Tag Archives: music news

Penny Adie writes…

Each week, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie will be here on the blog, letting you all know just what’s been going on down at Festival HQ in Devon.

The exciting news is that 2014 Two Moors Festival concert programme is now public knowledge and the brochures are in the process of being sent (courtesy of Knight Frank’s generosity) to the several thousand people on the mailing list. Before they are dispatched, however, there is always a lively party of volunteers who gather together in the our kitchen to stuff the brochures into their A5 envelopes.

This event may sound extremely boring, but it isn’t! Many glasses of wine, a hearty supper and often scurrilous conversation set the scene for an evening of sticking address labels on to the envelopes, then inserting the brochures plus a flyer for concerts in the waiting room (yes, truly!) at Tiverton Parkway railway station. They are then boxed to be taken to Exeter from where they are posted.

There is a sense of wellbeing after this major operation has taken place in that the concerts’ programme is complete and there is nothing as an Artistic Director I can do to change it. There are also, however, the typos that inevitably escape the scrutiny of the proof-readers and which can be very funny. Our best to date, was from some years ago when “Elgar’s epic work, Dream of Gerontius” became his “epic wok”!

So there we are – there are 30 delicious concerts to attend in October (15th – 25th) with artists such as Viktoria Mullova, Angel Hewitt and Kate Royal in the bag. We hope to see you there!

To order your copy of the brochure and to find out more about this year’s event, visit our website today.


Julian Lloyd Webber puts cello to rest

We were very sad here at the Two Moors Festival to hear that acclaimed cellist Julian Lloyd Webber will no longer be able to play the cello professionally because of a herniated disc in his neck.

He’s been a staunch supporter of the Two Moors Festival and has played in many concerts with us over the years, as well as going off on all sorts of musical jaunts across the Middle East with artistic director Penny Adie.

Penny had this to say about the sad news: “Julian and I have worked together on many wonderful concerts within the festival and elsewhere, and the thought that we won’t again hear that glorious warm sound emanating from his cello is too sad to contemplate. His concert in Exeter Cathedral with the many young instrumentalists who took part in 2011 was the most moving ever and his infectious enthusiasm inspired them all to greater things. In one case, it proved to be the turning point in whether to make music her career – it did.”

We’d love to hear about the concerts you saw Julian play in. Share your memories in the comments below.

Making classical music with a brain computer interface

In February this year, an interesting classical music premiere took place at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth – Activating Memory, an experimental composition where the Brain Computer Music Interface quartet wear braincaps that read information from their brains, which is then converted into musical scores.

We caught up with Professor Eduardo Miranda, a composer bridging the gap between music and science, to find out more about his innovative approach to making music.


Eduardo_Miranda2MF: What led you to explore the relationship between music and science?

EM: Music was part of my upbringing since very early on. But I ended up taking a university degree in informatics. After a two-year stint working as a software engineer I decided to go back to university to study music. It was during a visit to the music library that I came across a double issue of a French periodical called La Revue Musicale, with articles authored by composer Iannis Xenakis.

Xenakis’ highly innovative use of mathematics and logics in composition was a revelation to me: I realised that I could combine my knowledge of computing with music. I soon found myself immersed in the then emerging field of computer music. The rest is history.

2MF: How does your process of composing using computers work?

EM: The use of computers to compose music dates back to the mid of 1950s, when Lejaren Hiller composed The Illiac Suite for String Quartet. Hiller teamed up with mathematician Leonard Isaacson to program the mainframe computer ILLIAC at the University of Illinois in the USA to generate music by following rules. The output from the computer, which essentially consisted of a lot of numerical data, was transcribed manually into standard musical notation on a score to be played by a string quartet.

I regularly program the computer to generate materials for my compositions, pretty much following the tradition initiated by Hiller. The main difference is that nowadays one can program the computer to generate data that can be loaded directly into a piece of software for editing scores, such as Sibelius or Finale. I program the computer to generate materials such as riffs, sequences, rhythms, melodies, entire sections lasting for several minutes, and indeed synthesised sounds. More often than not, musical form emerges as I work with the materials at hand. One of the reasons I find it exciting working with computers is because they can generate musical materials that I would not have produced on my own otherwise.

2MF: Tell us more about Activating Memory and the BCMI Quartet.

EM: A Brain-Computer Interface is a system that uses electrical patterns detected on the cortex of the brain, referred to as the electroencephalogram, or EEG, to control devices. My team and I at Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) at Plymouth University have been developing a BCMI, that is a Brain-Computer Music Interface, which is a BCI to control music. We have recently developed a prototype BCMI for a locked-in syndrome patient (a person with severe paralysis of the whole body after a stroke) at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London that allowed her to play music. Our system detects patterns of brain activity that the patient has learned to produce to control a program that generates music.

This is the technology I used for Activating Memory, a piece for 8 performers: a string quartet and BCMI quartet. The BCI quartet involves four persons, each of them wearing a brain cap furnished with electrodes to read information from their brains. We designed an extraordinary BCMI system that generates musical scores in real-time. During the performance, each member of the BCI quartet generates a part for the string quartet to be performed on the fly.

Readers are invited to watch a short documentary available from my Vimeo channel to understand how the composition works.


2MF: What level of control do you have over the development of a composition using the brain cap?

EM: In the case of Activating Memory, I share the control with the four people who wear the braincap. The composition functions as kind of multidimensional domino game, whereby I am the designer of the game and the persons who wear the cap, or composers-performers, play the game.

2MF: Do you think it removes a level of creativity from the art of composition?

EM: I do not think so. If anything, I would say it adds another level. At the end of the day, it is just a different way of making music.

2MF: What reactions do you get to your work?

EM: It varies. I generally hear good commentary. One important thing for me is that I care about the music. Music comes first. Technology comes after. I think my audience appreciates that. Above all, I am a composer and the music has to sound interesting.

2MF: How did the world premiere at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival go?

EM: It exceeded my expectations. The whole thing worked perfectly. I rarely have performances that I am 100% happy with, but this was a pleasant exception. The four brains worked together brilliantly. All four “brains” really listened to each other during the performance and made choices that made complete musical sense to me. And the string quartet responded beautifully! The audience was thrilled and a reportage by BBC News alone attracted over 2 million viewers on the internet. This is a tremendous exposure for the work, and also for the festival and the region.

2MF: What are you working on now?

EM: I am working on a piece for an ensemble of 26 musicians, called Recombinaisons Corticales, as part of a project I am developing in collaboration with IRCAM in Paris and NOTAM in Oslo. And I am just about to start working on a major opera, which is due for September 2015.

The Telegraph’s Michael White on The Two Moors Festival

michael-whiteWe were very pleased to have recently been the subject of conversation for Daily Telegraph music critic Michael White, who had some very lovely things to say about The Two Moors Festival.

He writes about how the festival began back in 2001 as the result of the foot and mouth crisis that devastated the south-west, as well as discussing the sheer number of concerts that are put on in just 10 days in October.

We were particularly tickled by this comment, made after this year’s main two-week event, which ended a few weeks ago:

“I’ve just been down there and clocked up six concerts in two-and-a-half days: some of memorable quality, given by major artists, and in places of exquisite beauty. It’s like going to the Wigmore Hall, with better views. And cows.”

You can read the rest of the article here. Please do tell us if you’ve come across the Festival in other news pieces – and we hope to see you at some concerts next year!

Do you fidget at the opera?

A violin on a black background.Going to a classical music concert can be a bit tricky if the seats aren’t hugely comfortable. You can be sitting there for quite a long time, which can result in lots of shifting around as legs and bottoms go to sleep, which can be rather distracting for rest of the audience.

In an interesting move, the Metropolitan Opera in New York has taken steps to counteract numb bum syndrome (as we’re calling it here at the Two Moors Festival!) by installing ergonomic seat cushions in its building over the next decade, swapping around 3,300 seats.

“Fidgeting is contagious. If the person next to you starts fighting for the armrest or the person behind you starts crossing his legs… that can interfere with your experience,” Ian Moore – chief executive of NuBax, which pitched the idea to the opera house – said.

The clever new seats have been designed to straighten the spine, tilt the pelvis forward and improve blood flow, so the only reason for fidgeting at any of their productions in the future will be be that, well, you’re just a fidget in general.

Unfortunately you’ll just have to control your fidgeting impulses at this year’s Two Moors Festival’s main two-week event in October – our concerts all take place in churches and the ministers will probably have something to say about it if we start pulling out all the pews!