It is not often that oral language is featured in a museum exhibition. But the exhibition: "Last Whispers: Oratorio for Vanished Voices, Collapsing Universes and a Falling Tree" currently at The British Museum, features sound recordings from endangered languages around the world. It includes Warlpiri and Light Warlpiri, highly threatened languages spoken in Australia, with the recordings contributed by U-M Professor Carmel O'Shannessy.
Professor O'Shannessy was invited by the Director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur, to contribute recordings of children and adults speaking in their first languages. Professor O'Shannessy said that she was intrigued by the concept and pleased to be part of it. "It can be difficult for people to understand how much is at stake, culturally and intellectually, with the potential loss of these languages", she said, "Maybe this exhibition will help to raise awareness of the issues."
From The British Museum Special Event Page:
Last Whispers is an immersive installation by artist Lena Herzog built on themes of ritual and gesture, loss and dislocation.
Herzog’s team worked in collaboration with SOAS World Languages Institute and the Endangered Languages Archive, both at SOAS, University of London. Together, they pulled together an extensive source library of hundreds of voice recordings from all over the planet. The resulting sound installation comprises voices speaking and singing in languages that are extinct or endangered.
Based on these words, songs and stories, Herzog and composers Marco Capalbo and Mark Mangini have created an experiential soundscape and accompanying video, gathering this vanishing chorus from distant worlds into one unifying piece.
Last Whispers premiered at the British Museum as part of Bloomsbury Festival.