An organ that turns everyday sounds into music has won this year’s New Music Award.
The £50,000 prize was awarded to liminal, an arts practice led by composer David Prior and architect Frances Crow, to develop and premiere the project at next year’s City of London Festival. ‘The Organ of Corti’, named after a part of the inner ear, takes noises from its surroundings, filters them and transforms them into music. The instrument is portable and resembles a fairground organ.
The New Music Award, funded by the PRS for Music Foundation, is given to what the judges consider to be the most groundbreaking idea for a new musical work. The panel is made up of journalists, musicians and artists with the 2010 judges including composer and pianist Michael Finnissy and pianist Joanna MacGregor.
The shortlist for this year’s award consisted of Automata Musica – a project involving automatic musical instruments; aroundNorth – a composition based on the stars; The Battle of the Wordsmiths – a human beatbox inspired by African Yoruba culture; and SATSYMPH, a ‘satellite symphony’ created with an iPhone app.
‘The judges admired the quiet beauty of the idea,’ says Charlotte Higgins, chair of the judging panel and chief arts writer for The Guardian. ‘The thoughtful, discreet and gentle idea of the Organ of Corti utterly caught their imagination.’