They penned some of the greatest musical lyrics of all time. But this summer, the works of John Lennon and Paul McCartney will inspire a new piece of dramatic poetry created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their first meeting.
Devised by Dr Alexis Kirke, a composer at the University of Plymouth, Come Together takes the form of an epic poem serving as a personal ode to Liverpool and that period of Beatlemania.
But playing in the background will be ambient music created using a scientific database of emotionally-annotated words, plotting the emotional positivity and physical intensity of 156 songs by McCartney and 131 by Lennon.
The resulting piece will be performed by BA (Hons) Acting student Rose Webber at the Port Eliot Festival on Sunday 30 July, just over six decades to the day after the duo met for the first time at a church fete in Liverpool in July 1957.
Dr Kirke, Senior Research Fellow in the University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR), said:
“I’ve been a huge fan of The Beatles since my early teens, and this anniversary seemed the perfect time to combine my childhood enthusiasms with my adult research and composition. The lyrical emotion patterns that I discovered were very exciting and cried out to be turned into a performance. Combining them with another of my loves, poetry, means I can create a very personal tribute to these icons of the music industry.”
Come Together’s ambient background condenses 23 years of creativity into a 15-minute performance and opens with the onset of Beatles-mania in 1963, hinting at popular songs including I Feel Fine to highlight the initial joy of their early success.
This is followed by the plummeting positivity of Lennon during the band’s split in 1970, and a gradual improvement in his lyrical positivity up to his assassination in 1980.
A previous configuration of the work – featuring soprano Rebecca Lea and tenor Christopher Bowen – was premiered at the 2017 Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, staged at the University in February.
It is the culmination of seven years of research by Dr Kirke into the emotional analysis of lyrics, with other pieces including The Career-Sonification of David Bowie, created in collaboration with electronic music pioneer Martyn Ware for an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013.
Dr Kirke added:
“This performance really is from the heart, but with references to Lennon and McCartney – and Liverpool itself – that will hopefully make people see The Beatles’ work in a new light. It promises to be a hugely atmospheric event, and the drama of Rose’s performance will add a different dimension to what people might have seen during the first configuration of Come Together in February.”