Sophie Gerrard, Ragadawn (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, 57.5˚T).
Production partners: Atlas Arts/ Isle of Skye.
To come: Marseille: 5-6 October, 6.30 am start.
MUCEM/Marseille. Project partners: Actoral festival.
Isle of Skye
The change from dark to dusk to light, the transformation of shadows into outlines into shapes, all this brings about a complex range of experience explores both the celebratory and wondrous rise of day but also the hidden anxieties and rising sorrow it can provoke. Ragadawn tunes in to the ambiguity present with the rising of day.
The texts written and performed by Caroline Bergvall function as physical and rhythmic connective elements. Spoken lines are created as repetition patterns and vocalised breath rhythms. Working with composer Gavin Bryars and his long-standing interest in early european languages and medieval vocal forms has ensured that the song sequences also provide a luminous cross-historical vocal strand sung by Peyee Chen.
Red Cross Museum, Geneva
Ragadawn travels sonically, linguistically, geographically and transhistorically. Along the latitudes to follow the lengthening sunrise. And symbolically to activate the histories and movements of ancient lyrical poetry: a reminder of the rich and diverse influence of Middle Eastern song and poetry on the development of lyric poetry in Southern European territories through to far northern Gaelic and Nordic territories.
At the heart of Ragadawn is the process of revitalizing connections between poetic forms as well as minority or migratory languages active in Europe. Anciently rooted languages, as well those present through more recent settlements.
Pre-recorded interviews with bilingual poets and speakers across Europe are integrated into the performance as its rich and interconnected dawn chorus of voices. They are developed into a chorus of voices and interconnected dawn conversations by Verity Susman.
Punjabi – Southend | Romanche – Geneva | Arabic – Paris | Berber – Paris | Farsi – Copenhagen | Andalus-Arabic – Library | Medieval Hebrew – Library | Galician – Santiago de Compostela | Ladino – London | Provençal – Aix en Provence | Occitan – Toulouse | Sicilian – London | Anglo-Saxon – London | Welsh – Liverpool | Scottish Gaelic – Skye | Icelandic – Manchester | Groendlandic – Copenhagen | Nightingale – Stodmarsh |
Location / Tickets
1. 57°5′ N
Isle of Skye
25 August 2018
2. 43°2′ N
5 & 6 October 2018
3. 46°2′ N
9 & 10 Sept 2016
4. 56°4′ N
23 Sept 2016
A first version of the piece was initiated in June 2015 as a commission from the MAMCO museum, Geneva. Also performed at SALT festival, Bodø, Northern Norway.
In 2016, the work was expanded. Gavin Bryars joined the project; language recordings began. It premiered as Ragadawn in Geneva & Southend, Sept 2016.
These early versions (2015/16) were devised and produced with Artistic Collaborator, Swiss dramaturg Michèle Pralong. UK support (2016) from Michelle Hirshhorn-Smith, Dea Vanagan & Emma Wilcox.
The Skye Times: Dawn performance draws crowd on roof of Gaelic College, 29 August 2018.
Phil Miller: Ragadawn on Skye, 13 June 2018. The Sunday Herald, Preview.
Paul English: Island’s dawn celebration of Gaelic, The Scottish Herald 25 Aug 2018. Interview incl w Atlas Arts.
Emily Bick: Morning Has Spoken The Wire magazine Nov 2016
Fari Bradley: Six Pillars, on Resonance FM 21 sept 2016. 30 mins. Atmospheric mixed sonic piece featuring Ragadawn
Sadie Hasler: A Crossing Bell 20 Sept 2016 – Intimate blog review, Estuary festival.
Nancy Groves: A Polyphonic Dawn Chorus in the Essex Edgelands The Guardian 20 Sept 2016
Cecile Dalla Torre: Traverser les langues: Portrait de Caroline Bergvall – Le Courrier de Geneve, 9 Sept 2016 – In French. PDF
Yves Bron: Sonic interview profile, Magnetique 07 Sept 2016 – Interview and soundwork from “Drift” (w Ingar Zach). In French. National Swiss radio, Espace 2.
Atlas Arts (Isle of Skye), Actoral (Marseille), MUCEM (Marseille), King’s College London
Project manager UK:
Research and Project Assistant:
Production Contact France:
Christian Lutz (2015), Thierry Bal, Emma Wilcox (2016), Sophie Gerrard (2018)
Andy Delaney, Patrick Baumgarter (2016) , Daniel Warren (2018)
Main Funding 2016-2018:
Metal (UK); Arts Council England; Festival de la Batie, (Geneva); Royal Norwegian Embassy, London; Ville de Geneve (CH); Atlas Arts (UK); Actoral (France)
The Language Station hosts and their selected participants who have helped assemble the languages of the Dawn Chorus: Elisabeth Friis, Alba Cid, Nathan Jones, Aurelia Lassaque, Anne Becker, Uljana Wolf
Medievalist scholars: Prof. Clare Lees (Anglo-Saxon), Dr. Joshua Davies (Anglo-Saxon), Dr. Anna Bernard (Medieval Hebrew), Harriet Cook (overall research support)
Counterpoints Arts, London
David Scrufari, Lausanne, for continued permission to use his “astronomical” sound research
Nobody can tell how the long the pause for breath – hope and thought – will last
A Sonic Atlas Project