The world of experimental music using instruments and electronics may not top the charts, but with a collaborative project between the University of Huddersfield and the Université de Montréal and McGill University in Canada, this niche genre can be enjoyed by a wider audience.
This international collaboration has enhanced Huddersfield’s already considerable reputation in this field and enabled an exchange of culture, skills and facilities between these institutions in a series of projects.
One of these projects has resulted in the release of an album by the renowned Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes. Lépidoptères is a cycle of five works for recorder and electronics co-composed by Professor Monty Adkins, a composer, performer and Professor of experimental electronic music at the University of Huddersfield and Montreal-based composer and performer Dr Terri Hron (pictured below).
Lépidoptères is a work for recorders and electronics made of five movements, each referring to families of butterflies and moths. The nature and character of the recorder is similar, with its varying tonal colours, and its transformations from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. The consort of recorders used belongs together with sonic and physical connections between the different instruments. This inspired similar connections and interactions between the recorder(s) and the electronics.
The album was released at a concert in Belgium in February 2016 with tour dates around the UK, Belgium, Amsterdam and Prague. Terri also gave a preview of the album at a concert at Leighton Colony in Banff, Canada.
The Centre for Research in New Music
The project was conceived during Terri’s residency in the summer of 2014 at the studios of the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) at the University of Huddersfield. CeReNeM is a community of world-leading artists and scholars who bring interdisciplinary perspectives to research in contemporary composition, performance, music technology, improvisation and sonic media. It hosts a vibrant postgraduate programme with 50 Masters and PhD students from 18 different countries benefiting from outstanding facilities such as the Huddersfield Immersive Sounds System (HISS) and SPIRAL (pictured below), the University’s digital studio spatialisation laboratory for computer music, electroacoustic music and spatialisation technologies.
Photo Credit: Louis Austin
An immersive musical experience
As well as the recording for Lépidoptères taking place at McGill University, the composition took place at the Université de Montréal as a result of a long-standing relationship between the University of Huddersfield and the Université de Montréal’s Vice-Dean Robert Normandeau, a well-established figure in the world of electronic music.
McGill University uses a 22.2 surround sound system developed by research at NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster. It is the only facility of its kind outside Japan and provides the ideal environment for creating a totally immersive musical experience.
McGill recording studio
One of the key outcomes of this work is the development of an algorithm to control the sound in relation to the recorder for this piece. Rather than creating a fixed piece of music that the recorder plays from start to finish, this research has created a system where it is possible to control the way in which the sounds and the various processes work all the way through the movement. As a result each performance is never the same, providing a unique experience for the audience and the performer.
Future projects with other countries are already in the pipeline as the University of Huddersfield and its partners plan an international network of musical collaborations.