Artist Susie MacMurray is the first to admit her previous career as a professional classical musician has filtered into her working practices – and never more so than with her new installation at Fabrica.

“That meticulous repetition, playing scales, repeating things and practicing – it’s integrated into my work,” she says, having played the bassoon with the Halle Orchestra and others until she had her children.

“No matter what I do, in some way music builds up lots of different elements.”

Previous installations have seen her fill the walls of Chichester’s Pallant House with mussel shells packed with red velvet and close off part of Derbyshire’s Kedleston Hall with miles of fine gold thread wound between pillars in a giant atrium.

But Resonance refers not only to her own history as a musician but the former chapel as a place where music was performed for many years.

The installation sees thousands of pages of musical manuscripts turned into trumpet-like shapes and suspended from the ceiling to create an upside-down landscape.

“My installations usually start with the place,” says MacMurray, referring to her Pallant House installation that helped launch the newly refurbished Chichester gallery.

The inspiration came from the fact the builders had found shells in its foundations, as well as the history of the house.

“Pallant House was built on a marriage of convenience,” she says. “All the couple’s passion went into the building of the house. “When it was finished, there was nothing else holding them together – so they went their separate ways. The house is a shell-like bridal chamber for the passion they gave away, so I used shells and red silk velvet to represent the fact there was no expense spared.”

The Fabrica installation linked with experiments she was doing in her studio with sheet music. “I was struck by the way light comes into the space, and how it changes through the day,” she says.

“I wanted to make a piece of work to raise the eyes and make the audience think about the volume of the space, which the sound would have resonated around.”

Landscape of music

The sheet music was sourced from her own collections as a musician, as well as second-hand music shops and donations from friends. MacMurray broke the staples and threads from music books to separate them, and then used the same materials to put them together in a new form.

“With some of this music you can see the fingermarks and where the corners of the pages have been worn away from handling and turning pages,” she says.

“Playing music doesn’t make any mark at all but in some places it has gone into the atmosphere, into the history of what has gone on in the building. The music has almost gone into the air, although it’s not visible.

“I’m trying to point out how impossible it is to see music and describe what the landscape of music would be like.”

The music manuscripts vary from the sort of choral work which might have been performed in Fabrica when it was a chapel, alongside piano, violin and classical pieces, modern popular songs and even some 1930s sheet music.

“There’s everything from Max Bygraves to Cliff Richard to 1970s pop to Bananarama and The Beatles,” says MacMurray. “You see new things if you stand and look at it – I saw some Jesus Christ Superstar earlier. It’s such a broad range.

“I was thinking about letting people use binoculars to look up at it – I thought it would be rather nice as it fits with the idea of a landscape, like an upside down musical mountain, as well as using opera glasses.”

There is set to be a programme of talks, workshops and events to coincide with the summer installation, including performances by acts from the Brighton Early Music Festival.

But MacMurray resisted having music form a permanent part of the installation.

“It’s about an echo coming back from what went before,” she says. “Having music would be like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer. It’s more powerful to imagine it.”

The installation is quite different from her other solo work which will be on display in New York later this year, which employs material including wax, fish hooks and rubber hoses.

“I use fish hooks because I like that idea of danger and attraction,” she says. “I’m interested in those opposites.

“There’s a piece called Siren made out of lots of wires and fish hooks – it’s a beautiful, curvy and seductive piece, but also lethal.”