The Fragmented Orchestra is a huge distributed musical structure modeled on the firing of the human brain’s neurons. The Fragmented Orchestra connects 24 public sites across the UK to form a tiny networked cortex, which will adapt, evolve and trigger site-specific sounds via
Each of the sites has a soundbox installed, which will stream human-made and elemental sounds from the site via an artificial neuron to one of 24 speakers in FACT. The sound will only be transmitted when the neuron fires. A firing event will cause fragments of sound to be relayed to the gallery and will also be communicated to the cortex as a whole. The combined sound of the 24 speakers at the gallery will be continuously transmitted back to the sites and to each of the 24 sites.
The sounds of The Fragmented Orchestra will vary according to location; wind over Black Fell, inner city traffic, chanting from sports stadia and the chatter of migrating birds arriving for the winter will be combined with incidental and performed sounds from members of the public. The public, invited to play the instrument at the 24 sites, will be able to hear the effect their playing has on the overall composition of the piece at each site and at FACT. As members of the public use the instrument they will become both player and audience of a vast and evolving musical composition extended across the UK.
The Fragmented Orchestra — conceived by artist Jane Grant, physicist, musician and composer John Matthias and composer Nick Ryan — is the winner of the PRS Foundation New Music Award. This award is the most financially prestigious for new music in the UK and has been likened to the Turner Prize for music.
The reason that I’m mentioning this, apart from the fact that it is strange and fascinating, is because the
verbal arts centre
in Derry where I work is one of the 24 venues hosting the fragmented orchestra. It can be found in the cafe, so come and see it for real if your in the area.
You can find out more about it, and watch and listen to it online at: