Sonic Geography

A picture of mountains against a blue sky

7 Jul 2023

Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3WS


Standard Tickets £30
Affordable Tickets £15 & £10

Running time: Approx. 2 hours


Accessibility features available for this event: Wheelchair Access Assistive Hearing

New music inspired by the climate crisis. A world premiere by John Luther Adams, played by pianist Ralph Van Raat alongside new commissions by Ailís Ní Ríain and Alissa Firsova, all performed by the BBC Philharmonic and conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni.

‘The deepest past and the distant future are written in the rocks beneath our feet.’

From mountains that rise out of icefields to rocks that lie deep beneath the earth’s surface, this concert of three new works was inspired by the resolve, resilience and magic of the natural world.

A world premiere from Grammy Award-winning composer John Luther Adams, Prophecies of Stone looked to Arctic landscapes and the sonic geography they conjure up. This atmospheric piece journeyed through mountainous terrain and was brought to life across four movements by solo pianist Ralph Van Raat and the BBC Philharmonic.

Spell of Creation by Alissa Firsova explored the interconnectedness of the natural world, with a contralto soloist taking centre stage. Composer and writer Ailís Ní Ríain also considered environmental awareness through a new composition, The Land Grows Weary of its Own.

Conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni and performed with the BBC Philharmonic at Manchester’s iconic The Bridgewater Hall, the concert soared through soundscapes that reminded us of our place in nature.

Encompassing stillness and movement, peaks and depths – these were the sounds of environments that will live on long after humans. An opportunity to get lost in time and music.



Featuring the world premieres of:

Prophecies of Stone by John Luther Adams

The Land Grows Weary of its Own by Ailís Ní Ríain

Spell of Creation by Alissa Firsova

Prophecies of Stone commissioned by Factory International and Residentie Orchestra The Hague

Spell of Creation co-commissioned by BBC Philharmonic and Factory International

The Land Grows Weary of its Own co-commissioned by BBC Philharmonic, Factory International and The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland

Produced by Factory International for Manchester International Festival and BBC Philharmonic


Spell of Creation by Alissa Firsova was inspired by four poems, reproduced below with permission of the respective authors.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower – Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

© Dylan Thomas, 1934. Courtesy of David Higham Associates

To the Evening Star – William Blake

Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And then the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence!

Rewakening – taken from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

If Sleep and Death be truly one,
And every spirit's folded bloom
Thro' all its intervital gloom
In some long trance should slumber on;
Unconscious of the sliding hour,
Bare of the body, might it last,
And silent traces of the past
Be all the colour of the flower:
So then were nothing lost to man;
So that still garden of the souls
In many a figured leaf enrolls
The total world since life began;
And love will last as pure and whole
As when he loved me here in Time,
And at the spiritual prime
Rewaken with the dawning soul.

Spell of Creation – Kathleen Raine

Within the flower there lies a seed,
Within the seed there springs a tree,
Within the tree there spreads a wood.
In the wood there burns a fire,
And in the fire there melts a stone,
Within the stone a ring of iron.
Within the ring there lies an O,
Within the O there looks an eye,
In the eye there swims a sea,
And in the sea reflected sky,
And in the sky there shines the sun,
Within the sun a bird of gold.
Within the bird there beats a heart,
And from the heart there flows a song,
And in the song there sings a word.
In the word there speaks a world,
A world of joy, a world of grief,
From joy and grief there springs my love.
Oh love, my love, there springs a world,
And on the world there shines a sun,
And in the sun there burns a fire,
Within the fire consumes my heart,
And in my heart there beats a bird,
And in the bird there wakes an eye,
Within the eye, earth, sea and sky,
Earth, sky and sea within an O
Lie like the seed within the flower.

© Kathleen Raine, courtesy the author.

Access Information

The full address of the venue is The Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3WS

What3words is:


Entrance to the The Bridgewater Hall for events is through the Hall’s main doors, located on Lower Mosley Street.

The Bridgewater Hall has step free access into the auditorium, meeting rooms, restaurant, bars and toilets. The Box Office, Stalls Foyer and Auditorium are at ground level with step free access. All other floors are accessible via lifts.

- Lifts have voice announcements and raised lettering on the control panel.

- All stair landings have raised lettering with directional information.

- The bars on Stalls, Circle and Gallery levels, and the Box Office all have low level, accessible counter positions.

There are 16 wheelchair spaces located in various level access areas in the auditorium, with spaces available on every level. Bridgewater Hall also offers a wheelchair loan service for transfer use.

There is one unisex accessible toilet available on each of the four floors of the building, with level access from the Auditorium.

The facilities on Choir Circle level (level 2) feature a sliding door, with all other levels comprising accessible swing doors. On the Stalls level, the toilet can be found on the left of the building, easily accessible from the main entrance and Stalls Auditorium. The upper floors facilities are next to the lift. Staff will always be available to direct you to the nearest facility.

No Audio description was planned for this event.

Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the building and auditorium. Dog mats are available on request and the Box Office can advise on the most suitable seating.

No BSL interpretation was planned for this event.

All the windows at the Box Office are low level and equipped with hearing loops.

All Auditorium levels have a Sennheiser infrared hearing system. Please note that not all seats in the Auditorium are covered by the infrared system, contact the Box Office for more details on areas covered by the system.

The Bridgewater hall offers three types of receivers:

  • Stethoscope receivers, for patrons with impaired hearing
  • Necklet induction couplers, for use with switchable hearing aids
  • Earpiece receivers, for use with digital in ear hearing aids

These are all available from the cloakroom on the Stalls foyer. The cloakroom attendant will advise on the appropriate receiver and use of the system. The Box Office and Cloakroom counters are all fitted with loop systems.

No Captioning was planned for this event.

No Relaxed Performance was planned for this event.

Travel Information

The closest stations to The Bridgewater hall are:

Deansgate station and Deansgate-Castlefield tram : 0.3 miles

St Peter’s Square tram: 0.3 miles

Manchester Oxford Road station: 0.4 miles

Click on the links above to find detailed access information for each station.

Many buses, including the free city centre bus service, stop within easy walking distance of The Bridgewater Hall.

Bus stops on Great Bridgewater Street, directly behind the Hall are served by routes 33, 33b, 255, 256, and x50.

The nearest free bus stops are:
Mount Street/ Peter Street (300m) – Route 2
Deansgate station(500m) – Route 3

The nearest car parks to the hall are Q-Park, NCP Manchester Central, NCP Great Northern and NCP Oxford Street. All of these are accessible.

NCP Manchester Central is located on Lower Mosley Street, directly opposite the Hall. Access to and from this car park is by lift or ramp between Barbirolli Square and the canal basin and covered walkway under Lower Mosley Street.

To pre-book parking or for more information contact NCP on 0845 050 7080 or visit NCP website.

There are a number of bike parking spaces near The Bridgewater Hall:

8 spaces by the Peterloo Monument, Windmill St, Manchester M2 3DW

10 spaces on Bishopsgate, Manchester M2 3BG

22 spaces on Windmill Street, Manchester M3 4EE

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