The Art Station x Britten Pears Arts

During his month-long residency, Chinese-Malaysian/British composer Theo Alexander set out to research, write, and realise a long-form piece on the themes of technology and control that would be rehearsed and tested at Snape Maltings before its final premiere at The Art Station, a former 1950s telephone exchange.

Alexander took as his starting point the life and work of scientific polymath John von Neumann, who contributed to the development of early computers, weather prediction technology, and nuclear weapons. Taking leave of his previous solo work, Alexander also set out to integrate movement and unconventional scoring approaches to create an ‘installed composition’ that combined site-specific art, choreography, and sound.

Sophie Le Roux Film Photography

The final piece, Stable Processes with Slow Ornaments, featured eight tape players across which a chord sequence was split in individual pitches. Because they are activated at different times and dubbed individually, the progression of the chords is variable on each performance. The human performers, bass clarinet and viola, navigated ‘stations’ featuring a tape player and a score, following specific instructions that required them to play parts only upon hearing pitches at their station.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to try out a large-scale idea that I would not otherwise have been able to explore. Having the time and access to facilities, performers, and equipment like this allowed me to integrate conceptual elements in my work in a way that I have always wanted to. I received the most encouraging support and feedback from the Britten-Pears Arts team and the unique mentors that they introduced me to across the month, and I couldn’t have achieved this without them.

A major highlight was working with Charlotte Jolly and Meghan Cassidy, the performers in my piece, who did an amazing job interpreting the score, were really open-minded about its idea, and willing to walk back and forth between eight wobbly tape players for 36 minutes several times in a row.