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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Variations on a Theme of Agatha Christie

Kefala Kerr, John (2020) Variations on a Theme of Agatha Christie. [Composition]

Item Type: Composition


Variations on a Theme of Agatha Christie is a new sound installation specially commissioned to accompany the forthcoming ‘Investigating Detectives’ exhibition at The Word which opens on Saturday 28 March. Created by composer, sound artist and writer John Kefala Kerr, the installation invites visitors to listen to sounds and music that draw their inspiration from detective fiction.

“Depictions of sound and music in crime novels create atmosphere, suspense and a sense of place,” says John. “Sometimes they even provide plot-critical clues for literary detectives—as when a piano is used to hide a murder weapon or a ukulele string is used to kill someone.”

As well as working with a varied palette of sounds, John is also taking inspiration from a musical composition that Agatha Christie herself wrote in 1913.

“It is not generally known,” John explains, “that in her youth Agatha Christie composed music. For the installation, I’ve composed music inspired by one of Agatha Christie’s own piano waltzes. The music will be performed on a priceless violin which was itself the subject of a sleuthing exercise, having hit the headlines a few months ago when it was stolen from a London train.”

With a prominent role given to the (recovered) violin, John’s musical score will include a dramatic passage for virtual orchestra which will embed some of the conventional sounds of contemporary and hardboiled detective fiction—a Rebus cityscape, a Poirot railway carriage, the striking of a Marlowe matchstick.

To create his Variations, John has enlisted the help of the ukulele ensemble and choir that meet regularly at The Word. He will also lead sound-recording workshops with youngsters from local primary schools.

With its varied palette of vocal, acoustic and digital instruments and sound effects, John’s installation will provide a rich, thought-provoking and subtly ambient complement to the Investigating Detectives exhibition.

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More Information

Depositing User: John Kefala-Kerr


Item ID: 11848
Official URL:

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2020 13:57
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2020 13:57


Author: John Kefala Kerr

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications


Performing Arts > Music
Performing Arts

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