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Thursday, February 26, 2009 

With 1 day left until PACMF09 starts ( there is now a PDF info-document of Karen Wimhurst and Rebecca Stott’s multimedia Darwin opera “Darwin’s Barnacle”, which is premiering at PACMF09. The document can be found at:....'s%20Barnacle%20Perf.pdf

You can also find a preview of one of the performances for this Saturday night’s interFace II event (ICCMR - music and evolutionary technology). Nick Grew - an Evan Parker collaborator - will be working with an ICCMR drummer and an acoustic drum kit live. The input to Grew's audio manipulation devices will include the drum kit and some evolutionary music composed at the ICCMR. An example of Grew’s work at the Café Concrete PACMF preview event can be heard in the following live ambient recording:


Monday, February 23, 2009 

Mon 23rd Feb 8:30pm - Cafe Concrete PACMF09 Preview

Café Concrète is an intimate night of experimental ambient electronica, sound art, film and music from the outer limits.
It usually happens every last Monday of every month upstairs at the Voodoo Lounge, Plymouth, UK, from 830pm.

On Monday 23rd February 2009, there will be a special Café Concrète event in partnership with the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival ( This will feature live collaborations and clashes between Lona Kozik & Neil Rose, and Alexis Kirke & Mesa, with DJ Contort raiding the Peninsula Arts sonic archives. The £4 entry fee includes a free DVD.


Thursday, February 19, 2009 


"24 Fragments" Saturday 21st Feb and PACMF09 Saturday 28th Feb

This Saturday 21st February there will be 24 hours of events in 24 places for the Fragmented Orchestra, an installation/composition which won the PRS New Music Award 2008, and which is featuring in PACMF09 ( It is a visionary work which enables us to hear the human brain at work and the sound of the UK. On that day, in Plymouth from 6pm to 9pm in the Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth there will be a talk and two performances (all free):

Alexis Kirke: Music and the Brain (talk)
Soundbox Concert: Ten Tors string quartet
David Strang: Building Systems (new sonic work)

At PACMF09 ( the first event on the Saturday of the festival (28th Feb) is a chance to meet and hear a free talk by the 2008 NMA Award Winners themselves: sound-artist Jane Grant, musician/physicist John Matthias and BAFTA winner Nick Ryan This talk will discuss and explain the concept - at 11:15am in the Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009 

Darwin Day Review - Alexis Kirke's Music Notes

As part of the run-up to PACMF09 ( we presented Darwin Day celebrations at the University of Plymouth, including two compositions. Alexis Kirke's notes on his evolutionary and biological compositions "Happy Birthday Darwin" and "Evolution of visual cortex" (together with the recordings) are now available online at:


Monday, February 16, 2009 


PACMF09 PODCast #4 - Mike Phillips talks about the i-DAT Festival piece "Variations"

“Variations” is a multimedia piece which will be performed at PACMF09 ( at 2pm on the 28th Feb 09 in the Jill Craigie Cinema at the University of Plymouth. Mike Phillips of i-DAT has produced a fascinating (and hilarious!) PODCast about the piece:

Saturday 28 February 2.00pm:
Concert (Multimedia) Free event
Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

i-DAT with Dr. Andrew Evenden
Variations (premiere)

A digital AV composition in three forms: A10 - "These two months at Plymouth were the most miserable which I ever spent”. F10 - Laws of Variation. M10 - Gene-Pool (the shallow end). Inspired by Darwin’s thwarted attempts to leave Plymouth, Variations is a generative work playfully exploring some of Darwin’s insights.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 


Darwin all-day Music/Cinema/Dance/Party (12th Feb) at University of Plymouth, UK

As part of the lead-up to PACMF09 (, Peninsula Arts and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research present an all-day celebration of Darwin's 200th Birthday in the Roland Levinsky Building at the University of Plymouth, UK.

Below is info on tomorrow’s (Thurs 12th Feb) four Darwin 200 celebration events of music, performance, talks, film and a party at 12pm, 6pm, 7pm and 7:20pm. All events free!

**12pm Roland Levinksy Foyer**
Adam Benjamin and performance students - Dance
James Eden and Olly rooks - Visuals
Alexis Kirke – Music
David Coslett - Readings

In the Roland Levinsky Foyer a procession of Adam Benjamin and performing arts students will improvise to evolutionary genetic music by Alexis Kirke, with a simultaneous process of generational visual art by James and Olly. This will be interspersed with short Darwin readings performed by David Coslett.
**6pm – Roland Levinksy Foyer**
Adam Benjamin and performance students - Dance
James Eden and Olly rooks - Visuals
Sam Richards and Alexis Kirke – Music

Once again, in the Roland Levinsky Foyer, Adam Benjamin and performing arts students will improvise dance. This will be to music Sam Richards and Alexis Kirke – Alexis’ computer vision algorithms will respond emotionally to the visual art produced at lunchtime, and generate a performance which Sam Richards will improvise piano to.
**7pm – Jill Craigie Cinema**
Micro-talks on Evolution, Darwin and the Arts by: Professor Eduardo Miranda, Dr Peter Smithers, Dr Alexis Kirke James Eden, Olly Rooks

Film (5 minutes) – While Darwin Sleeps
**7:20pm to 8pm – Roland Levinksy Foyer**
Cake cutting – Christopher Darwin

Darwin 200 reception/party – Christopher Darwin (a relation of Charles and Erasmus Darwin) will cut the cake!

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, February 08, 2009 

Music and Poetry

Last night's Language Club was a preview event for PACMF09 ( It included a collaboration between Alexis Kirke and Norman Jope combining music composition and poetry. Another interesting aspect was the guest reader: Simon Jenner who read an excellent poem about Xenakis from his new collection. For an interesting article by Simon on contemporary classical music, see

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 

PACMF09 PODCast #3 - Michael Finnissy interviewed by Ian Pace

Pianist Ian Pace and Composer Michael Finnissy, two pre-eminent contemporary music figures - are presented here in conversation at Plymouth about Finnissy's work, in the run-up to PACMF09 (

Ian Pace will also be performing at PACMF09:

Sunday 1st March 4:00pm: Concert
Upper Lecture Theatre, Sherwell Centre, University of Plymouth

Piano and Electronics
Ian Pace

Ian Pace is one of Europe’s leading performers of contemporary piano music. In this concert he will demonstrate his extraordinary virtuosity through performances of a selection of pieces for piano and electronics, including Eduardo R. Miranda’s Grain Streams, Konrad Boehmer’s Orpheus Unplugged, and work by Hilda Paredes.

Monday, February 02, 2009 

Karen Wimhurst Interview on Darwin's Barnacle

Nigel Morgan - Composer and Visiting Research Fellow at the ICCMR - interviews Karen Wimhurst about her Opera Darwin's Barnacle being premiered at PACMF09 (

Q1: Karen, bringing the story of Darwin’s Barnacle to the stage is a most intriguing idea. You describe it as ‘intimate music theatre’, but it’s billed as an opera. How should we talk about this piece? A music-theatre work with operatic intentions?

It could be described as ‘an operatic monologue’ and is intimate in the sense that there is only one singer (Darwin) and a cello (Emma) in the performance.  Another key component is my ongoing work with artist Keith McIntyre which brings a visual art component into the show, making it a sort of music/art collaboration.  

Q2: You’ve said that the Plymouth premiere will, because of the limitations of funding, be a workshop performance and you hope to expand the piece later in the year. So this version is not your original vision for the piece. Can you explain how you’d like to see this piece develop?

Well, in early stages of discussion we were talking about a grand opera, but as the budget became clear I realised that realistically we were looking for something much more focused and less all encompassing.  Rebecca Stott’s book seemed ideal for this sort of scale and having worked on the piece, it has felt a really interesting starting point. So now I’m gripped by the possibilities for ‘Darwin and the Barnacle’.  My ambitions are to enlarge the score to a chamber ensemble rather than just one player… it will still be an intimate piece but not quite as small as at the present.  During this performance it will be interesting to see whether the cellist as Emma, rather that another singer, is potent enough and can be taken further given more instruments on board.  With a proper rehearsal schedule in the future, we’ll be able to develop the artist’s material as a dramatic element , really work on the character of Darwin  and , with our fantastic lighting designer Ace McCarron,  bring lighting to the fore as a key artistic contribution.    In creating the libretto (all Darwin’s own written word).  I’ve had the help of to key biologists, Dr John Spicer and Peter Smithers so,  I look forward to a continuing debate following the show with regards to scientific content, the position of Darwin’s illness in his life, the man and the meaning all meshed together.  

Q3: Even in its reduced music theatre form this is quite an enterprise and undertaking. Who is funding the project and its performance?

Simon Ible as head of Peninsula Arts approached me in the early stages to suggest the piece.
Q4: Can you tell me a little about the genesis of Darwin’s Barnacle. Was it a response to this year’s anniversary, or had you developed the idea previously. Did you happen to read the book and think – ah, this would make a great piece of music theatre! Or was it a question of searching for an angle on Darwin.

When Simon got in touch suggesting an opera about Darwin I was thrilled as a few years earlier I had already developed ideas for an opera about Darwin with a writer friend for the Eden Project, but the idea only got so far.  So, it’s something I’ve had in my mind for a long time.  In part, it is about exploring scientific ideas, the natural world and resulting philosophies through a musical medium. I had also come across Rebecca’s book through my sister’s recommendation.  Her book club voted it their favourite read of the year!  So,  Darwin’s anniversary has been an opportunity to put some previous ideas into action.  
Q5: Obviously Rebecca Stott’s book is a key part of the project. Did she write the libretto?

I have adapted the book and met up with Rebecca for advice, emails etc.  I’ve also researched Darwin’s letters, other biographical sources to pull things together.  One of the key criterion for the piece has been using Darwin’s own words.  As mentioned previously, I’ve also run the piece past Dr. Spicer and Mr Smithers for their input.  At a key stage in the writing, my director Rhian Hutchings and Ace McCarron took it over for a theatrical revamp.  I hope in the future to also consult Dr Steve Johnson to develop the ‘illness’ imagery the piece. 
Q6: I’ve read the (excellent) book so a lot of the scenario makes sense. If I hadn’t read Stott’s text, then I’d be pretty confused I think! Ho do you see the music, images and staging will fill the gaps between the libretto and the context?

Well, the piece doesn’t take all of Rebecca’s book on.  She has a lot of background….Darwin as a student in Edinburgh, Cambridge, the Beagle, which is entirely missing.  Also, a fascinating overview of the historical times which Darwin was working in, development of the railways, the postal service, the French revolution, none of this has been possible to put in.  The monologue takes on a limited remit.  That is to express Darwin’s absolute fascination and delight in observing the natural world; his struggle to win his scientific spurs; the initial progress toward the ‘Origins’;  this very strange and poetic interplay between Darwin’s life, a barnacles life and Darwin’s illness. 
Whether it will be coherent remains to be seen….whether coherence is the objective remains to be seen. 

Q7: What I like about the libretto is that it uses so many of the most telling extracts from Darwin’s own diary and letters (quoted by Stott). Darwin really struggled with language, finding the right words for such marvels; his language is also infused with speculation. The text appears to be entirely made up of Darwin’s own words from his letters and diaries. Did you consider a more formal poetic treatment perhaps? Some of the setting (as it is) must have been most challenging to do.

There wasn’t really the money for a librettist which a more formal poetic approach would have needed. So that initially was not a consideration. However, the poetry of scientific endeavour and observation itself and the fastidiousness with which Darwin engaged with language is really fascinating and with Rebecca’s book as a key structural force, it has been a stimulating way to fashion an illuminating libretto.  It feels true to Darwin and the  poetry of biology itself is part of what I’m dealing with . Metaphor was key to Darwin in reaching out to people and I think all of his prose and less formal letters rings with the vigour of  his enchantment and excitement with the natural world.  The hard core scientific terminology in the piece I have used to illustrate the wonder of spending 8 years looking down a microscope dissecting these minute animals, the passion for detailed observation and the actuality of the barnacle publications.  Eight years, can you imagine it!  
Q8: Did Emma Darwin play the cello? If so that would be so in keeping with the way you’ve chosen to assemble the libretto. If not, why did you choose this instrument?

Emma actually played the piano but I chose not to be literal in that way (although Chopin is quoted).  With the possibility of only one instrument, the cello has a huge range of possibilities and is extremely curvaceous (!).  Darwin’s family, the family residence of Down and especially Emma herself were all encompassing in Darwin’s life.  When the cello is Emma (in this production she also has to be the chamber ensemble as well), we’re talking about the inner qualities of a life partnership, support, sexuality for Darwin, ….not a literal portrayal of Emma.  I also had the cellist Sophie Harris in mind as someone I would like to collaborate with.
Q9: I think the play of music between the baritone solo (Darwin) the cello (Emma?) is most effective. Indeed, I’m surprised that it is so scrupulously scored and musically detailed. I mean here that I expected, prior to seeing the score and knowing a little about your music for theatre, a slightly looser conception. I would imagine it’s going to prove quite a challenging piece to learn (from memory?).

Indeed, it could well be that for this performance the singer will need a score at times.  I not expecting perfection at this moment in time. 

Q10: Stott makes quite a lot of Darwin’s illness in her book, particularly its link with the death of Darwin’s father and Darwin’s own loss of his Christian faith. It’s very common for such traumatic events to affect people physically – I speak from personal experience. Yet you’ve chosen not to mention this. Darwin is ill, and we appear to know very little about the illness, and nothing about the cure (which was highly successful by all accounts).

Oh. Illness runs through out the piece, punctuating all the scenes, it is just that it is seen as ‘silent’ (at least with a backing track of water).  There is a big ‘illness’ moment however when Dr Gully’s water cure is seen on stage.  I think it’s a very important part of the piece and I would like to explore it further.  It is the time when Darwin steps out of himself into a more surreal environment in the piece.  His illness was crippling but also key I think to his personality and achievements, (theories range from psychosomatic to an undiagnosed milk allergy).  In the piece it’s also an opportunity to explore the strain of the theories he was carrying and some of the vicious reception in the hands of his critics (and also Christian fundamentalists today) 
Q11: Can you say a little about the interaction between your music and images of Keith McIntyre? What should the audience expect to see as a visual commentary? Is it music first, image second? Or is there an interplay based on a collaboration between the two?

In this case, the libretto and ideas have been first.  This has given Keith and I a framework to work in. 
Q12: How are you intending to describe theatrically the passing of time, those eight years Darwin spent on this work that he intended only spending a few months on?

It’s dealt with rather swiftly I’m afraid.  Mainly through the number of children which pop out (!)…eight in all.

1st March 8:00pm: Opera
Theatre 1, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth
Darwin's Barnacle
Karen Wimhurst and Rebecca Stott
An intimate piece fusing music theatre, drawing and scientific research, portraying Darwin's eight year obsession with barnacles. While participating in Dr. Gully's strange water cure, Darwin struggles to unlock the riddle of this abberant species to move him towards one of the most spectacular breakthroughs ever known. Artist Keith McIntyre and composer Karen Wimhurst collaborate with writer Rebecca Stott in a work inspired by Stott's wonderful novel 'Darwin and the Barnacle'. Directed by Rhian Hutchin's with lighting by Ace McCarron


Saturday, January 24, 2009 


Language Club PACMF09 Preview and Tony Lopez

Below are details of the Language Club PACMF09 Preview:
The Language Club with Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival presents
Poetry in Performance
At Plymouth Arts Centre
Saturday February 7th 7.30pm-10.00.
Guest reader Simon Jenner
and Norman Jope
with a “preview” of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2009
Plus Open Mike & Bar
(Singers and musicians very welcome)
Tickets £5.00 and £3.00 concessions
Simon Jenner edits Eratica magazine, a Sussex-based arts publication which highlights poetry. He has produced two volumes of his own poetry, the most recent of which, About Bloody Time, was published in 2007 by Waterloo Press. Jenner’s work is rich and complex and combines his interest in music and literature with autobiographical narratives and a probing, psychological thrust.
There’s a playful element to his writing, enhanced by his ‘quiet ravaging of syntax’ and his creation of narratives which are entertaining as well as being oblique and mysterious. Writers as diverse as Andrew Duncan and Robert Nye have praised his poetry. 
Norman Jope’s new collection, The Book of Bells & Candles, has just been published by Waterloo Press. He is a core member of the Language Club and has published several previous collections, including For the Wedding Guest (Stride, 1996). As this event is a preview event for PACMF09 on 27th Feb–1st Mar (, Norman will be performing a collaboration with Alexis Kirke.
Info: Tim on 01752-661339

The Professor of Poetry at Plymouth, Tony Lopez, will be reading at Dartington in the week leading up to the festival (you can also check out his Writing at Plymouth Blog at

Marianne Morris and Tony Lopez
Thursday 26 February
Studio 3 at 7.30pm
A brand new series of four evening performances dedicated to reading will take place at the Dartington Campus, once a month, starting in January and continuing until April. The series will feature some of the most innovative and dynamic writers currently working in the UK ranging from those who have published their first major collection in the last few years to those who have many books behind them. The performances will take place in Studio 3, one of the best technically-equipped studios in the region, and will include highly thoughtful and measured readings, dynamic vocal performances, as well as engagements with a range of audio-visual media.
Marianne Morris was born in Canada and raised in London. She studied English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge and currently resides in London Bad Press in 2002, and together with Jow Lindsay and Jonathan Stevenson now publishes occasional poetry chapbooks and magazines. writing poetry and prose, making collage pieces and the odd bit of taxidermy. She founded
Her published poetry includes: A New Book From Barque Press, Which They Will Probably Not Print (Barque Press, 2006); Cocteau Turquoise TurningFetish Poems (Bad Press, 2004); Gathered Tongue (2003); Memento Mori (Bad Press, 2003); Poems in Order (Bad Press, 2002). (2004);
Tony Lopez’s most recent poetry collections are Covers (Salt, 2007) and False Memory (Salt, 2003), which was a book of the year in the New Statesman and poetry book of the year in the Guardian. He has received awards from The Wingate Foundation, The Society of Authors and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. His poetry is featured in Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry (Oxford), Vanishing Points (Salt), Other (Wesleyan) and Conductors of Chaos (Picador). His critical writings are collected in Meaning Performance: Essays on Poetry (Salt, 2006) and The Poetry of W.S. Graham (Edinburgh University Press, 1989). He has given readings throughout the UK, Europe and North America. He teaches in England at the University of Plymouth, where he was appointed the first Professor of Poetry in 2000. His website is at
Contact :
Studio 3, School of Art & Performance Dartington Campus, (University College Falmouth incorporating Dartington College of Arts), Totnes TQ9 6EJ

Friday, January 23, 2009 


Cafe Concrete Event: Artists and Performances Announced

The latest news on the Cafe Concrete festival preview event. From the Cafe Concrete flyer:
"On Monday 23rd February, there will be a special Café Concrete event as a run up to the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival.  This will feature collaborations and clashes between Peninsula Arts and Café Concrete artists including Lona Kozik and Neil Rose, Alexis Kirke and Mesa, and DJ Contort."
Lona Kozik (Pianist) and Alexis Kirke (Percussionist) are University/PenArts-related artists, Neil Rose is from the Plymouth College of Art and Design and involved in Cafe Concrete, Mesa and DJ Contort are both Cafe Concrete artists. The plan is for Lona and Neil to perform a minimalist piano piece with electronics and digital manipulation. Similarly for Mesa and Alexis. DJ Contort will be generating a new performance using as source material a series of recordings by University of Plymouth/Peninsula Arts-related artists.
Cafe Concrete, Monday 23rd February 2009, 8:30pm, Voodoo Lounge, Drakes Circus, Plymouth, UK 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 


Darwin Day and updates on PACMF09

Darwin Day (12th Feb)
As part of the lead-up to PACMF09 ( there will be events in the Roland Levinsky Building at the University of Plymouth on 12th Feb (Darwin Day), to 200 years since Darwin's birth:
1-2pm Crosspoint: Darwin-related dance/physical performance with visual art and music by PACMF09 performers/composoers.
6-8pm Jill Craigie Cinema: Talks and readings on Darwin's anniversary, followed by a film/audio-visual feature.
More details will be posted soon.
Festival Magazine
The festival magazine "Notation" publication date has been pushed back to the 2nd half of February. But it'll be worth the wait!
Local Press
There will be an article relating the the festival on Spotlight (ITV1) and the Plymouth Evening Herald tomorrow. Today's Plymouth Evening Herald contains an article on the festival lead-up events:

Saturday, January 10, 2009 

PACMF09 on Phonic FM today

Alexis Kirke, of Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Group, will be on Phonic FM Exeter this afternoon (10 Jan, 2pm-4pm) being interviewed about the festival. Music relating to PACMF09 will also be played. See below.
Every 2nd & 4th Saturday of the month.

Presented by Arash Torabi (247 magazine contributer) & Nigel Muntz (247 magazine head honcho)


Exeter 106.8FM and everywhere else.

We play loads of different styles, so this is NOT a DJ mix show. We get sent loads of promos to review and we play some of those. We also play older stuff and basically whatever we feel like at the time.

We only chat about music and events. No bullshit, just straight up quality records from the South West's most KICK-ASS magazine.

07 Jan 2009


Michael Stimpson performance

Phase two of Michael Stimpson's Age of Wonders will be premiered at PACM09 ( Below is info about the performances of phrases one and three in London in the next couple of weeks: 


The first and third phases of Age of Wonders, a new 4-stage work to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, are now booked for premiere at the Wigmore Hall on January 21st 2009. This falls just a few days prior to Darwin's birthdate in early February.




06 Jan 2009


Language Club confirm Festival Preview Event 7th Feb 09

The Language Club - a regular poetry event at Plymouth Arts Centre - have confirmed that their Saturday Feb 7th 7:30pm meeting will also act as a preview event for the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 09 ( The event will include information about the festival, music-related poetry, and also some combined poetry/sound-art work.

PACMF09 are proud to be associated with the Language Club. The club's poetry pedigree is far from regional - with many of their regular attendees and featured readers being of national significance in the contemporary poetry scene.

We'll post full details of the preview event here in the next couple of weeks.




31 Dec 2008


PACMF09 Salt Itinerary : Digitality and the Opera

"The term 'digital art' has itself become an umbrella for such a broad range of artistic works and practies that it does not describe one unified set of aesthetics". [1] Computer art and multimedia art are two terms that preceded the term digital art. Similarly in the world of opera, the term 'multimedia opera' was used by the authors who integrate digital technology to their operatic opus, and the term digital opera is less often used (for example "digital opera in three dimensions" Monsters of Grace by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson). Generally, it seems possible to distinguish two broad groups of digital opera: the first includes works whose digitalism is primarily based on usage of multimedia means, and the second, works whose whole structure is built on digital principles. In this text I will demonstrate those two groups of operas by two examples - 'multimedia opera' Itinerario do Sal (2005) by Portuguese poet and composer Miguel Azguime and opera One (2003) by Dutch composer Michel van der Aa.

While writing The Death of the Author ("La mort de l' auteur", 1968), Roland Barthes contemplated on the hand which moves relentlessly, on the mixture of different texts, on the performativity of the body which writes. This highly influential essay still conceptually coincides with multiple contemporary artistic practices. In a recent sound poetry performance work The Air of the Text Operates the Form of the Inner Sound ( O Ar do Texto Opera a Forma do Som Interior ) by Miguel Azguime (1960), Barthes's text was metaphorically played on the stage. Dressed like a cabaret man in dark elegant shirt, dark pants with braces, Azguime himself was sitting at a table, talking in Portuguese, writing, laughing and making percussive noise. His narrative was on authorship, sounds, silence, gaze, body, text, the air. He was making sounds using a pencil as he simulated the act of writing. Those percussive sounds together with the sound of the verses he recited were processed live with electronics. The narrative on problematization of the authorship together with the gestures of the author/performer/writer served both as a dramaturgical frame and as sound material. [2]

After experiencing it, you will probably ask yourself about its genre: Is it an electro acoustic music composition? Is it sound poetry? A music-theatre, performance art, a multimedia opera? Or, it is all of those together?

The Air of the Text Operates the Form of the Inner Sound presents one of the strongest Azguime's interests - to show that the art worlds are movable, interconnected and approachable by different deconstruction procedures. Walking beyond the boundaries of major, established disciplines is one of the significant features of Azguime's poetics. He is the author of the verses; he recites them and also performs the music composed of rhythmical proliferation of sounds, words and gestures. Azguime's various artistic activities finally come together in an institution which could be called theoretical performance. It looks like theatre, but it is not. Author or just the signifier of the author shows the consciousness both of performativity of theory and theatricality of performance. His theoretical approach is structured as poetry:

"To unveil the mystery of the author's absence
To shed some light over the question
A question lies asleep without an answer
The author does not sleep but he is absent
His presence is absent
Therefore the question remains
Whilst his absence lasts
The presence questions itself In the silence of the presence of the absent author
The solution enquires itself regarding this question
The question is without words
The question silences sound
The sound licenses the question It is a question of silence minus the author" [3]

Although the meaning of the text reveals theoretical occupation with problems of authorship, the performativity of text shows Azguime asking him/us one simple question: Where the boundaries of music are? While doing so, the Barthes-like theoretical story on music becomes the music itself, and that is the most fascinating symbolic effect of the whole piece. Post-Cageian sets of enjoyment and frustration gather over the statement Everything I do is Music , reappearing in their post-technological form. Every time this hyper-textual piece for speaking percussionist and live electronics is performed, the author has been reconstituted live, together with the whole institution of music.

Text Operates the Form of the Inner Sound became part of the multimedia opera Itinerario do Sal by the same author. Digital technology is extensively used both in visual and audio layers of the opera. Digital means primarily multiply the layers of projected texts on stage. Similarly with the sound - Azguime's voice, and the text he performs on stage became multi-semantic, and multi-sonoric due to the electronic processing of the performed sound.

One the other hand, opera One is based on digital principles of structuring [4] promoting 'prostheticism' as the main structural effect of the piece. Michel van der Aa strongly problematizes prosthetic relations in his pieces Here (In Circles) (2002) and opera One (2003). Singer Barbara Hannigan is the one and only diva of this opera/performance relation. Van der Aa is a triple auhor of the piece - he composed the music, directed the video and wrote the libretto. [5]

The opera starts in complete darkness. There are two white sheets on the stage. Behind one of them is Barbara Hannigan, rhythmically repeating one tone. First she sings 'alone', and when the electronics starts, it takes exactly the same tone from the soloist and continues to reproduce it with its superior technical durability. This is the author's first reference on the notions of one, only, and unique. In today's world of explosion of information which is cloning and replicating its own realities, the notion of one, only, and unique is out of fashion.

A composition by the same author Here (In the Circles) could be considered as a study for the examined opera. Moved by the rhythm of living in a media and information society, the composer finds the dramaturgy of the piece in the constant aceleration of the music flow. There is a playing with the fast forward and rewinding sounds, and also counterpointing of the live performance to fragments recorded earlier in the very same concert and broadcast during live playing.

With all above mentioned 'techniques' van der Aa also plays with thecontext of the opera. One becomes Multiple in many ways: Barbara Hannigan meets her own reproduced video image on the stage. They are both dressed in the same way, they are both of the same size, and they both have the same voice - which is the most important thing for the whole opera. Multiplying her own representation required great virtuosity from Hannigan, both visually and auditively.

This opera ends with meeting of real Barbara Hannigan and her representation - who is now simulated to be around fifty years older. Two flows of time end up together. Skiled usage of technology in this work, and also mechanical, almost hysterical, virtuosity are deeply integrated in the opera tissue. That 'natural' integration is the strongest aspect of the piece.

Comparing the poetics and structure of Azguime's and van der Aa's operas shows different procedures, and a different utilization of multimedia and digitality. These two pieces stand on opposite sides of what could be called 'digital opera'. While Azguime explores the virtuosic boundaries of multiplication of layers of the piece, richly extended by the digital technologies, van der Aa shows how it is possible to simulate a digital way of thinking in the operatic world. Symptomatically distant, those two pieces show the extended field of possibilities for considering the digitality of the opera today.

Jelena Novak


[1] Christiane Paul, Digital Art , London , Thames and Hudson , 2003, p. 7.
[2] For this occasion I used the fragments of my text Percussive Silence of Words that was written for the Portuguese Music Information Center . See:
[3] Quotation from: Miguel Azguime, Prologue: the Oracle or the Passage, in: The Air of the Text Operates the Form of the Inner Sound .
[4] Basic principle of the analogous presentation of data is continuity, and digital presentation of data is consisted of the values measured in discrete intervals.
[5] In this text I use fragments of my text Prosthetic Music, Michel van der Aa's Case. See:

REPRINTED FROM e-volucija, No. 13 (Creative Commons)

Saturday 28 February

3:30pm Talk Free event
Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Miso Music - Introduction to the Technology used in the opera 'Salt Itinery'

The opera Salt Itinerary breaks new ground in electronic music and questions the boundaries between music, theatre, and opera. This pre-concert talk will discuss the technical and musical elements of the opera.

4:00pm Opera Free event
Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Miso Ensemble - Salt Itinery

Reflecting on Art and Madness, Salt Itinerary revolves around language - words as meaning and sound. Live electronic audio and video processing with diffusion of voice, poetry, gesture, music and the drawings creates a sensory polyphony. This opera is a powerful and engaging combination of music and drama, performed in 4 languages.

22 Dec 2008


AHRC Article on "The Fragmented Orchestra"

[The Fragmented Orchestra is featured in PACMF09 -]

THE PRIZE-WINNING Fragmented Orchestra is an interdisciplinary
collaboration between artist Jane Grant, musician and physicist Dr John
Matthias and BAFTA-winning composer Nick Ryan.

The project, which even in its tentative stages has already been described
by music industry experts as 'visionary' and 'pioneering', was born at the
Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research and the Faculty of
Arts at the University of Plymouth. It was here that Dr Matthias created a
'Neurogranular Sampler' – a computer modelled on the firing of neurons
in the human brain. The computer 'hears' sounds through a microphone,
then mimics the firing of neurons that the human brain would make on
hearing the same sounds. The result is fragmented bites of sound which
are heard in what artist Jane Grant describes as 'scattering patterns
or rhythms'.

Jane found herself fascinated by the Neurogranular Sampler and, as a
practicing sound and visual artist, she was keen to push the boundaries
of the sampler in order to produce more dynamic sounds and affects.
With the help of a small grant from the AHRC and computer scientist
Tim Hodgson, Jane was able to work at the parameters of the computer
model, and composed the first score ever entirely recorded on a
Neurogranular Sampler, entitled 'Threshold' it was exhibited at ArtSway
in summer 2008.

The Fragmented Orchestra project was able to broaden its horizons
further still when, in August 2008, the project beat off stiff
competition to win the prestigious PRS New Music Award. The purpose
of the award, which is widely considered to be the music industry's
equivalent to the Turner Prize, is to stimulate and support the creation
and performance of new music in the UK, ensuring this reaches a wide
audience. In addition, it motivates public debate about creative

The £50,000 prize money is being used to create a huge musical structure
which will connect 24 public sites across the UK. Jane says "The sites,
some of which were nominated by the public, are to be confirmed this
autumn and look likely to include a football stadium, a cathedral, an
observatory, wind turbines, and a cattle market."

A 'sound box', the size of a shoebox, located at the 24 sites, which
contains a microphone, computer, Feonic FI drive and amplifier, will
capture the sounds made at each location. Each Feonic drive will act as
a speaker and will play back the fragmented sounds from all of the sites.
The sites will be linked to form a networked cortex, which will trigger
all the site-specific sounds via a new exhibition on The Fragmented
Orchestra, which is to be shown at the FACT Gallery in Liverpool, the
current European Capital of Culture, from 11th December 2008 to the
22nd February 2009.

The tiny sound boxes will stream human-made and elemental sound
from each individual site via an artificial neuron to one of 24 speakers in
the FACT Gallery. The sound will only be transmitted when the neuron
fires. The combined sound of the 24 speakers at the gallery will be
continuously transmitted back to the individual sites and to a publicly
available website ( at which the
sounds from the 'cortex' will be available to listen to.

Jane concludes, "Members of the public, who will be invited to play the
instrument at the 24 sites, will be able to hear the effect their playing has
on the overall composition of the piece at each site, at FACT in Liverpool
and on the website. As members of the public use the instrument they
will become both player and audience of a vast and evolving musical
composition extended across the UK."

To watch a short film about The Fragmented Orchestra please visit the
PRS Foundation website:

Saturday 28 February

1.15am: Talk Free event
Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Jane Grant, John Matthias, Nick Ryan - The Fragmented Orchestra
Sound-artist Jane Grant, musician/physicist John Matthias and BAFTA winner Nick Ryan won the PRS New Music Award 2008 for The Fragmented Orchestra, a visionary work which enables us to hear the human brain at work and the sound of the UK. This talk will discuss and explain the concept.


19 Dec 2008


PODCast #2: Lola Perrin interviews Roland Perrin

Up today! Lola Perrin interviews pianist and composer Roland Perrin about his current work, and his involvement in the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2009:


Sunday 1 March

10:00pm: Festival Party Free event
Café, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth                      

Roland Perrin

Roland Perrin is a composer and pianist who creates music that incorporates irresistible world music grooves within the European symphonic tradition. Come and enjoy a relaxing drink in the café and listen to this renowned Jazz pianist and accompaniment. The Southside Café/Bar will be open throughout the event.  


18 Dec 2008


PACMF09: Kim Paisey previews “Kropotkin” by Sam Richards

When I heard that this year the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival was celebrating 200 years of Darwin, was I surprised that Sam Richards was debuting his latest piece named after the Russian 'free thinker' Kropotkin? Not at all. In a world where people, government and society itself, are constantly contradicting one another and uprooting what we thought was right (and turning it on its head) it is the smaller, more constant parts of life that stop us from completely giving up and going insane. Music has always walked hand in hand with the highs and lows of society as a way of making ethical statements.

In 1902 the Russian anarchist Kropotkin's book “Mutual Aid: A factor of Evolution” was published. He wrote it while living in exile in England. “Mutual Aid” discusses and argues an alternative view on species survival, challenging Darwin's theory. Kropotkin suggested that members of a species have to interact with one another successfully to stay alive, and that cooperation between species plays a vital role. This new idea contradicted Darwin's idea that all species are in a state of natural selection in which survival of the fittest was the only real answer for survival.

Sam Richards uses aspects of Kropotkin's ideas from 'Mutual Aid' in his latest composition. This composition – called “Kropotkin” in honour of its inspiration - is a statement and answer to Darwin's theory. Sam shines light onto the idea that survival is determined by cooperation as much as by fitness, or in this case, musical fitness.

Sam's musical learning has been coloured by great musicians and opportunities, which include – while a student in London - working with Cornelius Cardew. This was  where Sam first discovered musical democracy. He also attended Alfred Nieman's improvisation classes. Sam's interest in folk music led him to field work within this genre. He documented folklore in the West country where he worked with farming communities, moorland people, children and Gypsies. This passion for folk music strongly shaped the 'take' on music he has today.

“Kropotkin” is the latest in a fascinating string of compositions by Sam Richards that share similar structures which can only be a success if solo or small group contributions are worked together in a semi-improvised form. Other works in this series are 'Erratic movements of the Ear' (1994), 'The tunes of Cheng 1' (1996), 'Midwinter Ceremonies' (1997), 'About Time' (1997), and 'Hearing Things' (2005).

Within composition Sam believes it is as important to take into consideration the environment the piece will be performed as well as the actual notes - thus he specifies the environment in which the piece is to be played. Generally speaking the performance of his pieces requires a large number of musicians distributed over a large space. (However this isn't always true. I recently witnessed Sam's “Fish Music 2” performed in Plymouth Aquarium by a small string orchestra and four hand-picked soloists. The music was completely determined by the fish in the tank and the dynamics of their swimming.) For “Kropotkin” Sam will require the whole ground level of the Roland Levinsky building at the University of Plymouth.

You are never likely to hear a Sam Richards piece sound the same twice. Sam's ideas on notation are miles away from the Western style most musicians are used to reading. His compositions use a variety of notation - standard, adapted standard, graphic, text and verbal notation. These give the musicians a lot more freedom within the piece than that found in most conventionally written music. Which means – for the musicians - a lot more fun and power than usual.

When society is unsure or in trouble music always plays a big part in inspiring or reassuring. In 1969 during the Woodstock festival, Jimi Hendrix's interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner” - sandwiched within “Purple Haze” - threw up many ethical considerations. Music has this effect on society; whether it's an underground music scene standing up for a group of people that are unheard or unfairly treated, or huge publicised events like the Live Aid concerts, music influences us not only as individuals but as a society. These musical utterances have shaped, and will continue to shape, our future. Sam Richards premiering his composition “Kropotkin” at a festival dedicated to Darwin, is a musical utterance that is designed to stick.

Kim Paisey

Sunday 1st March 2009

1.30pm: Talk Free event
Theatre 1, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth
On the Composition of 'Kropotkin' - Sam Richards
Sam Richards gives a pre-concert talk introducing the ideas behind his composition Kropotkin.

2.00pm: Concert Free event
Theatre 1, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth
Kropotkin - Sam Richards
Composition, improvisation, group and solo playing, coexist in Sam Richards’ new work for large group. It is inspired by Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid (1902), a rebuttal of crude social Darwinism, Kropotkin saw cooperation as a greater factor in life than competition. In this experimental piece cooperation between many players is fundamental. 


04 Dec 2008


Cafe Concrete and LA

We've just had a meeting with the Cafe Concrete people and their PACMF09 preview event (8:30pm 23rd Feb 2009, Voodoo Lounge, Plymouth) is looking to be very exciting. So far we're looking at two performances of 20-30 minutes each: one where a Cafe Concrete sound artist is provided with CDs of works by artists from the 2009 festival and asked to improvise live using only the sounds on the CD; and the second performance as a collaboration between a festival-related pianist and a Concrete artist who will improvise along with the piano and computer process elements of the piano sound live.

On another note, this blog may be a little less frequent until the 16th or so as I will be in LA. But there's a lot happening at the moment on the festival, and I'll be keeping in touch by laptop, so there may well still be the occasional blog.



03 Dec 2008


Sam Richards interviewed by Kate Jago

Kate Jago's interview of Sam Richards is now available online:

Details of Sam Richards' event in PACMF09 below:

Sunday 1st March 2009

2.00pm: Concert Free event, Theatre 1, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Kropotkin, Sam Richards

Composition, improvisation, group and solo playing, coexist in Sam Richards' new work for large group. It is inspired by Kropotkin's Mutual Aid (1902), a rebuttal of crude social Darwinism, Kropotkin saw cooperation as a greater factor in life than competition. In this experimental piece cooperation between many players is fundamental. 


02 Dec 2008


PACMF09 Preview at Cafe Concrete, 23rd February 2009

cafe concrete

adventures in experimental electronica, film, sound art, and music from the outer limits

Café Concrete is an experimental sound art and film collective/event based in Plymouth, UK.  It contains a growing collective of established and emerging sound and film artists.    A central aim of Café Concrete's collective is to investigate relationships between sound, place, space and architecture.

A Café Concrete event currently happens every last Monday of every month, upstairs at Plymouth's Voodoo Lounge, but it is not limited to any particular venue and there are often special events (e.g. Sonic Art Expo, Flipside Film Festival and Cafe Concrete live radio broadcasts on Freesound106.6FM ).

On Monday 23rd February 2009, Café Concrete will feature an exclusive PACMF09 Preview. This will include performances from artists involved in PACMF09 (starting later that week on Friday 27th February).  More details of the line-up will be posted here closer to the time.



Below is a review of a previous Café Concrete event




People's Republic of South Devon Review of Cafe Concrete - Feb 08
Thanks again to Mr Neil Rose, who wrote this for The People's Republic of South Devon:


Tuesday morning I sat bleary eyed looking at this computer screen while these words appear, my mind flicks back like an excited elastic band, to the events of the previous night. (Had to past tense it because I didn't get round to posting it yesterday….)

Monday the 25th February was relaxed at Café Concrete. Amidst a rainy Plymouth evening, spectators recline on the sofas while I supply nineties-esque breaks and the best of funky electronica; Depth Charge's "Bounty Killers III", Clark's "Dead Shark Eyes", Dark Globe, Tarwater and Supercollider, amongst others, smoke their way around the space drenching everyone in a rumbling shade of bass.


Then on goes 'Lime Green Receptionist' - Matt Coombe's (or should that be Koombe) new stripped down endeavour, sounding rather like J. Saul Kane's: The Octagon Man, utilising the pinnacle of the technological apex: a Yamaha Portasound keyboard and some effects. Needless to say, Mr. Coombe, as ever, (or should that be the Lime Green Receptionist – the Fall???) deftly weaves complex textures that are at times clearly an old keyboard and at others shockingly danceable, the Lime Green Receptionist makes its debut and what a time it was…
During this whole head nodding extravaganza, we are furnished with a bespoke Café Concrete animation by Rachel Dobbs, one half of Low Profile. Clearly her brain trying to battle with the codes and conventions of modern life, the phrase that stood out most for me was: "19. You (a female) are at a disco and are asked to dance by a young man whom you don't like the look of…(what do you say and how do you say it)". The animation program then moves on to two other works by Rachel, "My so called life (Parts 1 & 2)", the first part exploring her obsession with gradually disappearing telephone boxes and being gradually eaten by a Pacman clock while doing the ever growing pile of ironing in part two. The program finished with "Ya Will, Ya Will (Tea Dance)", suiting Matt's Lime Green Receptionist to a tee (tea?).

Next is a sound work by Hannah Jones ("101 ways to say I love you"), the other half of Low Profile, with her ever speeding delivery as she battles to recite a series of song titles on an answering machine. Finally she does but the delivery is lightening…

DJ Contort/Hip.P/Buckaroo's "The Liono Café Concrete Incident", Music inspired by Beast (Café Concrete 21/1/08) appears in the speakers directly after, and is generously handed out in CD form to the audience. This is their homage to Liono's Beast performance that appeared at the Café last month (details here) and features breakcore and gabba-esque 'remixes' of Liono's clucking. He is clearly already becoming a legend.


And finally on the bill, Blue Reverberance works out his circuit bent toys and Amiga 500 to create beautiful soundscapes and beats that seem more like Prince of Persia. This was a stunning debut performance that warrants further interest, keep your ears on this – I promise you won't be disappointed…

Thanks to Rob (Contort) for the photos.

Neil Rose 28/02/08 for The People's Republic of South Devon


01 Dec 2008


"Pop-Ups!" and another PODCast upcoming

A new feature of this year's festival will the non-programmed "Pop-Up" events. These are smaller musical events which will occur at the entrances/exits of the main programmed events - where musicians/groups will "pop-up" and begin performing. As well as providing extra and less formal entertainment for those between events and relaxing in the Roland Levinsky Crossways Festival Hub, they will provide an opportunity for student/local community artists to get more involved in the festival. So keep your eye out for the PACMF Pop-Ups this year!

A recent blog listed upcoming PODCasts and articles/interviews for PACMF - we wanted to mention another exciting one that's coming up:

- Upcoming PODCast: Roland Perrin in conversation with Lola Perrin


28 Nov 2008


Upcoming PODCasts/Interviews/Articles

Upcoming PODCasts/Articles/Interviews etc:

- PODCast: Mike Philips (iDAT) and Dr. Andrew Evenden (UoP Dept of Biology) in conversation about Darwin, Evolution and their digital composition 'Variations'.

- Interview: Scott Mclaughlin (Huddersfield Dept of Music) inteviews Ian Pace

- PODCast: John Matthias and Jane Grant (NMA Winners) in discussion about the Fragmented Orchestra

- Article: Tara McCulloch previews Sam Richard's piece Kropotkin

27 Nov 2008


Festival Lead-up: Ian Pace and Michael Finnissy
Current mood: a hopeful

As part of the lead up to PACMF09, Ian Pace and Michael Finnissy will be at the University of Plymouth the month before (28th January 2009). Ian Pace is giving a concert with the theme "The Pastoral", with pieces by Beethoven and Finnissy. Before the concert, Ian Pace will interview Michael Finnissy.  

Wednesday 28th January 2009 7:00pm
Upper Lecture Theatre, Sherwell Building
Tickets £5 per performance (£3 over 60s) Free for UoP students and staff

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