Prelude To A Number
(A performance in 1.6180339887… parts)
Phi, or the golden ratio, is one of those concepts that most people have sort of heard of. Kind of. A bit. The mathematical elements aren’t that familiar, but as soon as you mention that it’s the number in sunflowers, or that famous shell, or the Mona Lisa, most people sort of vaguely say “oh, yeah, I think I’ve heard of that” with a middle-distance stare and a slow head nod.
Dan’s been fascinated by phi for years. This number that seems to pop up all over the place, in art and nature, in our bodies and in architecture. The internet is steeped in theories: it’s the key to a beautiful face, it’s in the beats that get our hips moving, it’s the essence of the shapes that just, somehow, feel right. After a few post-band practice, late-night, beer-soaked chats we all decided to see whether we could write some music and stories about this number that seemed to be at the heart of our world.
In November 2012 we were given a Cornerhouse Microcommission to explore it further. To some members of Geddes Loom making a show about maths seemed a bit of an anathema, like making a show about (insert something here that is harder than maths). And this number, phi or the golden ratio, does have some very exciting mathematical properties. It is definitely maths. But the more we looked into it, the more we discovered that there is in fact significant proof that the number is not quite as ubiquitous as some people believe. We also discovered that the proof of its non-existence in certain key places is nowhere near enough to put people off their belief that phi is a mystical, magical number.
As we put together work for our sharing at Cornerhouse, Manchester in November 2012, we began to realize that we weren’t just making a show about maths, we were making a show about humans, about meaning, and about faith.
A year later we were awarded the Routes North commission (an initiative created by The Lowry (Salford), ARC (Stockton) and Theatre in the Mill (Bradford) to support Northern-based theatre artists). With the considerable support of these venues, as well as from Arts Council England, we swanned about all across the North for six weeks at the beginning of 2014, lugging our not-inconsiderable amount of kit with us (carrying a cello is annoying enough, but add to that about twenty tonnes of technology and a poet and you are talking some serious upper body strength). We stayed for two weeks at each venue and then performed the show for six nights – first at the Theatre In The Mill, then ARC, then The Lowry.
We worked with director Leo Kay (of Unfinished Business), producers David Morgan and Joanne Peters (of 53 degrees North), visual artist Sumit Sarkar, set and costume designer Florence McHugh, lighting designer Mark Distin and photographer Roshana Rubin-Mayhew.