LIFTED by Emily Peasgood: How many singers can you fit in a lift?


Dedicated to “the lifts and elevators of Planet Earth”, LIFTED is a most unusual choral installation created and composed by Emily Peasgood for performance by a live choir and beat boxer inside lifts and elevators. The premiere will take place on Sunday 17 January 2016 at Turner Contemporary in Margate before touring public lifts around the United Kingdom.

Here the composer describes the journey behind the piece.


LIFTED is the most complex and difficult work I have created. There were so many things I wanted to express, and so much potential for the work to be adjusted and expanded to suit different lift sizes and environments, that I initially felt conflicted as to how I could realise my ideas. The last two months have been intense but the work is now complete, the choir are rehearsing and I’m so happy that an idea I had four years ago has finally come to fruition.

I have always watched lift doors open and close, while imagining scenes that could magically appear the next time the doors open. When I first entered the 100-person capacity lift at Turner Contemporary, in 2011, I started singing. The acoustic of that lift is close and rich and I started to think about staging a choral event inside it with the audience on the outside looking in.

People often say to me: “Where do you get your ideas from?” We all have bemusing, or whimsical, ideas and I choose to roll with them. If it seems viable to me, it happens. And once you start to dig deeper even the most bizarre idea has many layers.

As a young person I spent a lot of time staring at my hands, looking at cracks on walls, or at the soles of my feet. I would stroke the leaves of a tree as I walked by, and sometimes even take a leaf as a memory of that small moment. I see joy in the small things that we tend to ignore as we move through life and grow taller. To me, the lift feels like a place that is often taken for granted. We enter, often consumed by thoughts of where we are going, what we need to buy and what’s happening at work. People, with intricate networks of family, friends, jobs, thoughts, feelings, stand in a small contained space – often ignoring each other – and wait, until they are delivered to their destination. Then they leave, almost unaware of the journey they have made. Despite its vacuous nature, the lift is a vehicle of transition from one place to another and that is why I decided to dedicate the work to the lift itself.

I decided to roll with LIFTED because of my fascination with what happens in our heads during our lift journey, and because of the lift’s potential as a creative space.

LIFTED also explores performance traditions and the expectation and meaning we give to performances when experienced within ‘traditional’ contexts such as the concert hall. Through removing the context of where choral music is traditionally performed, and by placing a choir in an unlikely space that traditionally ‘pipes’ Muzak through its speakers, LIFTED aims to create new experiences and meaning for audiences.

What I have valued most throughout this process has been the opportunity to create music for a very specific venue; I have played with the harmonics, overtones, rhythm, material, acoustic and architecture of the lift. Often, venues are created to house music whereas LIFTED has been created for the lift itself.

The lift has its own tradition of music known as elevator, or lift, music, background music or Muzak. When lifts were created people were sceptical of using them. I don’t recall where I heard this but apparently, music was ‘piped’ into lifts to calm people down. Either way, background music is everywhere, whether we like it or not, and it is music we do not usually pay attention to.

LIFTED is lift music that cannot be ignored: the antithesis of Muzak.

LIFTED will premiere with a 70 voice choir and beat boxer on Sunday 17 January 2016 at Turner Contemporary, Margate on the final day of the gallery’s RISK exhibition. Performances will take place at 1pm, 2pm and 4pm with a ground floor and consecutive first floor movement.

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Photograph of Emily Peasgood by Anton French.

Logo design: Laura Hart