GEORGES LENTZ - composer / sound artist
Caeli enarrant III
Cobar Sound Chapel
About the Cobar Sound Chapel
Why has man rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but that he may rise in the same proportion into the heavens above?
Henry David Thoreau, "Walden" (1854)
The Cobar Sound Chapel will be the future permanent home of my 4-channel, six hour composition String Quartet(s) (2000-2021). It will be housed in a disused and graffitied 1930s water tank on the outskirts of the town of Cobar, in Outback New South Wales (see below for Google Maps location).
The Cobar Sound Chapel will be a marriage of nature, music and architecture, an immersive walk-in sound installation in the shape of an intimate 5x5x5 metre concrete cube (at first sight somewhat reminiscent of a James Turrell building), set inside the existing 10-metre-high water tank. The whole aesthetic of the Cobar Sound Chapel, with its rusty graffitied steel and exposed concrete, will feel much rawer however than the aesthetic of Turrell's work. More importantly, its purpose will be quite different - the cube functions above all as a 'MUSIC box', with the sound colouring the atmosphere of the architecture, and vice versa. String Quartet(s) will be playing each day in the middle of the day (Day Music), expanded into a 24-hour soundscape with increasingly quiet, star-dappled sounds taking over as the night approaches (Night Music).
The Cobar Sound Chapel's water tank does not have a roof. The ceiling of the artwork's inner cube will have a golden 'lens' in its centre, also open to the elements. Thus the sky - and, at night, the stars - will be visible from a central concrete bench. The composition "String Quartet(s)" and its expanded soundscape will be heard in four-channel surround sound on a loop, day and night, whether someone is listening or not. Sound will also spill out of the Chapel and out of the tank into the vast surrounding landscape, giving the impression of a 'musical water tank' in the midst of the silence of the Outback.
I have never really thought of the Cobar Sound Chapel structure primarily as an architectural project, but rather as a MUSICAL one - just as, conversely, I often think of my music in ARCHITECTURAL terms. From an architectural point of view, the Cobar Sound Chapel has been designed into a little jewel by world-renowned architect and Pritzker Prize winner Glenn Murcutt (2016-2021). The Chapel's proportions are influenced by and are in direct dialogue with structural/rhythmic principles found in "String Quartet(s)".
The Cobar Sound Chapel and surrounds will also be the home of a new yearly Cobar String Quartet Festival Weekend, showcasing concerts of extraordinary works from the string quartet repertoire and presented by a different string quartet ensemble each year. During the yearly festival weekend, a night-long listening session, free and open to all, will also be held in the Chapel, presenting String Quartet(s) together with Kathleen Petyarre's original painting which inspired the work. Extensive school and educational activities are also planned around the festival.
Full funds were secured through the generous support of a NSW Government grant. Construction commenced in September 2020, is progressing well and will be completed by early March 2021. Pictures of the finished building will then follow. Stay tuned!
The approach to the water tank, two kilometres west of Cobar, NSW.
The water tank, also known by locals as the Silver Tank, because once upon a time it was painted in silver anti-rust paint. Not much of that is visible now, and it is more of a golden or copper tank these days - earth colours really!
Architect Glenn Murcutt at the water tank in Cobar. 30 April, 2018.
Glenn Murcutt inside the water tank. 1 May, 2018.
Some of Glenn Murcutt's early drawings for the Cobar Sound Chapel, with an early design of the entrance that was later altered significantly. 16 October, 2017.
A 2019 drawing for the Cobar Sound Chapel by engineer Peter Thew, with Glenn Murcutt's corrections marked in red and in pencil. This drawing represents the definitive design of the entrance.
The Cobar Sound Chapel at night (photo: Simon Pradhan)
Cobar Sound Chapel on Google Maps.