Watershed Fragment: The Nature of Mind. 24 hours of music, neuroscience and performance at 24 sites across the UK

Pervasive Media Studio Resident Ralph Hoyte, spoken word artist, presented a series of readings and chants, including The Heart Sutra and extracts from the Abhidhamma at The Watershed on Saturday 21 February.

The Fragmented Orchestra was a huge distributed musical instrument, modelled on the firing of the human brain’s neurons, installed at Watershed and 23 other sites across the UK. 24 Fragments ran at all of these sites for 24 hours, during Saturday 21 February 2009. This sprawling collaborative work, spanning music, art and science, had evolved from a fascination by its creators of the inherent sonic rhythms and adaptive learning of spiking neurons – ie. the electrical impulses of the human brain.

Watershed hosted a series of spoken word performances on the theme of THE NATURE OF MIND on Saturday 21 February 2009 from 1300 to 1500hrs. Passers by were able to take part and hear the performances as they walk past the main entrance where the sound unit was installed.

The event was in collaboration with sound artist Paul Stapleton, violinist Gascia Ouzounian and improvisers Pedro Rebelo and Franziska Schroeder from the Sonic Lab at Queen’s University School of Music and Sonic Arts, Belfast. They conducted remote sonic explorations live from Belfast.

John Onians, the world’s first Neuroarthistorian from the School of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia shared his theory that advances in the scientific study of the brain can add a new dimension to our understanding of art. His groundbreaking work draws on the writings of philosophers, art historians and writers from across the centuries. In 24 Fragments, he discussed how the rhythms and patterns of birdsong have influenced the evolution of contemporary music.

Professor Tom Troscianko from Bristol Neuroscience gave a short piece on the perception of colour and light in different animals.

Professor Iain Gilchrist, also from Bristol Neuroscience, was looking at how we gather information from the visual environment – including an interactive demonstration of visual perception.

Alan Summers presented a selection of haiku followed by a renga session.

Other Bristol based spoken word performers included Liv Torc, Hazel Hammond and Phil Phelps.

24 Fragments was a 24-hour festival funded by The Wellcome Trust, including all 24 sites of The Fragmented Orchestra, which were linked up by microphones that pick up sound at each site. The diverse locations which hosted events include Gloucester Cathedral, Goodison Park football ground, Institute of Psychiatry London, Brighton Pier, and the National Portrait Gallery. All of the events during the 24-hour festival were designed to be relayed through the distributed ‘neuronal system’ of The Fragmented Orchestra and via its website: www.thefragmentedorchestra.com

Studio themes