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24 Fragments: music, neuroscience and performance on Bristol’s Habourside

Professor Tom Troscianko, one of the contributors to 24 Fragments

Professor Tom Troscianko, one of the contributors to 24 Fragments Dave Pratt

20 February 2009

Two University of Bristol academics will be taking part in a 24-hour festival modelled on the firing of the human brain’s neurons at the Watershed on Bristol’s Habourside tomorrow, Saturday 21 February.

Watershed is one of 24 sites across the UK hosting The Fragmented Orchestra – a huge, distributed musical instrument, modelled on the firing of the human brain’s neurons. The 24 Fragments festival comprises 24 hours of music, neuroscience and performance from 21 to 22 February at 24 venues around the UK. This sprawling collaborative work, spanning music, art and science, has evolved from a fascination by its creators of the inherent sonic rhythms and adaptive learning of spiking neurons – that is, the electrical impulses of the human brain.

Watershed will host a series of spoken word performances on the theme of the nature of mind from 1pm to 3pm on Saturday 21 February. Passers-by will be able to take part and hear the performances as they walk past the main entrance where a sound unit will be installed.

Professor Tom Troscianko of the Department of Experimental Psychology will be giving a presentation on the perception of colour and light in different animals and Professor Iain Gilchrist, also from the Department of Experimental Psychology, will be discussing how movements of the eyes shape visual perception. Professor Gilchrist’s contribution will include an interactive demonstration featuring a mobile eye tracker. Both Professor Troscianko and Professor Gilchrist are active in Bristol Neuroscience, which brings together neuroscientists from across the University to encourage interdisciplinary research, as well as the Bristol Vision Institute, which promotes vision research across a wide range of disciplines.

The event is in collaboration with sound artist Paul Stapleton, violinist Gascia Ouzounian and improvisers Pedro Rebelo and Franziska Schroeder from the Sonic Lab at Queen’s University School of Music and Sonic Arts, Belfast. They will be conducting remote sonic explorations live from Belfast.

Professor John Onians, the world’s first neuroarthistorian from the School of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia, will be sharing his theory that advances in the scientific study of the brain can add a new dimension to our understanding of art. His groundbreaking work draws on the writings of philosophers, art historians and writers from across the centuries. In particular, he will discuss how the rhythms and patterns of birdsong have influenced the evolution of contemporary music.

Spoken word artist Ralph Hoyte will be presenting a series of readings and chants, including The Heart Sutra and extracts from the Abhidhamma.  

Alan Summers will be presenting a selection of haiku followed by a renga session.

Other Bristol-based spoken word performers, including Liv Torc, Hazel Hammond and Phil Phelps, will also be presenting their work.

24 Fragments is a 24-hour festival funded by The Wellcome Trust, including all 24 sites of The Fragmented Orchestra, which are linked up by microphones that pick up sound at each site. The diverse locations hosting events include Gloucester Cathedral, Goodison Park football ground, the Institute of Psychiatry in London, Brighton Pier and the National Portrait Gallery. All of the events during the 24-hour festival are designed to be relayed through the distributed ‘neuronal system’ of The Fragmented Orchestra and via its website.

A programme of events for Watershed is available to download from the Watershed website.

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