Musical Rain-gauges at the Prague Quadrennial 2015 @PQ2015 #PQ2015

A couple of weeks ago I used some of my annual leave to accompany my wife, Amy, to the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, or PQ, where she was giving a paper. Amy had tried to explain this to me as like an “Olympics of Scenography” – where nations exhibited examples of performance design and space to the 180,000 people who are estimated to have attended the event. She was, of course, summarising it as basically as she could for me, as the event was a whole lot more than that description.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with Scenography, Wikipedia describes it as “the study and practice of performance design”. For me the most interesting aspects were the studies of space, and how people related to spaces on stage and around them. From the talks, exhibits and the materials in the book shop, it was clear that there is a very strong cross over with disciplines like architecture – this appealed to the former Planner in me.


It was very nice to see Amy (middle in the picture above) present her paper – it was the first time I’ve had the chance to do so. The room she presented in was very impressive and grand, although the geology on the walls was painted on (in fact, even one of the balconies was painted). My appalling photography skills doesn’t really do it justice.

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As I had a three-day pass, it gave me an opportunity to explore the exhibits spread across the Old Town of Prague. One of the themes was ‘weather’ and as a hydrometeorologist I was keen to see what had been created.


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Above is Sound of Music (in a Box). After spending so much time working with River in a Box and Humber in a Box, anything called ‘in a Box’ is going to grab my attention. This was part of Finland’s exhibit, where this piano had been left on a beach for a full year, experiencing the four seasons and then played. A recording of this could be heard via the headphones.


‘Melting Point’ was another exhibit by Finland and this grabbed my attention. You can see a video of this below. Here microphones were used to record the sounds of blocks of ice melting, and the drops falling into a pool underneath. This reminded me so much of Rolf Hut’s TED talk about the acoustic disdrometer – I wonder if music could be made by recording the passage of storms over a network of rain-gauges?

Although I was a long way out of my expertise looking around the exhibits, I really enjoyed viewing, experiencing and engaging with them, and discussing them with Amy. At the same time, in the same city, was the conference of the International Union of Geophysics and Geodesy – I really think that many of the delegates there would have enjoyed and been inspired by many of the exhibits at PQ, and vice versa. It’s a shame that we rarely get to experience things outside of our immediate disciplines even when two large, influential meeting coincide in the same city.

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