City Scale

For the last week or so I’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area conducting a bit of final research for my book, San Francisco and the Long 60s. I’ve had a few loose ends to tie up at the library of the University of California, Berkeley, and some catching-up on recent developments at the Grateful Dead Archive of the University of California, Santa Cruz, before my 2015 publishing deadline. As I type this on my hotel balcony, I can look up and see a whale breaching in the Pacific. There are certainly worse places to spend a research leave.

One of the plans I had for this trip was to trace the path of a ‘happening’ that took place in March 1963 across the Russian Hill and North Beach areas of San Francisco: a piece called City Scale, by Ramon Sender (composer), Ken Dewey (playwright), and Anthony Martin (visual artist), in affiliation with the San Francisco Tape Music Center. So I gathered my indentured research assistants, bribed them with promises of pizza and chocolate, and headed over to the foggy hills of the city, armed with a ‘score’ of the work – basically a handwritten sketch outlining the main points in the six-hour event, with no absolute coordinates, street names, directions, tempo or timing.

The only sure piece of information I had was that the piece began at the location of the Tape Music Center, 1537 Jones Street, and that the audience was walked up a hill overlooking North Beach, where they could witness a choreographed ‘car ballet’ in the streets below. At the same time there was a trombonist stationed in a tunnel nearby, playing into the traffic. When the audience walked back to the Tape Music Center there was a woman in a dressing-gown, standing in the window of a nearby piano tuner’s shop, singing Debussy. Another part of the happening involved a ‘book-returning ceremony’ at City Lights Bookstore, followed by a light show projected against the blank wall of a Wells Fargo bank. There was more to it, but those were the main tangible events.

Put together, these clues summon any number of mental images: a crisp spring night, planned events set against the backdrop of an unsuspecting city, audience blending with citizenry, citizenry becoming performers in a city-wide performance piece. It must have been an incredible night. When I met Ramon Sender a few years ago I suggested that he run City Scale again; as much as he would like to, he said that health and safety restrictions would never allow that kind of thing to happen today. So now it’s just a semi-documented, un-mapped performance event that took place one night over 50 years ago. What could I possible glean from stumbling around San Francisco trying to re-trace it?

Well, first of all, it’s important for me to understand how much the city has changed over these last fifty years. So much of the backdrop for City Scale just doesn’t exist in the same way now. I already knew this, of course – I have many childhood memories of extensive building works around the Embarcadero in San Francisco, only one small piece in the evolving urban puzzle – so was prepared to spend part of the day second-guessing, back-tracking, and ignoring physical proof of radical change.

Jones Street

Jones Street

One such change is that the Tape Music Center left its Jones Street location shortly after City Scale for a much bigger space on Divisadero, very close to the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury community, where they remained until relocating to Mills College in Oakland in 1969. So although we began retracing City Scale at 1537 Jones Street, we did so by looking at a non-descript apartment building, no doubt full of people wondering what I was doing standing in the middle of the street taking pictures of their front door.  I can confirm that no residual music was discernible in the middle of the street, nor was any emanating from the windows.

2 piano tunerOn the corner of Jones and Pacific is a series of shops, any one of which might have been home to the piano tuner and the bathrobe-besuited soprano. My hunch was that it was the shop with the three windows, but my research assistants and I failed to reach a consensus on that. What was certain was that the liquor store sign across the street has probably been hanging there since at least 1963.

 

3 liquor store

We trudged up the hill to where we imagined the audience was taken to hear the tunnelled trombonist and to watch the car ballet. The most obvious marker here is Russian Hill, a stunning little piece of real estate with some of the more breathtaking views in a city full of breathtaking views.

4 big hill

5 not thereAlthough there were plenty of old mansions standing proudly where they’ve probably stood for a century, there were also some unfortunate reminders of the tendency, even in San Francisco, to build unlovely structures that then blight the landscape for decades. In at least one instance these structures block out the one bit of view that City Scale was designed to exploit.

 

Sometimes our view was blocked by foliage, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did give us an interesting investigative problem.

7 coit

One anecdotal memory of City Scale was the sight of Coit Tower lit by a full moon, with the car ballet taking place on the streets below it. A roughly contemporary 1960s view toward Coit Tower from Russian Hill suggests how effective this might have been. The vantage from last week was rather less clear, though the relatively light redevelopment of North Beach allowed me to zoom in on a couple of residential blocks that might have served as backdrop to the car ballet.

 

8 car ballet

 

Among the more surprising developments in the Russian Hill area since the 1963 performance of City Scale is the arrival of wild parrots in San Francisco. We encountered some of them as we walked down Russian Hill toward North Beach, and I wondered what they might have contributed to City Scale, had they (a) been there at the time, and (b) not been too shy to chatter to the audience.

9 parrot

Our descent into North Beach concluded with a trip to City Lights, where audience members in City Scale had been given books to ‘return’ to the front desk. 10 city lightsThat was a lovely bit of theatre, but it was also a powerful symbolic gesture: City Lights is a vital, living icon of the Beat generation, which was decidedly on the wane in 1963. What City Scale represented was a motion toward progressive artistic production, and certainly the interactions between key players in the Tape Music Center and agents in the nascent counterculture from that point onward affected the ‘next wave’ of artistic production in the city, which is the focus of my book. So we paid due respect to North Beach history by browsing the shelves at City Lights, taking a picture of Jack Kerouac Alley and going on our way.

11 kerouac alley

My task now is to make sense of all of this, keeping Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks’ crucial Theatre/Archaeology (Routledge, 2001) close at hand. This extended excavation was merely intended to feed into a very brief section of my book, but sometimes the longest tangents provide the most interesting insights.

In the Media: Urban Birds

Image by Flickr user sussexbirder - shared under creative commons licence

Image by Flickr user sussexbirder – shared under creative commons licence

Staged by the PRS for Music Foundation to coincide with this year’s Commonwealth Games, the first ever New Music Biennial showcases new commissions from a wide range of composers across the UK in two special events held in London and Glasgow.

BBC Radio 3′s Hear and Now programme broadcast music from the showcase, including Urban Birds, a piece for piano and percussion by Dr Arlene Sierra.

Arlene Sierra: Urban Birds
Xenia Pestova, Kathleen Supove and Sarah Nicolls (pianos)
Jose Miguel Fernandez (electronics)

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0495mlz 

The God Article: Test Results

Dr John Morgan O’Connell

This REACT-funded project involves the development of ney replicas with breath sensors to facilitate online learning. 

Tests: The God Article team met twice to test a digitally fabricated ney. They met first on 15 May and second on 29 May at two locations in the School of Music (Cardiff University). On a separate occasion, the team discussed the results of the first test in anticipation of the second test. Using a 3D Printer, an exact replica of a kız neyi was manufactured, the replica being fitted with sensors to measure touch (placed over the finger holes) and breath (placed beside the mouthpiece or başpare). The instrument was attached with cables to a computer where a number of parameters were displayed.

Kalia Baklitzanaki

Kalia Baklitzanaki

These were also projected onto a screen to facilitate analysis and feedback. The test on the instrument was conducted by the neyzen Kalia Baklitzanaki, an ethnomusicology graduate of SOAS who performed on the fabricated instrument and who reflected upon its qualities. Both tests were documented using audio-visual equipment. Sound recordings of each test were also made.

Breathing: The breath is central to the ney, both spiritually and musically. In terms of its mystical significance, the breath of God (nefes) passes through the body of man (the ney) to produce music. In terms of performance practice, the breath simultaneously results in tone and noise, the ‘breathy’ quality being a key aesthetic in ney performance. To measure this quality, the breath censor was used in two ways. First, it helped to assess a correct tone and an incorrect tone. This is especially useful for beginners. To represent this, the design team (consisting of Ant Mace and Stefan Goodchild) designed a pulsating sphere which represented tone (in terms of colour depth) and breath (in terms of radial consistency). Second, it helped to determine the ‘breathy’ quality of the tone. This is especially significant for performers. To represent this, the design team developed a breath line, where a smooth line represented breath focus and a jagged line indicated breath dissipation.

 

Representing Breathing

Representing Breathing

Fingering: Fingering is central to ney performance. To each of the 7 holes, copper pads were attached by the scientific team (consisting of Alex Kontogeorgakopoulos and Aris Bezas). The touch sensitive sensors were displayed on a virtual interface, where green indicated a hole covered and black indicated a hole uncovered. A darker green indicated a hole that was partly covered.

Representing Fingering

Representing Fingering

While the technology is ideally suited to measure performance practice (such as tuning and ornamentation), the sensors at present suffer from a number of flaws. The copper absorbed the finger moisture and the static electricity of the performer, thereby distorting the visual feedback. While the representation of trills was remarkably clear, the representation of other ornamental gestures was less satisfactory. This was especially problematic when documenting finger slides. That being said, the technology has considerable scientific potential. It could be used accurately to map performance gesture. It could also be employed to assist transcription. To this end, an indicator of time and pitch will be added to the design.

 

Variables: Other factors are also important in ney performance. Timbre is especially important since overtones above a fundamental represent in some traditions distinctive levels of mystical gnosis. Accordingly, a spectrogram was included not only to measure pitch but also to represent harmonics. While this was especially useful in indicating the instrument’s acoustical principles and timbral characteristics, the representation of pitch needs to be better calibrated, at present showing limited variation in the relevant image. Amplitude is also an important variable. Two indicators were developed. First, the pulsating sphere integrates breath expended and amplitude attained. Second, a separate graph represents amplitude in performance. This is especially important when measuring musical nuances in certain modes or makamlar. Embouchure is another important variable. However, in these tests, the configuration and the placement of lips was not measured.

Representing Embouchure

Representing Embouchure

Experiments: In both tests, a systematic series of experiments were conducted. First using the breath sensor, the breath was measured with reference to the pulsating sphere. Tone and breath were represented adequately. However, an additional variable representing pitch detracted from the visual display. This will be altered. Second using the touch sensor, each hole was tested sequentially with reference to the notes of a standard makam (in this instance makam Rast). Although the first three holes showed excellent results, the representation of the other holes was less consistent. When performing in another makam where half-holes are employed (in this instance makam Hicaz), the results were mixed. In both makamlar, Kalia performed a short improvisation or taksim for the record. In the first test, the display of results was distorted by incompatible programming. In the second test, this problem was rectified. However, a number of technical issues arose, sometimes disrupting the flow of the experiments.

Representing Feedback

Representing Feedback

Neyzen: The two tests represent a considerable achievement given the difficulties with respect to build, design and technology. Kalia’s feedback was especially important, commenting on the performance potential and the didactic utility of the fabricated ney. Significantly, she confirmed that the instrument had the musical (she used the word ‘synthetic’) character of a ‘practice’ ney. She noted that the instrument played well in the lowest range but not so well in the upper register. There is a morphological reason for this disparity. She also commented critically on the utility of certain parameters, viewing the pulsating spheres of use to beginners and the breath indicators of use to performers. She also noted that the playing position was somewhat unorthodox. This was especially noticeable with respect to lip placement. Concerning fingering, she made an important recommendation. The current representation of 7 holes should be redesigned to reflect traditional practice; fingering to be displayed as follows: 1+3+3.

Future: The God Article team agreed that the experiments had been successful from a scientific and an academic perspective. In a short time, the latest haptic sensors and electrical technologies have been employed to understand a musical artefact. Apart from the potential for publication, the test demonstrated that The God Article had a number of potential uses. First, students could learn to play The God Article in a virtual context. Second, performers could use The God Article to analyse stylistic nuance and ergonomic method. Third, academics could employ The God Article to study acoustical principles and to measure performance practices. Fourth, scientists could look to The God Article to examine the utility of breath and touch sensors in musical practice, amongst others. Fifth, artists could take from The God Article material for composition, especially in the area of electroacoustic composition. Clearly, The God Article has a number of other uses in the music business and beyond.

This project has been funded as part of REACT’s Objects Sandbox scheme

San Francisco and the Long 60s

Dr Sarah Hill

When one embarks on a research program, one can never know how long it will take to finish. If one is lucky, a doctorate will take about three years. If one is very lucky, one will get to live with a project for much, much longer than that.

Many years ago, Dr Charles Wilson asked me to participate in a panel session on the historiography of popular music for the 39th annual conference of the RMA, held at Cardiff University in September 2003. Dr Ken Gloag was planning a paper on 1950s nostalgia; Professor David Clarke would be speaking on Elvis and Darmstadt; and I, having recently completed my doctorate on Welsh-language popular music and cultural identity, thought I should take a breather and do something different, so I decided to present a paper on the memory of the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

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I had a fairly clear idea what I wanted to cover in my conference paper, and it mainly had to do with the Grateful Dead. As a native of the Bay Area I was pretty familiar with the legacy of the Dead, and knew a little bit about the history of the 60s. Growing up in Oakland, the place my friends and I would always go to hang out was Berkeley – it had the best record stores, the best coffee shops, the best slices of pizza, and there was always a lot of local color on Telegraph Avenue to absorb as we sat outside Yogurt Park. Every year, for some stretch of days or weeks (or what felt like months), the Grateful Dead would be in residence at one of the local concert halls – the Oakland Auditorium, the Greek Theater, the Coliseum, the Arena – and for however long they were back in town, Berkeley would be positively crawling with hippies. Nothing but tie-dyed t-shirts as far as the eye could see, people selling beads and bedspreads and hippie tchotchkes to pay for their passage to the next stop on the tour, lost-looking stoned persons trying to score tickets. For those of us not attuned to the musical allure of the Grateful Dead, the annual Deadhead invasion was an annoyance, and more than a little bewildering.

So I thought it would be interesting to look into the connection between the Grateful Dead and what I figured was some kind of hippie imprint on the Bay Area. That conference paper was never meant to be anything other than a conference paper, either: it was a little academic sorbet to be enjoyed between courses, between converting my doctoral thesis into a book and whatever The Next Big Thing was going to be. Plus, it would be fun to revisit my youth. So I read some books, listened to some music, and started formulating my ideas.

 

ha corner

 

During this period, in July 2003, I was back home in the Bay Area, and went to see my friend Vicki at her saddlery shop in Point Reyes Station, just north of San Francisco. She was asking what I was working on – figuring it would be an extension of the Welsh pop thing – and I told her I was writing a conference paper on the Grateful Dead. I guarantee you, this is our exact conversation:

Vicki: ‘Oh, wow. You know, one of the Dead was just in the shop a couple of weeks ago.’

Me: ‘Really? Who?’

‘Phil Lesh. He just came by for a hug.’

‘You know Phil Lesh?’

‘Yeah. I knew all those guys.’

‘Say what?’

‘When I was in high school and used to run away from home, I always ran away to the Dead house.’

For all the years I had known Vicki, I had never put her into any kind of social or historical context. I knew she had grown up in San Francisco, and I knew she was older than I, but I never knew that she had hung around the Haight-Ashbury as a teenager in the 1960s, right at the epicentre of the hippie explosion. She told me to let her know if I ever wanted to talk to some of the people she knew back then, and she would introduce us. So then I started feeling that maybe what I was doing wasn’t really just a conference paper. Sure enough, one thing led to another, and in 2005 I was awarded an AHRC small grant to run a little pilot study in the Bay Area: a bit of archival work, some interviews, enough to build a radio documentary at the end of it. And right there was Vicki with her address book.

It should be noted here that everyday life was also happening: I delivered that conference paper in the week between my wedding and my honeymoon; I was awarded the AHRC small grant during my maternity leave from the University of Southampton; the Radio 2 documentary was broadcast just after I joined the School of Music at Cardiff; my second, much larger, AHRC grant was awarded just after my second maternity leave. All the time I was amassing material – interviews, recordings, films, newspaper and magazine clippings, chasing tangents, doing the cultural tourist thing – and all the time I was doing what academics do – teaching, writing, publishing, going to conferences, and having a life.

bongos

Yet there comes a time in every project, no matter how exciting, how complicated, how vital to the furtherance of Western civilization as we know it, when words simply must be put on paper. Earlier this year I was contracted by Bloomsbury to finish writing this hippie book, now called San Francisco and the Long 60s. I have about a year to condense everything into a readable narrative – academic yet engaging, historically accurate yet also preserving the idiosyncratic hippie adherence to specifics of time and place. With the aid of a Cardiff University Research Leave Fellowship I will be spending the next academic year revisiting all of my research and writing the monograph. And there is such enormous pleasure involved: reviewing all those interviews, hearing the voices of interviewees who have passed away, looking over photographs from my field work, listening to some familiar music with critical ears. Some highlights from my long period of research will be lost in translation – I won’t be able to capture on paper the cadence of some hippies’ speech, I can’t usefully describe the pervading aroma of an outdoor celebration in Golden Gate Park – but I can try to be true to the spirit of the project and be honest in recounting the experiences of the people who were generous enough to share their memories with me. I look forward to the next year of writing, and suppose I really ought to thank Dr Wilson formally for setting me off on this long, strange trip all those years ago.

Voice of Humanities conference

Alessandra Palidda, 1st year PhD student working on ’Opera in period of political change; Milan, 1790-1802′

Cardiff University's Hadyn Ellis Building, home of the University Graduate College

Cardiff University’s Hadyn Ellis Building, home of the University Graduate College

It was a really nice experience for me to participate in the Voice of Humanities, a conference which is organized every year by a Committee of students within the University Graduate College for all Postgraduate students undertaking a course in the Humanities to attend. Everyone could go as a delegate or as a presenter, giving either a talk or a poster (or even both) on any topic related to his/her research, or simply presenting his/her project in a nice inter-disciplinary and collaborative atmosphere. Finally the event, which lasted a whole day, was completely free of charge and included reception, different panels of presentations, a poster exhibition (with the posters printed by the UGC for free) coffee breaks, a delicious lunch and a nice wine and cheese party at the end.

I was happy to see other people from the School of Music, though I would have liked to see more, both as presenters and as delegates. I think that, besides the very warm and pleasurable atmosphere, events like this are of the utmost importance to gather ideas, to improve presentation skills and to have an idea on what students from other Schools are studying.

The range of interests within the presentations was so wide that there was something for everybody, from English literature to fine arts, from social perspectives on tourism to Welsh heritage, from musical aesthetics to seafarers’ education. I realized it was actually the first time we had a chance to meet other students in such an interesting environment, and the abundance of questions after each presentation, the relaxed atmosphere during the breaks and the duration of the cheese and wine party were strong proofs that everybody was enjoying the occasion.

The end of the conference brought me a nice surprise for I was awarded the 1st prize for best paper presentation by the Committee: it was of course very rewarding for me, but the best feeling came from the congratulations I received from my fellow students and from the nice party we had all together. I really want to be a Committee member next year because I think offering this occasion was really something, and I also encourage all PGs, Masters and PhD students, to participate in the next conference!

Page to Stage

The Page to Stage project brought together storytelling, design and technology to develop a prototype app that adds layers of context and texture to classical music performance.

KH - vid

Kenneth Hamilton (School of Music, Cardiff University) collaborated with Amanda Bayley (Bath Spa University) and producer Sheila Hayman for the project, which was funded as part of REACT Future Documentary Sandbox, a nationwide programme to explore the theme of Future Documentary.

A pianist and scholar, Kenneth Hamilton contributed his international performance experience, his knowledge of performance-practice issues, and experience in communicating with audiences.

The prototype which has been developed enables audiences to explore the invisible history, contact and meaning of a piece of music, as played by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Kenneth Hamilton features in this great REACT video about the project.

The God Article

ney-485x318Ethnomusicologist Dr John Morgan O’Connell – along with Sonic Art Scholar Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulus and User Experience Designer Anthony Mace – has recently been awarded £50,000 as part of REACT’s Objects Sandbox scheme. Dr O’Connell’s project – The God Article – revolves around the Turkish ney , a musical object steeped in cultural significance. This team will be developing ney replicas with breath sensors that will facilitate online learning.

Dr O’Connell updates us on progress to date…

“The team recently met in the Watershed to discuss project progress. In addition to the build issues (developed by Alex and Aris) and the design issues (developed by Ant and Stefan), I was asked to suggest the musical requirements of five prospective clients who might use ‘The God Article’.

These were: 1] a beginner; 2] a professional; 3] a scholar; 4] a scientist; 5] a composer. To this end, we identified a number of variables that measured touch and breath. We also agreed that a microphone would be employed to measure frequency, amplitude and timbre.

Since we argued that the representation of all of these factors would be difficult to project onto one interface, we decided that a maximum of six elements would be usefully itemized.

screen-shot-2014-03-24-at-72137-pm-485x321

At this stage, I am delighted that the mouth piece (başpare) of the ney is now digitally fabricated. I am also very pleased that a touch-sensitive aperture is already digitally generated. To simplify matters, I understand that a microphone (which is a sensor) can used to measure breath, amplitude, frequency and timbre.

 

My task is as follows: I will research the types of microphones used by professional neyzen-s, both in popular and classical contexts. To this end, I agreed that we should aim to fabricate a plastic ney, an object that is equivalent to producing a ‘practice’ ney. Although relevant to our research questions, I thought that we should leave the measurement of noise/ tone with respect to breath production to a later date.”

The God Article – Getting started
REACT – Objects Sandbox

Censoring the Flute? Mozart’s Opera and Revolutionary Panic

Professor Rachel Cowgill

Three years ago I published a collection of essays that included a study of the early reception of The Magic Flute (1791), easily the most opaque of all of Mozart’s mature operas.  In it, I talked about recent research that suggests we misrepresent The Magic Flute if we interpret it as a Masonic allegory – an idea which is entrenched in the literature, even as far as the theory that Mozart was murdered by fellow freemasons for daring to put Masonic secrets onstage.

Playbill for the 1791 premiere

Playbill for the 1791 premiere

I referred to scholars such as David Buch, who argue that Magic Flute is much more a reflection of late eighteenth-century Viennese fascination with fairy tales than an attempt to promote a mystical, idealistic, or esoteric message about the potential of mankind to achieve Enlightenment.

My essay extended this debate by exploring early audience and critical responses to The Magic Flute, focusing particularly on a manuscript English translation of the libretto held in the British Library which dates from the mid 1790s, just a few years after Mozart’s opera was premiered (BL Add. MS 25965).

As a prologue, the anonymous translator offers an interpretation of the opera along Masonic lines that I discovered had been published in the German press in 1794.  The manuscript had been overlooked by opera scholars, but was among a large collection of playscripts submitted to the Irish dramatist and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan for performance at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where Sheridan was proprietor.  I argued that the fact no production ensued might have been because the opera was considered politically incendiary, because early responses attributed a radical masonic message to the opera that was associated at the time with revolutionary fervour.

Fear of revolution spreading over the Channel was almost tangible in British society at this time, which has been described as something of a police state.  We know, for example, that Sheridan was not permitted to stage King Lear, probably for fear this would be seen as a comment on the illness of George III – the government was policing the stage and written media with great diligence.

At the time of writing I could only suggest that Sheridan had withheld the opera – after all, he might simply have overlooked the manuscript or thought it unfit for London tastes.

Recently, however, while I was working on the Lord Chamberlain’s theatre correspondence in The National Archive at Kew, I came across a letter written to Sheridan from the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in 1792, that shows the extent to which the authorities were holding Sheridan answerable not only for the political content of his plays, but also for the conduct of his audiences – he was ordered to suppress the singing of an anthem associated with the French revolutionaries, ‘Ça ira’, or face his theatre being closed and his revenue stopped.

Demons in the sky sing "Ça ira" as the blade of the guillotine severs the head of Louis XVI in this British print published just four days after the king's execution on 21 January 1793.

Demons in the sky sing “Ça ira” as the blade of the guillotine severs the head of Louis XVI in this British print published just four days after the king’s execution on 21 January 1793.

Until I read this letter, I had not fully appreciated the extent of the British government’s paranoia over the spread of revolt and the extent to which even a simple song was regarded potentially as a torch that threatened to ignite the touchpaper of revolution.  Of course this is still not proof that Sheridan suppressed The Magic Flute for political reasons, but it certainly shows that the stakes were high and that it was difficult for him at this time to have taken a risk.

The letter reads:

                                                        Lord Chamberlain’s Office

                                                                                                                                30th March 1792

Sir

                Information having been given, at this Office, that the Tune of Ça ira has been mostly, and repeatedly Called for from several Parts of the Theatre, in St. James’s Haymarket under your direction, I think it my Duty as Chamberlain of this King’s Household to acquaint you that Except you take the Proper Measures to prevent that Tune being Play’d, in case it shall be called for in future the Theatre will be shut up. 

                                I am

                                                Sir your Obliging Servant

                                                                Salisbury

                                Richard Brinsley Sheridan Esq.r

 

To judge for yourself the political resonances of Mozart’s opera, why not support Cardiff University Operatic Society in their production of The Magic Flute at the Gate Arts Centre, Roath, Cardiff, 7.30pm on 28-29 March 2014?

FrenchRev

Earlier this year Stanford University launched a digital archive of images of the French Revolution in association with the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, bringing together online an extraordinary 12,000 plus visual items documenting aspects of the Revolution. It’s an amazing resource and well worth a browse, although the content is often chilling!

Research in the media: Urban Birds

Dr Arlene Sierra appeared on the BBC Radio Wales Arts Show this week to discuss her new work – Urban Birds for three pianos with percussion and sampled birdsong – with presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas.

The programme is currently available on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03xskms

Image by Flickr user sussexbirder - shared under creative commons licence

Image by Flickr user sussexbirder – shared under creative commons licence

Urban Birds was commissioned by the INTER/actions Festival of Interactive Electronic Music, and will premiere at the Festival in Bangor this weekend. Dr Sierra received funding support from the PRS for Music Foundation as part of the UK-wide New Music Biennial – supporting and promoting commissions by some of the UK’s most exciting composers to be performed across the country and at two special weekend events in 2014 at London’s Southbank Centre and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music to coincide with the Commonwealth Games.

On the Arts Show, Dr Sierra discussed the inspiration behind the new piece,  the inspiration she draws from the pianists involved in performing it, and her innovative use of live bird recordings as part of the musical texture, with samples functioning as integral musical elements within the piece.

Urban Birds will be performed in Cardiff on Tuesday 19 March 2014 as part of the Cardiff University Concert Series. It brings together acclaimed keyboard soloists Clare Hammond, Xenia Pestova, and Kathleen Supove.

Ticket information is available from http://concerts.cf.ac.uk