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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

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Kefala-Kerr, John (2021) Variations on a Theme of Agatha Christie. 21/10/21 - 12/03/22, National Centre for the Written Word.

Item Type: Show/Exhibition


Variations on a Theme of Agatha Christie is an audio-visual installation specially commissioned to accompany the ‘Investigating Detectives’ exhibition at The National Centre for the Written word. The installation invites visitors to hear sounds/music that draw their inspiration from detective fiction.

Depictions of sound and music in crime novels create atmosphere, suspense and a sense of place. 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. In deploying a varied palette of sounds, the work takes a musical composition by Agatha Christie herself as one of its points of departure. Some of the music is performed on a priceless violin (by Steve Morris), which was itself the subject of a sleuthing exercise, having hit the headlines when it was stolen from a London train.

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

With its varied palette of vocal, acoustic and digital instruments and sound effects, 'Variations' provides a rich and subtly ambient complement to the National Centre's Investigating Detectives exhibition, which opened in October 2021. the installation provides an ironic counterpoint to the exhibition by responding to Christie-related scholarship and identity politics in the post-Brexit UK context.

An online version of 'Variations' is on permanent display on the national Centre for the written Word's website.

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More Information

Depositing User: John Kefala-Kerr


Item ID: 16060
Official URL:

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 11 May 2023 15:46
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 15:46


Author: John Kefala-Kerr

University Divisions

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


Performing Arts > Music
Fine Art

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