Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2012
Plymouth University, 10-12 February
From a remix of a movement from Beethoven's Symphony No 7 to a quartet inspired by the landscape of Cornwall and three pieces by an iPad trio, this year's Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival offers a characteristically exciting tour of the frontiers of musical creativity.
Peninsula Arts was set up by Plymouth University to bring together work in a wide variety of disciplines and reach out to the city. The eighth Contemporary Music Festival has adopted the university's Latin motto - translated as "explore, dream, discover" - as a suitably upbeat but open-ended theme for a festival that celebrates 150 years of higher education on a campus dating back to the founding of the School of Navigation in 1862.
Focusing on the crossroads between music, science and technology, it builds on the work being carried out at Plymouth's Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research and gives several members of staff an opportunity to showcase their ideas.
When he came to Plymouth eight years ago, says Eduardo Miranda, professor of computer music, his "mission was to look at how technology can aid the creative process in music. I want to use technology to avoid the repetitiveness that often afflicts older composers."
Interested in blurring the lines between pop music and classical concert music, he is represented at the festival by three pieces written over 20 years. Wee Batucada Scotica (1998), for example, blends computer-generated material with the bossa nova style of Miranda's native Brazil, while his latest composition, Electric Waggle Dance (2011), uses a solo electric violin, amplified string ensemble and "fractal" techniques to evoke the bee's dance for nectar.
Also represented on the programme is Alexis Kirke, composer-in-residence at the Plymouth Marine Institute. He has already created a Sunlight Symphony, in which a computer and light sensors turned a whole building into an "instrument played by the rising sun", and opened last year's celebration of the whale with a piece called Fast Travel. His new work, Insight, for solo flute and "halluciphone", will attempt to capture an unusual condition called palinopsia, which frequently gives him "very strong after-images, similar to when anyone stares at the sun and looks away". Specially created iPad software will, he hopes, "allow the audience to see some semblance of what I am experiencing internally in my usually 'private' vision", while a sound producer on a prepared laptop will translate his "live hallucinations" into musical form.
The music festival coincides with an exhibition, Landscapes of Exploration, at the Peninsula Art Gallery (11 February-31 March), which brings together the work of 10 visual artists, one musician and three writers who undertook residencies in the Antarctic between 2001 and 2009. It also forms part of the centennial events commemorating the tragic end of Plymouth-born Robert Scott's expedition to the South Pole.