Many Worlds

A Plymouth University composer has earned two award nominations for a film which reads the minds and bodies of its audience, and a series of musical pieces based on the career of David Bowie.

Dr Alexis Kirke, from the University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, has been shortlisted twice in the Installation/Exhibition/Live Event category of the 2014 Media Innovation Awards.

It is the second time Dr Kirke has featured twice in the awards shortlist, and he will find out whether he has won during a ceremony to be held at the University on Thursday 27 November.

Many Worlds is a 15-minute film about a bizarre physics experiment, but its plot and soundtrack alter based on the moods and emotions of four members of the audience (who are fitted with tiny sensors measuring their heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity and skin conductance).

These are then analysed by a specially developed computer algorithm to estimate audience mood and, therefore, what version of the next scene should play. The film was commissioned for the 2013 Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival.

The Career Sonification of David Bowie saw Dr Kirke team up with Martyn Ware, a founding member of Heaven 17 and the Human League, and statistically analyse key areas of Bowie’s lyrics, melodies and elements such as album sales data.

These were then turned into new compositions, in an effort the make the progressions of Bowie’s artistic mood and commercial impact more understandable. The pieces were premiered at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in April 2013.

Dr Kirke, also composer-in-residence at the University’s Marine Institute, said:

“I was thrilled to hear these two projects have been shortlisted. The V&A and my collaborator Martyn Ware are equally as excited about the shortlisting for Career Sonification of David Bowie, and to be up for an award for my first film is fabulous too. It demonstrates how Plymouth University continues to be a strong supporter of artistic innovation, with individuals like Professor Eduardo Miranda and Director of Music Simon Ible, supporting and encouraging ground breaking work in all media.”

The Media Innovation Awards are designed to recognise creative innovation and talent in the South West, with the 12 categories spawning 31 nominations from across Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Bath, Cornwall and Bristol.