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On Friday 13th October, the BBC Singers are conducted by Nicholas Chalmers in the world premiere of Piers Hellawell’s Isabella’s Banquet, a song book of pieces to texts taken from Mrs Beeton’s 1861 ‘Book of Household Management’. The concert is in St Paul’s, Knightsbridge at 7.30pm.

Hellawell’s selected texts deal not with her celebrated recipes but with Mrs Beeton's poetic recitation of exotic ingredients – teas, meats, spices etc – as well as the need for good habits such as taking cold baths. The programme is curated by Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir, and includes music by her, Finnissy, Furse and Carter as well as Mendelssohn and Wesley. More details are available at 

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Dr Gascia Ouzounian was one of four invited speakers at the symposium Dancing About Architecture, which took place in Berlin from 23-28 September 2014. This symposium brought together scholars, architects and artists to discuss cross-disciplinary collaboration between architecture and movement-based arts, music, installation and performance. It was co-hosted by the architecture firm Studio Lukas Feireiss and the dance company Dorky Park, lead by Berlin-based, Argentinian choreographer Constanza Macras.

Over the course of the symposium there were lectures and panels at different venues across the city, ranging from the Schaubühne Theater to ANCB The Metropolitan Library, as well as two large-scale performances by Dorky Park. The symposium participants and audiences reflected on the myriad ways in which the city can be understood and transformed within and through arts practices. Dr Ouzounian discussed her project with architect Sarah Lappin, Recomposing the City, and her recent research on acoustic mapping and sound installation art in relation to the poetics and politics of place. 

For more information, please visit:



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This practice-based research programme explores the idea put forward by Henri Levebvre of "lived space" - that we produce space as we move in it. This concept is helpful in understanding the dynamics of site-specific performance.

In Wilde at Home, scenes from Oscar Wilde's writings were performed in different locations around two distinctive buildings: in May 2015 at Florence Court House, a National Trust property in Enniskillen where Wilde went to school; and in September 2016 in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where Wilde famously declared his genius to bemused customs officials. The Academy was founded in 1884, the year Wilde married his wife, Constance, and photographs of its early graduates fitted well with the 19th century drama and prose.

In both venues, performance was "in dialogue" with the building, its architecture and its decor, creating two quite distinct effects. In Florence Court there were resonances of social hierarchy. In the Academy one sensed the ghosts of former students rising up to take back the stage.

In each venue, audiences experienced the performance as two groups, weaving back and forth through the corridors and landings, passing one another, and seeing the performed extracts in a different order. The actors reported the difference it made to the playing of each scene that each group were on a different narrative track.

In this respect, the performance build on an emergin pattern of site-specific performance that is particular to Belfast and was developed in productions such as The Wedding Community Play (1999) and Convictions (2000) in which multiple audiences engage simultaneously with performers. 

Wilde at Home extends this work in an original way by having a second audience follow the first in canon, and by providing a basis for comparison between two venues for the same performance.

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In Dublin of October 4th 2013 President Michael D. Higgins launched The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland at an event attended by hundreds of people spanning the diverse gamut of Irish music.  This two-volume work, published by University College Dublin Press, was edited by Professors Barra Boydell and Harry White, assisted by a team of subject editors and dozens of contributors.  The contribution of Queen’s University to musical culture is summarised in an excellent subject article by QUB Lecturer in Musicology Aidan Thomson.  The Encyclopaedia also contains an article on QUB’s Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music. However, a closer read of these comprehensive volumes reveals that the contribution of the University to Irish musical culture cannot be summarised adequately in two entries.  The list of contributors from the University, and the number musicians, composers, and scholars who have been affiliated with the University who are the subject of articles in the Encyclopaedia, is truly impressive and is a cause for celebration.

Among the contributors/editorial advisors from current QUB faculty are Ann Buckley (Research Fellow, English) Martin Dowling (Lecturer, Irish Traditional Music) Maria McHale (Teaching Assistant, Musicology) Suzel Ana Reily (Reader, Ethnomusicology), Jan Smaczny (Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music), Aidan J. Thomson (Lecturer, Musicology) and Yo Tomita (Professor of Musicology). 

 Contributions from former students include Elise Crean (PhD, Musicology), Alison Dunlop (PhD, Musicology), Roy Johnston (PhD Musicology), Ian Mills (PhD Musicology), Michael Lee (PhD Musicology) Gordon Ramsey (PhD Ethnomusicology), Adrian Scahill (MA Musicology), Ruth Stanley (PhD Musicology), and Fintan Vallely (MA Ethnomusicology)

 Subject articles about past and present faculty include Michael Alcorn (Professor of Composition), John Blacking (Professor of Ethnomusicology), Ciaran Carson (Professor of Poetry), Anthony Carver (Senior Lecturer in Musicology), Ricardo Climent, (Lecturer in Music Technology), Philip Cranmer (Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music), Donald Davison (University Organist and Head of Department of Statistics), Martin Dowling (Lecturer, Irish Traditional Music), David Greer (Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music) Piers Hellawell (Professor of Composition), Ivor Keys (Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music), Sarah McCleave (Lecturer, Musicology), Michael McGuffin (Performance Tutor), Simon Mawhinney (Lecturer in Composition), Kevin O’Connell (Lecturer in Music), Fiona Palmer (Senior Lecturer in Music), Jan Smaczny (Sir Hamilton Harty Professor of Music), Aidan J. Thomson (Lecturer, Musicology), Yo Tomita (Professor of Musicology), Kevin Volans (Composer in Residence), Raymond Warren (Professor of Composition), Paul Wilson (Senior Lecturer in Composition), and Ian Woodfield (Professor of Musicology).

 Subject articles about current and former students of the University include Elaine Agnew, Harry Grindle, Philip Hammond, Robbie Hannan, Fionnuala and Úna Hunt, Elaine Kelly, Deirdre Mackay, Joe McKee, Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, and Jim Samson. 

Dr Martin Dowling - School of Creative Arts

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In July 2014, the elegant Concert Room of St George's Hall in Liverpool was the setting for the European Opera Centre’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Conducted by Laurent Pillot and directed by Bernard Rozet, a cast of six young professional singers, selected from over five hundred applicants, was accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

A new version of the opera based on the research of Ian Woodfield was given. As originally constructed, the plot tests the fidelity of two young women. Their partners, heavily disguised, attempt to win over each other’s lover. With the assistance of some of Mozart’s most gloriously seductive music, success is a foregone conclusion. But the cavalier abandonment of the newly aroused passions when the original couples have to be reunited at the end has always struck audiences as emotionally unsatisfying.

Intriguing hints in Mozart’s autograph suggest that an alternative was considered with each man seducing his own woman. The Liverpool production investigates how this might have worked. There is embarrassment all round when the deception is revealed, but the original pairings have never in fact been put asunder.

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Experience another world here in the heart of Belfast

The Soundscape Park project is a new permanent interactive sound installation in East Belfast, and the first of its kind in Europe.  Located in Bridge Community Garden, the project aims to bring something different to Belfast City.  


Loudspeakers are hidden all around the garden amongst the planting.  Visitors experience ambient soundscapes from all over the world... these might include sounds of the Amazon Rainforest, waves crashing in the Atlantic Ocean,  or even the factory sounds from Harland & Wolff shipyards.  

Motion detection, social networking and smartphone technology are also some of the tools being used to allow visitors to interact with the sounds.  For example, you can use Twitter to trigger sounds in the garden (visit for more information).


The project was created by a partnership between the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast and Business in the Community and funded by Allstate Northern Ireland.  The Sonic Arts Research Centre is a world leader in installations of this nature and the staff and students at the centre are contributing to the project with expertise in field recording, composition and the use of interaction technology.  There are also plans to make use of the space as an outdoor 'sonic gallery' and for community  workshops.

For more information please contact Craig Jackson

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The spring and summer of 2014 have seen two diverse collaborations by composer Professor Piers Hellawell. In March 2014 the MAC (Belfast) played host to the world premiere by Bourne Davis Kane of Sound Carvings, Strange Tryst, one of twenty commissions across the UK from the PRS Foundation for Music’s New Music Biennial; this experimental collaboration went on to London’s Southbank Centre (QEH) and later the Glasgow Concert Halls, both as part of the New Music Biennial. Meanwhile September 2014 saw the world premiere at The Maltings, Snape (Aldeburgh) of Balcony Scenes for solo violin; this was commissioned for violinist Fenella Humphreys’ long-term project ‘Bach to the Future’, in which senior composers were invited to respond in kind to Bach’s unaccompanied violin works.

These two projects offered contrasting challenges. A focus upon musical freedoms in Sound Carvings, Strange Tryst was indicated by the collaboration, since Bourne Davis Kane (BDK) are an improvising trio – using small cells of written material as the basis for extended compositions that evolve with each performance. This suggested a work outside Hellawell’s previous practice: he had to mediate the inherent tension between the acoustic composer’s desire to pinpoint events via the page and his collaborators’ desire to generate content within a performative synergy. For BDK, improvisation is composition carried out at speed; Hellawell correspondingly views his own painstaking compositional process as a slow-motion scan of an imagined music. The resulting collaboration, described at its premiere as ‘brilliantly intricate, playful and intense’, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 ‘Hear and Now’; the download on NMC recordings is available at (click on image).

Balcony Scenes for solo violin, by contrast, lies mostly within notated musical norms during its four pieces – each of which, says Hellawell, ‘explores a dialogue between lower and upper registers in some way - one voice aloft and the other calling up to the balcony, or the stairs, or the stars…’ This aspect arose from the need to introduce registral contrast into the discourse, giving the violin the sense of a ‘bass’ to offset its celebrated upper echelons. The most extreme register contrast comes in the section ‘Bicinium I’, whose slow chorale is intercut with twittering fragmentary sounds from the violin’s highest register – ‘as if two simultaneous, unrelated musics, one terrestrial and the other definitely not, are alternately audible.’ Violinist Fenella Humphreys workshopped and premiered Balcony Scenes over three days of a residency with three composers at The Maltings, Snape, hosted by Aldeburgh Music (see clip below); she records these works in November 2014, touring them over the coming seasons. She gives the local premiere of Balcony Scenes in Queen’s on Thursday 18th December 2014.

The October 2014 edition Tempo (no.270) carries a new article on Piers Hellawell’s work: the full article can be read at



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Lilian Simones (SARC), Dr Matthew Rodger (Psychology) and Dr Schroeder (SARC) published another article in the Journal Psychology of Music.

The exploratory case study compares the gestural behaviour of three piano teachers while giving individual lessons to students who differed according to piano proficiency levels. The data was collected by video recordings of one-to-one piano lessons and gestures were categorized using two gesture classifications: the spontaneous co-verbal gesture classification (McNeill, 1992; 2005) and spontaneous co-musical gesture classification (Simones, Schroeder & Rodger, 2013).

Poisson regression analysis and qualitative observation suggest a relationship between teachers’ didactic intentions and the types of gesture they produced while teaching, as shown by differences in gestural category frequency between teaching students of higher and lower levels of proficiency. Such reported agreement between teachers’ gestural approach in relation to student proficiency levels indicates a teachers’ gestural scaffolding approach whereby teachers adapted gestural communicative channels to suit students’ specific conceptual skill levels.

These findings provide useful insight into how the teaching/learning process influences movement/gestural features during musical performance and at the same time initiate a debate among professionals on matters related to instrumental music tuition informing pedagogical practice, prompting recommendations for future practice in the design and administration of music performance tuition, with potential applicability in other disciplinary areas of similar pedagogical settings.

DOI: 10.1177/0305735614535830


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Lilian Simones (SARC), Dr Schroeder (SARC) and Dr Matthew Rodger (Psychology) published an article in the Journal Psychology of Music. The article explores the role of gesture within teacher–student communicative interaction in one-to-one piano lessons and proposes the first known categorisation of piano teachers’ gestures. This gesture categorisation holds the potential of enabling further empirical research in the emerging field of instrumental music gestural studies.

Three teachers were required to teach a pre-selected repertoire of two contrasting pieces to three students studying piano grade 1. The data was collected by video recordings of piano lessons and analysis based on the type and frequency of gestures employed by teachers in association to teaching behaviours specifying where gestures fit under (or evade) predefined classifications.

Spontaneous co-musical gestures were observed in the process of piano tuition emerging with similar general communicative purposes as spontaneous co-verbal gestures and were essential for the process of musical communication between teachers and students. Observed frequencies of categorized gestures varied significantly between different teaching behaviours and between the three teachers. Parallels established between co-verbal and co-musical spontaneous gestures lead to an argument for extension of McNeill’s (2005) ideas of imagery–language–dialectic to imagery–music–dialectic with relevant implications for piano pedagogy and fields of study invested in musical communication.

DOI: 10.1177/0305735613498918


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In the last academic year, Jan Smaczny gave a guest seminar in the Music Department of the University of Southampton. The subject of his presentation was a new way of looking at the Prague Provisional Theatre. Opened in Prague in 1862, the Provisional Theatre was the first theatre in the Czech-speaking lands designated for the performance of plays and opera exclusively in Czech. In the extensive literature concerning music in the Provisional Theatre, the focus has been mainly on composers and librettists. The nature of the audiences has not been considered as integral to the burgeoning repertoire by such composers as Smetana, Bendl and Dvořák.. This situation is understandable to an extent since many of the leading composers of the Czech national revival were iconic figures who have dominated the prevalent view of Czech national music ever since. However, looking further down the pecking order, the management of the Provisional Theatre, often on short-term contracts, were well aware of the need to reflect the desires as well as the aspirations of the Theatre’s audiences.

            These audiences were comprised to a considerable extent of the developing intelligentsia of Prague (many of whom were first-language German speakers), but there was a large element of the new working and aspiring middle class, mostly first-language Czech speakers, many from rural Bohemia, who looked for reassurance from their composers as well as cultural leadership. Smetana, along with his librettists, chiefly Karel Sabina and Eliška Krásnohorská, was an example of a composer who understood the audiences’ desire for the demotic accent by, for example, providing a circus scene in The Bartered Bride and stirring rabble-rousing choruses in The Brandenburgers in Bohemia. However, his more serious, modernist operas, Dalibor and the Festival Opera Libuše in many ways proved too high-minded for audience expectation in the early years of the Provisional Theatre. The growth of a compact between Czech national composers and their audiences remained a developing theme well into the twentieth century.

This presentation at the University of Southampton attempted to coordinate the demographics of audiences with the Provisional Theatre’s repertoire will form the basis of the invited annual Masark Lecture sponsored by the Czech Government and given in the Czech Embassy in London this November.

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Dr Schroeder published her new edited book on music improvisation. The book was printed earlier this year (2014) by Cambridge Scholars, and will be officially laucnhed in September this year at Dublin's Audio Fesitval "Sounds Alive". 

The book forges exciting and provocative new links between a range of theories and practices in texts that explore topics as varied as object-oriented ontology, game theory, ethical responsibility and breath. In improvisatory fashion, this book has been edited so that it weaves the texts amongst each other, subversively inserting a tactile piece of text – a text interlaced, as a woven cloth, among the contributing authors. The writings in this volume are both timely and diverse, exploring as they do an array of interdisciplinary and critical discourses, thereby illuminating the field of improvisation from different perspectives within the radical and diverse contexts that undercut contemporary improvisation studies and practices. It consists of eight chapters as researched by practising musicians and theorists and an introduction by one of the most inspiring improvisers of our generation – Evan Parker.

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Dr Sian Barber (Film Studies) presented a research paper at the Where Are We Now conference hosted by the University of Sunderland at their campus in London on 23-24 April. The conference explored the thirty years which have followed the passing of the Video Recordings Act in 1984 and how regulation of the visual medium – film, video and still images – continue to be heavily influenced by this piece of legislation.

Dr Barber’s presentation explored the relationship between the British Board of Film Classification and the Government at the time when the Video Recordings Act legislation was being discussed in Parliament and the ‘video nasties’ were on the front pages of every newspaper. It drew on papers from the BBFC and from recorded Parliamentary debates to explore the shifting landscape of media regulation, and the lasting impact this has had upon the British film industry. 

Other speakers included Martin Barker, who reflected on his own experience of the ‘video nasties’ debates, and Julian Petley and Clarissa Smith, who both highlighted the ways in which government legislation continues to impact on film and moving image, including that which appears online and that produced by amateur filmmakers.

The lively keynotes and contributions from a range of speakers including the Head of the BBFC David Cooke and senior film examiner Craig Lapper demonstrated the level of interest in regulation of the moving image and the debates which arose touched on political regulation, personal freedom of expression, the importance of industry engagement, amateur produced content and the role of film and video censorship in the digital age.


For more information, please visit:

Where Are We Now

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Dr Gascia Ouzounian was a keynote speaker at the 2014 Colloquium on Improvisation, Community Practice and Social Action (ICASP) at McGill University in Montréal. The colloquium was themed ‘Improvisation and the Politics of Everyday Sounds: Cornelius Cardew and Beyond’. It examined the work of English composer Cornelius Cardew as part of a wider consideration of improvisation, social activism, music education, and political commitment.

As part of her presentation Gascia lead conference participants in a collective performance of Cardew’s The Great Learning, Paragraph 7 in a performance that evolved across an entire building. She also presented an interactive, software-based realisation of Paragraph 7 and two video recordings of the work, which is scored for trained and untrained singers. These are available in a limited edition box by Optophono, an interactive sound art label.

Gascia’s presentation was supported by ICASP and a Visiting Scholar residency at McGill University’s CIRMMT; the recordings were supported by a grant from the Scott Griffin Foundation. She is grateful to her many collaborators from the School of Creative Arts at Queen’s, including Chris Corrigan, Christopher Haworth, Gerard Gormley, Conan McIvor, and the experimental music choir Bird On A Wire, which Gascia founded in Belfast in 2009.

For more information on this project please visit Optophono:

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For the 5th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) Lilian Simones (SARC), Dr Schroeder (SARC) and Dr Matthew Rodger (Psychology) wrote about the first of a series of studies investigating the role of gestures during teaching and learning to play the piano as part of a PhD research at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in collaboration with the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast (funded by DEL).

The case study combined qualitative and quantitative approaches and provides insights into the role of hand gestures in teacher and student communicative interaction during piano lessons and their impact for teaching and learning. Participants were required to teach/learn two small extracts of contrasting pieces during their usual lessons, according to skill level. Initial data was collected by video recordings of piano lessons. The analysis was based on the type and frequency of gestures employed by teachers and students in association with lesson activities, verbal and non-verbal content of the lessons. In addition, the adequacy of McNeill’s classification of spontaneous co-verbal gestures (1992, 2005) and Jensenius, Wanderley, Godoy & Leman’s  (2010) functional musical gestures classification, for use in this context was tested.


Spontaneous gestures co-occurring with the piano teaching process were found and termed as spontaneous co-musical gestures. Whilst having similar communicative purposes as McNeill’s spontaneous co-verbal gestures (1992, 2005) they differ in form/shape and in the nature of the communicative function.

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Professor Eric Lyon, Professor Ben Knapp (Virginia Tech) and Dr Gascia Ouzounian (Queen's) have co-authored an article on compositional and performance mapping for the latest issue of Computer Music Journal. The article stems from their work as the Biomuse Trio, an ensemble they formed at SARC in 2008 to investigate how human physiological signals can be mapped in music. 

In 2009 the Biomuse Trio premiered Lyon's 'Trio for Violin, Biosensors and Computer' following a residency at STEIM in Amsterdam. They have since presented their work in such venues as Issue Project Room and Diapason Gallery (NYC), Science Gallery Dublin, BEAM Festial (London) and Green Man Festival (Wales). Between 2010-12 the Biomuse Trio and media artist R. Luke DuBois developed a large-scale multimedia composition, Music for Sleeping & Waking Minds, in which four sleeping performers create a multichannel sound environment and live visual projections through their brainwave activity over the course of one night. Audiences are invited to spend the night in this environment, and can experience the work in different states of alertness including sleeping and dreaming. The poster for this project, by Belfast-based artist Stephen Maurice Graham, is pictured here.

The article in Computer Music Journal examines issues of mapping in Digital Musical Instruments, specifically in the context of Lyon's 'Trio for Violin, Biosensors and Computer'. Through descriptions of the development of the piece, development of the hardware/software interface, lessons learned through rehearsal, and self-reporting by the participants, the rich musical possibilities and technical challenges of the integration of DMIs into computer chamber music are demonstrated.   

For more information on the Biomuse Trio, please see 'The Biomuse Trio in Conversation'

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Dr Trevor Agus (Sonic Arts) published an article on “Perceptual learning of acoustic noise by individuals with dyslexia” in the May 2014 edition of Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, with Amaia Carrión Castillo, Daniel Pressnitzer and Franck Ramus.

Although dyslexia is often associated with reading, about a third of people with dyslexia also show unusual patterns of results in some hearing tests, including non-speech tasks, such as pitch perception. Theories abound. Does some dyslexia stem from the brain’s first stages in making sense of the information from the ear? Or is the auditory system completely intact, but with some auditory information less accessible to the rest of the brain? Homing in on exactly where the differences emerge is a large ongoing project that involves finding tasks that are affected by dyslexia, but also tasks that are completely unaffected.

For this paper, Trevor and co-authors measured the noise-learning abilities of 36 listeners (half dyslexic, half non-dyslexic). Previous experiments had shown that if you hear the same snippet of white noise just a few times, it can start to stand out from other previously indistinguishable snippets of white noise. This current experiment showed that those with dyslexia could learn the noise just as well as everyone else, and as rapidly. From the ear’s point of view, white noise is an extremely complex stimulus, and finding patterns in it is, from a neuroscientific point of view, an impressive feat. As such, this finding shows that large portions of the auditory system are fully functional in adults with dyslexia.

This work has led to a related collaboration with Dr Tim Fosker (Psychology), in the form of a joint studentship focused on developing an auditory screening test for pre-schoolers at risk of developing language and literacy difficulties.

For more information, or a copy of the paper as published, please contact

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