Alex Hawthorn – The Book of Hours


I initially conceived of The Book of Hours after visiting the exhibition, Transcending Time, at the Getty Museum in late 2021. I was drawn to the devotional aspect of the Canonical Hours, specifically: a schedule of daily prayer eight times a day, roughly every three hours.

I used the schedule of the Canonical Hours as a structure for a durational performance in the WaveCave, an installation gallery in the School of Music at CalArts. Beginning at sunset on January 30th, I would improvise electro-acoustic pieces according to the daily schedule laid out in the Canonical Hours: midnight, 3am, sunrise, 9am, noon, 3pm, sunset, 9pm. The sound remained on continuously throughout the week - each piece would begin from the soundscape that was left from the previous piece, three hours prior. The pieces ranged in duration from around 10 minutes up to 30 minutes. When not improvising (or sleeping) I read, wrote, and thought about the concepts of time.

The experience of performing The Book of Hours was completely unlike what I expected. I was most worried about adhering to the sleep schedule, but I adapted very quickly. I felt a deep sense of calm for the entirety of the performance, my pace slowed, and I felt more intentional with my time. Without internet or phone access, my only contact with other people was with whomever decided to enter the gallery. The slower, more intentional pace gave my ideas time to form and comingle.