BBC Music Magazine

The sounds of science

How Ada Lovelace has inspired composer Emily Howard

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Composer Emily Howard, a mathematic­s and computer science graduate, is known for using mathematic­al ideas in her compositio­nal process. In 2011, Howard wrote The Lovelace Trilogy including the mini-opera Ada Sketches, a dramatic scena for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet and percussion, with a libretto by Laura Tunbridge. The short work explores a musical solution to a computatio­n as solved in the hypothetic­al Analytical Engine. The trilogy is completed by Calculus of the Nervous System and Mesmerism.

Howard brought an innovative format to three Ada Sketches performanc­es, which took place at an inaugural Science Museum event followed by outings in

Oxford and at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). First an explanatio­n of the maths was eloquently articulate­d by Liverpool mathematic­ian Lasse Rempe-gillen. Then the tables were turned and audience members composed fragments of music for the RNCM musicians to play. Under the banner of ‘Numbers into Notes’, Howard directly engaged

audiences in the relationsh­ip between mathematic­s and music.

The exploratio­n of creative collaborat­ions between the sciences and music continues through the RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRISM), directed by Howard and Oxford mathematic­ian Marcus du Sautoy. This creative collaborat­ion led to Howard’s string quartet Four Musical Proofs and a Conjecture, premiered at New Scientist Live in 2017.

And four new works by RNCM student composers Stephen Bradshaw, Lucy Hale, Athanasia Kontou and Robert Smith, inspired by Du Sautoy’s book The Music of the Primes, were premiered this year at the Manchester Science Festival. Again, listeners were involved: the ‘PRISM perception app’ developed at the University of Oxford and RNCM was used to investigat­e audiences’ perception of structure in Ligeti and to understand if people hear palindrome­s

in the music of Haydn.

 ??  ?? Bang on a can: the premiere of Howard’s Ada Sketches in London
Bang on a can: the premiere of Howard’s Ada Sketches in London
 ??  ?? Test case: Ligeti’s music has been used to gauge audience reactions
Test case: Ligeti’s music has been used to gauge audience reactions

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