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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts Workshops

Molecular Mimicry – BCMG Resolution Project

As I posted about a few months ago, earlier this year I was involved in BCMG’s Resolution project, exploring scientific research through music and I composed a piece for secondary school students to perform. As part of my research, I drew a little storyboard which was made into a little film (thanks to Jonathan Lee). I’ve finally managed to put the audio recording of the performance by the students together with the animation. And here it is (make sure you turn your sound up – the beginning is very quiet):

Programme note:

Molecular mimicry’ is a term that describes the process of the body’s immune system mis-recognising its own antigens (particular proteins which live on the surface of cells) for those of a foreign pathogen and attacking itself. This piece explores the hypothesized process of the body developing Sjögrens syndrome.

Firstly the musical form of an oral bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. Gingivalis) is heard:

Molecular Mimicry Melody

This bacteria, or pathogen, is very similar in appearance to some of the body’s own cells. In the music this is represented rhythmically similar harmonies. The melody and harmonies are locked into by another rhythm:

Molecular Mimicry Counter-melody

This depicts the way the body uses a ‘lock and key’ type mechanism when discovering and reacting to particular antigens. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIN5sSUlZWk

This in turn triggers an immune response – an alarm – and the body begins to attack itself. In Sjögrens Syndrome this takes a number of forms, one of which is that the tear ducts and mouth dry up, shown in the music by the change from loud resonant sounds into high pitched dry, scratchy sounds.

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay Teaching Workshops

From Christmas to Easter…

…was a pretty busy time for me! In a good way!

I was involved in a number of projects, two of which have now finished for this year.

Firstly Resolution with BCMG. This was an intriguing science and music project which I blogged about previously. The final performance of this project was immense – the three secondary schools all did a joint performance which was really well received. I was so pleased with the way the young people reacted to the slightly crazy mix of science and contemporary music. They really engaged with it and pushed it forward in ways I didn’t imagine which was fantastic! Even created a rap about antibodies and antigens, which was awesome. I wrote a piece for the young people to perform entitled ‘Molecular Mimicry’ which was based on a theory of what the body does when it develops Sjögren’s Syndrome. Here’s the cartoon strip I wrote for it (no audio):

 

I was also involved with BCMG’s Imagine Compose project where I was working with one of Birmingham Music Service’s beginner instrumental ensembles to get them to be creative with their instruments. The exciting thing for me about this project was that you could see the children’s minds opening up to the new ideas and possibilities of their instruments. The group were fantastic – they were all really engaged and creative which made it fun. I went to their final performance at the Adrian Boult Hall in March and they actually performed a piece they’d created together. Here it is:

 

I have also been doing workshops with CBSO’s Birmingham History Project and CBSO’s Stay Tuned project – in fact you can catch fleeting glimpses of me here on this video:

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music Teaching The Arts

Science & Music

Notes spilling onto page
Notes spilling onto page – if only it were this easy!

Over the past few weeks I have been working with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on a project called Resolution. The project brings together science and musical composition and as part of it I am writing a piece for a group of young secondary school students to play, which is based on research into Sjogren’s Syndrome. It’s all very intriguing.

The scientist I have been working with is looking into specific theories of how Sjogren’s Syndrome might develop, as it isn’t really known. It’s amazing both how much and how little scientists know! So the piece I’m writing uses extra-musical information such as the ideas of bacteria, antigens, antibodies etc and I am trying to convey this information without it being too much of a story-telling exercise. Which is fascinating. And difficult. But fun. And challenging.

The trouble is that the information given to me by the scientist is very complex and abstract and although myriad different ideas are sparked off by the research, actually honing those ideas down to be more communicative of the science is quite tricky. It should be interesting to see how this pans out! It begs the question – can concrete scientific ideas ever be communicated successfully by a non-verbal medium?

Samples and Samples
Samples and Samples
A fake science experiment
A fake science experiment or an intriguing appetiser?
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Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Y Gollyngdod: Mezzo-soprano aria with piano reduction

Finally got around to uploading this recording from October 2011. I posted about the project at the time which you can read here.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this!

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music Reviews The Arts

Make an Aria at the Barber Institute – Y Gollyngdod

Monday was fun! I got to rehearse my aria – Y Gollyngdod – with mezzo-soprano Amanda Baldwin, Michael Rafferty conducting and Michael McCarthy directing. I was really pleased with the way it turned out and it was really nice to see it being rehearsed with real attention to the subtleties of David Roberts‘ libretto. Amanda was great, and was really enthusiastic about getting to grips with the aria which was great to see. Also, repetiteur Nicola Rose did a really nice job.

In the masterclass Nigel Osborne really got to the heart of my music and showed a great deal of insight and understanding which was really helpful for me. Having such a big focus from Nigel and the others on my music was incredibly revealing and taught me a great deal. It also made me pretty pleased with myself, because I think its a pretty decent piece!

Overall I think the project was ace – a great opportunity to really work with a writer and confront the challenges that collaborative opera writing can throw up, as well as really making sure I got to the heart of the text and considered the dramatic aspects. A big thank you to all the people involved from Music Theatre Wales, Welsh National Opera and BCMG. At some point we may even get round to finishing the opera!

For now, David and I are going to work on a few songs – he tells me he has some poems he reckons would be good so it’ll be interesting to get my teeth into them. Speaking of teeth, I’m having really awful toothache  – I think from my wisdom teeth. Sad times.

Anyway, hopefully I should get a recording up here pretty soon, so please come back when its around!

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Make an Aria – public masterclass at the Barber Institute

On this coming Monday (10th Oct) from 5pm til 7.30pm there will be a public masterclass of four new arias written for the Make an Aria project, and I have written one of them!

The project is through Welsh National Opera, Music Theatre Wales, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University (Birmingham Conservatoire). There were four composers and four writers from the two universities and we were paired up. My writer was David Roberts, and we focused on a storyline which involved the intriguing and conflicting life of a communist Welshman. The aria is sung by his wife as she mourns his death and comes to the realisation that she has not really been able to live her life because of him.

If you fancy coming along, the  public masterclass will be at 5pm at the Barber Institute in Birmingham, which is a beautiful venue with a lovely acoustic.

See you there!

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Jeremy Clay New Music Reviews The Arts

Aldeburgh Festival

I went down to the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk yesterday, to the the CBSO & BCMG concert conducted by Oliver Knussen. First time I’d been to that part of the world and I have to say it was really nice!!! Always love being by the sea, but there’s something very calming about the landscape in Suffolk, so  that I enjoyed that. Fish and chips on Aldeburgh beach followed by a great concert at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Was nice to hear Charlotte Bray‘s violin concerto Caught in Treetops again, played even better this time by Alex Wood. And Elliot Carter’s new piece Conversations was ace, with a real sense of humour. Great piano and percussion soloists really brought the piece vividly to life and the audience loved it – and loved it even more when Knussen played it again straight afterwards. And of course there was some fantastic Stravinsky.

Then a great meal followed at the Lighthouse restaurant…never had rock eel before, but now I can recommend it!

Good times were had by all, until the pesky seagulls woke us up ridiculously early this morning. Winner.

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay Reviews The Arts

My premiere tonight by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble

It’s been a while since I posted anything, mainly because I have been busy composing my latest piece for Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble – being performed tonight – 7.30pm – 23rd May at the Recital Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire in an hour-long concert entitled MERGE. Should be fun!

Aside from that, I’ve been filling my time with fun stuff like BCMG’s Nostalgie cabaret and the Music Maze workshop we did alongside that. Also went down to London for my first creative meeting with Springs Dance Company for my new collaborative commission The Selfish Giant, based on Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name.

Also way back on 29th April (yes, royal wedding day!) futuresonic hosted their second event at We Are Birmingham which was an interactive laptop performance from BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) which was intriguing!!!

Oo and I have another new nephew who is called Jonas! Winner!

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Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music

Musical Games

Spent yesterday afternoon thinking up musical games for BCMG’s Music Maze on Sunday…

We were using those paper ‘chatterbox’ thingys that girls make when they are young:

Underneath the flaps there are musical instructions of what to play. On Sunday we’re gonna get the young people to make their own and then in live performance use them to make choices about what to play – I think its a great idea!

Maybe I need to incorporate more fun into my music…

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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Feel the Buzz with BCMG

This Sunday was the second part of a two-day composing workshop I was doing with BCMG called Feel the Buzz. Its a workshop for 14-18 year olds and the format is a kind of collaborative composing/improvising together approach. Jackie Walduck was leading with BCMG musicians and she used a kind of 1-page score technique which the young people fleshed out collaboratively. All based around the nOSTalgie Cabaret BCMG are doing in May.

We were drawing parallels between the past and present, so one piece we did was based on Mack the Knife (the words in that songs are really quite horrific – check them out!) and another was on 21st Century Pirates! Nice!

There was a final performance of all the music produced on Sunday evening and it was great! It was really nice to see young people all working creatively together and having input into the final pieces. And whatever Birmingham City Council think about BCMG, this project engaged an incredibly diverse group of young people from many different backgrounds.

Unfortunately due to cuts, Birmingham Music Service (who have generously funded this project for the last 10 years!) are unable to continue funding it next year, although they really want to! So it means BCMG are going to have to find to some money from somewhere to keep it going. Really hope it doesn’t stop because I think it is a brilliant project.