Coastal drawing is inspiration for art

A 180-year-old drawing of a stretch of north east coast from the Tyne to the Tweed is being used as the inspiration for a unique sound work.

The 12.5 metre drawing from 1838 is on show now as part of an exhibition at Woodhorn Museum for Susan Stenger’s work, Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland.

Woodhorn Marketing Officer Deborah Tate at the sound strata exhibition.'Picture by Jane Coltman

Woodhorn Marketing Officer Deborah Tate at the sound strata exhibition.'Picture by Jane Coltman

The acclaimed sound installation was commissioned for AV Festival 14: Extraction. Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland is based on a cross-section diagram of coastal geological formations from the River Tyne to the Scottish border, drawn by the pioneering local mining engineer Nicholas Wood.

Using the diagram as a graphic score, Susan transformed the geologic into the sonic in a 59-minute work that travels from the coal seams of Tyneside to the porphyritic rocks north of the River Tweed, layering instrumental sounds, melodic patterns and signature rhythms extracted from traditional Northumbrian music and dance.

Responding to history, culture and place names as well as the drawn topography, Stenger combines the surface detail of fiddle and Northumbrian pipe patterns with deep shifting seams of brass band harmonies, Border and Highland pipes, and voice to create a singular portrait of place.

The installation features the 12.5-metre long geological strata diagram by Nicholas Wood, presented in a display case that replicates the contours of a section of the Northumberland coastline.

AV festival director Rebecca Shatwell said: “The tour takes one of our most striking festival commissions to unique locations in Northumberland, which are referenced on Nicholas Wood’s 1838 cross-section diagram of coastal geological formations that provided the original inspiration for the work.”

Woodhorn is the second venue on the 2015 tour across Northumberland which mirrors the diagram and travels to places referenced on the Wood drawing, thereby returning the work to the landscape of its inspiration.

Following a month long visit to Woodhorn, the exhibition will conclude on Holy Island in a former coastguard Lookout Tower.

Information about the exhibition tour can be found on

n A video of the exhibition is available at