Kelvin Thomson & Liz Bahs

Science Opera
28th November @ 5.00pm

Two Sphaerularia bombi parasites of bumble bees. The white one is normal but the dark one has been melanised by the immune system of its host. Photo by Mike Kelly

 ‘Many [insect] species are undergoing rapid decline due to human impacts on the environment, but they receive remarkably little attention from policy makers, conservation biologists, or conservation organizations. Bees provide the essential ecosystem service of pollination – without them we would lose many of our food products as well as many flowering plants – but are in rapid decline across the world.’
— Dr. Mark Brown, RHUL biologist

One could argue that the plight of the bees mirrors the case of artists who are struggling to maintain their position of relevance in an age of ‘austerity measures’.

The Science Opera project is a collaborative venture bringing together biological science, poetry, playwriting, dramaturgy, choreography and music. The aim is to develop an innovative and accessible performance that will both communicate some of Mark Brown’s research and also show the value of artistic responses to science.  Although artistic response is important as a medium for public understanding, this project explores the importance of response in and of itself.  It seeks to answer the questions it raises—what can writers and musicians contribute to an understanding of bee decline?  How does scientific knowledge inform the artistic creative process?

This presentation will discuss the project’s background from original conception in each of the presenters’ own fields of study, to the libretto and music being written for the Science Opera.

The project is sponsored by the RHUL Science Festival and the RHUL Alumni Fund and is being developed for the RHUL Science Festival, March 2013.

Brief Bio
Kelvin Thomson is a composer, music director and keyboardist. He is a PhD in Composition candidate supervised by Mark Bowden and is exploring musical hybridity, stratification and fusion. His recent compositions include: The Empress of the Blues, a musical; Boojum for Bassoon and Symphony Orchestra and Bombus Lucorum for trio. His incidental music for Theatre Counteract’s production of Abhishek Majumdar’s play An Arrangement of Shoes was premiered in Bangalore in 2011. Kelvin was nominated for a British Composer Award 2011 for Prelude and Interlude for chamber orchestra. As music director he has toured with Celtic Woman (USA) and Riverdance (Europe and Russia) and recent West End credits include: Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Zorro. As keyboardist his recordings include: The Music of John Williams, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Songs My Mother Taught Me, Lorna Luft; The Isles of Greece (Classic FM’s record of the month); Awakening, The Music of Life, Joseph Curiale, RPO.

Liz Bahs is a poet and PhD in Creative Writing candidate supervised by Jo Shapcott. She is currently investigating the musical connections of polyphonic poetry sequence.  She has recently completed an extended sequence, The Calling, based on the re-imagining of a Scottish sea myth and is now working on a performance adaptation of the sequence.  Her poems have been published in The Rialto, Iota, The Frogmore Papers, Poetry Southeast Anthology 2010, among others. She was a shortlisted poet for the Troubadour International Poetry Prize, 2011.

Mark Brown
Kelvin Thomson
Liz Bahs
RHUL Science Festival
RHUL Alumni Fund


Rebecca McCutcheon

Immersion vs dissonance:
UK site-specific theatre practice and discourse
14th November @ 5.00pm

PhD Practice workshop May 2011: at Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

Site specific practice and discourse in the UK has increasingly foregrounded notions of immersion, site sympathy, authenticity and depth of experience. At the same time, works by companies such as Punchdrunk, Shunt and dreamthinkspeak are regarded by some critics as lacking political or social aspirations which were central to the rise of site specific forms of theatre in the 60s and 70s (Gareth White, On Immersive Theatre, Theatre Research International Vol 37 No 3, September 2012).

My research examines site/text correspondences, looking to explore a range of possible relationships, from authenticating, immersive strategies to practices of dissonance and disruption.

This presentation will offer a perspective on my current work and also invite contributions to the discussion through considerations of multiple meanings of site, and strategies of practice interventions from other disciplines.

Brief Bio
Rebecca is a London-based theatre director; in 2001 she co-founded site specific theatre company angels in the architecture, directing productions in the Roundhouse undercroft, in the disused Aldwych tube station on the Strand, on the archeological site of the Rose theatre in Bankside, and in the House of St Barnabas, a women’s refuge in the heart of Soho. Most recently she directed Marlowe’s “Dido, Queen of Carthage” at Kensington Palace. Much of her work centres on little known texts, and working with site as a generative element of creative production. Recent publications: Rebecca has co-authored a chapter on site specific practice in the recently published “Performing Early Modern Drama Today”, ed K Prince & P. Aebischer, Cambridge University Press 2012.


Michael Cryne

Extra-musical content and the compositional process
14th November @ 6.00pm

Extra-musical concepts, ideas, shapes or sounds immediately suggest themselves to me as music, almost pre-rationally, at some fundamental and intuitive level. I assert that music is, and can be, an art full of content about and of the world, and while it needn’t limit itself to simple representation, there is a relationship between the world and musical content. This relationship is imprecise, impenetrable and obscure, but, aside from the strictest of formalists permitted, at least to some degree, by most philosophers of music.

That this relationship can and does exist is of the utmost importance to my compositional process. I will discuss how my work moves beyond programme music, using my work Hearing Voices as an example, and arguing that the piece is not a purely representational work, rather, it is of the world, informed by and inhabiting an experience, its essence is of ‘pure’ music. It is not programmatic in the sense of attempting to depict or represent an experience, and isn’t an attempt to draw the listener down some representational path, but instead is a pre-rational, elemental musical reaction to an experience, which then becomes music. In my compositions, the extra-musical element informs the process, rather than the listened experience.

Using examples from my own compositional work, I will discuss how extra-musical content informs and shapes my compositional choices and processes. From macro to micro level, shaping the very form, shape, structure and sound world of the music itself, to varying degrees in my recent compositions.

Brief Bio
Michael Cryne was born in 1981, and studied composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  He is currently pursuing doctoral study under the supervision of Dr Mark Bowden at Royal Holloway, University of London. Recent compositional work includes Prism for String Quartet (winner of the Molinari composition prize 2012), Hearing Voicesfor Solo Cello and Electronics (runner-up in the Coventry Intime festival prize 2012),Exodus for Reed Quintet, Live electronics and Video, and Listen to the Singing Wind for Solo soprano saxophone. He has also worked extensively in the theatre as a composer and music director, most recently acting as musical supervisor for the RSC’s production of Much Ado about Nothing. He has written the music for over 20 plays, staged worldwide.