Phantom Railings

I stumbled along Malet Street in a throughly disorientated state after seeing RADA’s performance of Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis which I think is the only authentic reaction you could have to this devastating piece (in a committed production directed by Laura Bowler, who, remarkably, is usually a composer by profession.) But I really thought I was losing it when a nearby non-remarkable wall, pictured, started to ping metallically at me as I passed it. After a few steps backwards and forwards to check that this weirdness was actually happening, I discovered thanks to a helpful sign, that these were ‘Phantom Railings’ installed by publicinterventions.org. – that is, sensors tripped by passers-by, which evoke the sounds of a stick being dragged along the railings that used to be there (the stumps are still visible) before they were removed at the outset of World War Two.

Rapidly recovering my enthusiasm for life, I found that running up and down the pavement produced a fabulous gamelan effect. Need I say that it was only thanks to the serenity of traffic-free streets around London University’s Bloomsbury campus that I was able to perceive this aural surprise in the first place.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020