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30 March 2020

Resident artists and researchers stage marathon performance to explore endurance in music

Using cutting-edge sound technology, '12 HOURS' is a collaborative project that tests the stamina of its participants through continuous, unbroken performance.

A female performer facing away from the camera and holding fabric in both hands that is hanging from the ceiling
Image by Olga Ivanitskaya

Based in the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, from 11 – 14 February 2020, the '12 HOURS' project team undertook a collaborative residency combining theatre, music and installation, to explore endurance as a concept. By monitoring performers during the creative process, the project sought to examine the question, 'what remains when we surpass the boundaries by which we define ourselves?' 

On the final day, the team invited an audience into the space to participate in a four hour version of the performance. Given the freedom to sit, move around and come and go from the space, participants engaged in practices of deep listening as mezzo-soprano Rosie Middleton worked through a sequence of vocal pitches and emotions. As well as testing the performer's endurance, the team also examined the time audiences spent engaging with the piece and their limitations as listeners. 

Audience members praised the performance as 'unique', 'intense' and 'expressive', with many describing the work as 'relaxing' and 'therapeutic'. Participants understood that the work as an act of endurance for both the performer and listener, with certain members saying they stayed 'alert throughout' and that the performance kept them 'present'. 



'In a durational piece there is so much space and I struggle to slow down my thoughts... Through the research process of this residency i have begun to understand the long-term preparation for a 12-hour version'

Rosie Middleton

It was great to be able to spend a few intensive days together as the creative team to bring this piece to life... Everyone involved has a much better understanding of the character and the potential of the work and we can now take it from there.

Catherine Kontz

The project first started with Middleton and award-winning composer and director Catherine Kontz working together on a study of the human voice and mind. This developed into a collaboration with Dr Enzo De Sena, Lecturer in Audio at the University of Surrey and a Visiting Researcher at King's, and Professor Zoran Cvetkovic, Professor of Digital Signal Processing, Department of Engineering. 

The project makes use of De Sena and Cvetkovic's newly developed spatial audio technology, ZD sound. The team used up to ten speakers as part of the performance to create an immersive installation using surround sound. 


Kontz created a score that made use of these structural and spatial opportunities. Combining prerecorded and live material, the focus on the effects of repetition and variation to play with participant's sense of time and reality. Through each hour of the performance, Middleton changed pitches, sounds and volumes to explore different emotions and energy levels.

The residency also involved lighting designer Kristina Hjelm and movement director Sasha Amaya, with input from performance specialist Naomi Woo. Bringing their expertise together meant that the team could create a fully immersive and multi-sensory experience. Speaking with Amaya as part of a project interview, Kontz commented that the residency provided the team with an 'opportunity to create without limits and probe what is really possible'.

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Photography by Olga Ivanitskaya

In this story

Zoran Cvetkovic

Professor of Digital Signal Processing