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New musical instrument to be showcased as BBC festival comes to the University

Victoria Bourne with The AlphaSphere

Victoria Bourne with The AlphaSphere

Press release issued: 13 March 2012

A University of Bristol student will join famous faces from BBC Radio 4 when she showcases a new electronic instrument as part of BBC Radio 4’s More Than Words Listening Festival, which takes place in the city this weekend [16 to 18 March]. Victoria Bourne, who is an MA Music student, has composed four new pieces of music which she will play on The AlphaSphere – a pioneering instrument which is the size of a football and uses 48 touch pressure pads to trigger and manipulate sounds and rhythms.

Victoria Bourne, who is an MA Music student, has composed four new pieces of music which she will play on The AlphaSphere – a pioneering instrument which is the size of a football and uses 48 touch pressure pads to trigger and manipulate sounds and rhythms.

The More Than Words Listening Festival will also feature some recognisable Radio 4 voices and faces, including Kirsty Young, Clive Anderson, Jonathan Dimbleby, Arthur Smith, Michael Rosen and Roger McGough.

The University of Bristol is one of the host venues for the festival, which sees performances, master classes and workshops taking place across the city. It promises to be a unique experience and aims to get audiences thinking about listening in a new way.

Victoria, who started studying at Bristol University last summer and also plays the piano and flute, was first approached to take part through The Pervasive Media Studio, which is a creative technologies collaboration between Watershed, University of West of England and University of Bristol.

She said: “I visited the Pervasive Media Studio when I first moved to Bristol and spotted this amazing looking instrument. I’ve always had an interest in electronic music performance and The AlphaSphere was exactly the type of thing I was looking for. I’ve been practicing with it since the summer and so when the BBC expressed an interest in including it in the festival, I decided to audition.

“I wrote something especially for the audition and was then asked to write enough material for a whole set, which is a very exciting opportunity to showcase the wide variety of music which can be produced by using The AlphaSphere.

“The trouble with most electronic music performances is that you’re attached to a laptop, which isn’t very visually stimulating. The AlphaSphere enables me to interact with the audience and really engage them.”

The AlphaSphere is the brainchild of Adam Place, who has set up his own company in Bristol called nu desine to move music production away from the computer and back into the instrument. It allows players to programme and trigger sounds through the use of sensors and smart materials.

Victoria is performing at 2.30pm on Sunday, 18 March in the Merchant Venturers Building. For further details of the BBC Radio 4’s More Than Words Listening Festival, please visit the BBC website.

  • Victoria is also singing with the New Music Ensemble at a free lunchtime concert taking place in the Victoria Rooms on Wednesday, 21 March.