‘The Arcade’ by Magda Stawarska-Beavan


The Arcade is a sound piece that brought the soundscape of Rynek Główny, the main square in Kraków, Poland, to the Harris Museum & Art Gallery. The recording was made in the Sukiennice, an arcaded Renaissance cloth hall that dates from 1257, and illustrates a day in the life of Rynek Główny. It begins at the moment the city awakens, with birdsong, the footsteps of people going to work, cleaning machines, early maintenance and building work, and it ends with tourists and locals making their way home from bars and clubs. Each hour is marked by a chiming clock in Rynek Główny and a trumpet signal, played from one of two towers in the square. The tune breaks off in mid-stream to commemorate a thirteenth century trumpeter, who was shot while sounding the alarm during an attack on the city.

The interaction of visitors with the sound and architecture was an important element of the work, and the piece held specific meanings for different audiences. For a Polish immigrant the sound of the trumpet player from Mariacki Church may have provoked nostalgia and perhaps longing for the familiar sounds of the motherland, while the noise of a busy arcade transported a local Preston audience to a more recent past, when the city was a lively bustling centre of commerce.

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