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


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