‘Pixelating the River’: engagement with contemporary music through graphical inputs

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Project Lead:

Thomas Metcalf

Faculty of Music

Worcester College


Partner Organisations:

The Kreutzer Quartet

Peter Sheppard Skærved  | Violin

Mihailo Trandafilovski  | Violin

Clifton Harrison | Viola

Neil Heyde | Cello




About the project:

This project aims to stimulate engagement with contemporary classical music amongst non-specialist audiences through the composition and performance of an original composition for string quartet alongside a public lecture focusing on the connection between graphics and music.

Pixelating the River uses a map of the River Thames as a functional generator of musical material, rather than just as a singular metaphor or extra-musical spectacle. The shape of the river, its meanders and straights, will impact specific compositional details on both the micro and macro level. It will utilise multiple methods of graphical composition in order to create a musical representation that holds true to the spatial layout of the river. Thus, the river metaphor can be heightened and rendered more specific – something I call a ‘graphical ekphrasis’ (an extension of Siglind Bruhn’s ‘musical ekphrasis’ (2000); see also my article, ‘Graphical Ekphrasis: Translating Graphical Spaces into Music’, coming out in September in Question). Another aspect of this project is applying the visual phenomenon of pixelation to these graphical inputs and exploring the formal and poetic implications of this.

This project will not only challenge the perceptions of contemporary classical music as an ‘inaccessible’ art-form through the rationalization of an often abstract process, but also promote interdisciplinary collaboration across Humanities subjects and beyond, perhaps even promoting a graphical focus in other creative subjects that will foster an extended community of research and accessibility.

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the

future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.