Oct 14, 2018

Performing Patterns: From Ada Lovelace to John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia)


Edited: Oct 15, 2018

Fusing Archives, Electronics, Harp and Performance


Last week I spoke to @Deborah Keyser about a project that I'm developing and she suggested that I write something in the Forum, so I thought that I'd write a few words here for other people to think about. This isn't about the piece that I'm working on for the performance at Bangor, but it's something that's starting to emerge. Over the past few years I've been working with the University of Oxford (Prof Dave De Roure) on an Experimental Digital Humanities project, looking at (amongst other things) taking musical patterns based on Lovelace's writings and calculations, and using them as the basis for composition. I was intrigued to find out that Ada Lovelace had supported a harpist called John Thomas who used the bardic name Pencerdd Gwalia.


Picture of the harpist John ThomasPicture of the harpist John Thomas
John Thomas - Pencerdd Gwalia. Central image - with permission of Tim Creighton Griffiths


Dave had also been working on a piece for harp, and by coincidence I'd been trying to workout how to develop a piece that pulled together harp and electronics. I'd had a chance to work with the Game Trak that other people have mentioned on the forum. It's a midi controller that allows you to work with x,y,z planes.

I'd been thinking about how these might be incorporated into a harpist's setup and how this might feed into an 8 speaker system, where the performers might sit and how this whole thing might be constructed. The initial idea is to use a harp frame to anchor the Game Trak cords and run 4 Game Traks that are assigned to different sets of speakers, acting in differing ways. I've started to map out some of the ways that this might be done a few days ago, but it'll take a time, workshops, effort and a lot of experimentation to accomplish. I hope to put in for a small amount of funding next year to get more people involved in the project and develop a performance. Notes below



Alan Chamberlain Notes - Composing with Harps and ElectronicsAlan Chamberlain Notes - Composing with Harps and Electronics
Harps, Patterns, Ada and Pencerdd. Some initial sketches and planning.



I've just become a Composer in Residence at Swansea University at the Computational Foundry, working with Prof Alan Dix. I hope to be able to work with some people there in order to develop the arts side of the Foundry and start to think about the way that the Arts and Science might work together to deliver thought provoking, inspiring projects and performances. I'm sure there is going to be some really innovative work and partnerships that come out of the residency. It'll be fantastic to bring people together in Wales and work with Alan and Dave who are interesting and insightful thinkers. I just need an old harp now and more time to appreciate John Thomas's work.

Oct 15, 2018

I love this idea, and hope it can come to fruition somehow. TC's very own @Ethan Davies will be fascinated too, I know (once he returns from his current transatlantic jaunt) - in the union of archive-research and new composition/performance techniques. And I'm sure he's shown me this pic of John Thomas from a book in our Tŷ Cerdd collection...

Oct 15, 2018

Sounds like another connection, it's really interesting the way things start to connect. I'll have to have a chat to you about the Tŷ Cerdd collection when I see you at the end of the week.

Oct 19, 2018

This Lovelace connection is really interesting - I'll try to catch you at some point today to have a chat.

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