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The Invention of Wonder

Updated: Jan 31

Video: Ray Lee

The Invention of Wonder is a sound art theatre performance that I am currently developing that takes as one of its starting points the Philosophical Table, which is an exhibit in the Science Museum in London. The table was used for public demonstrations of the new science, then known as Natural Philosophy, during the Enlightenment.

The Philosophical Table photo: (of a photo) Science Museum]

The Philosophical Table was a purpose made table used for public demonstrations of scientific phenomena. Experiments were set up and demonstrated on the tabletop, presenting the new scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment to the educated classes in late eighteenth century society. Lecturers such as Stephen Demainbray, Erasmus King and Benjamin Martin presented classes and lectures in the new science in London during the late eighteenth century and started a fashion for the popularisation of science that exists to this day.

This idea has been in my mind for over seventeen years, ever since I came across this table while visiting the science museum. I’m imagining a ‘sonic’ philosophical table where I set up and present sonic experiments and, having made my prototype sonic philosophical table, I am working towards a full length, 60-70 minutes, premiere of this new piece in the Autumn of 2024 in Oxford.


The Invention of Wonder
An irrational entertainment by Professor R.A.Lee 

The Invention of Wonder is a 60-minute sound art theatre performance that takes as one of its starting points the Philosophical Table, a table used to set up and demonstrate the new discoveries of science, what was known as Natural Philosophy during the Enlightenment.

In The Invention of Wonder, a purpose made sonic ‘philosophical table’ is used to generate sound through a series of electro-magnetic sculptural sonic ‘experiments’. These experiments will generate sonic 'evidence' of physical phenomena through the use of radio waves, magnetism, and electro-magnetic radiation.

Photos: Ray Lee

The experiments are conducted in a manner somewhere between an Enlightenment lecture on natural philosophy, a Victorian illusion and a performance of electronic music; an exploration of invisible forces made tangible, audible and physical. The sonic ‘evidence’ is used to create a compelling and immersive sound composition that may rekindle some of our lost wonder in ‘natural magic’ and the marvellous.


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