Composer rewarded for outstanding contribution to digital innovation

A composer and filmmaker whose collaborators include Barclays Bank, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the founder of Heaven 17 has received a prestigious award.

Dr Alexis Kirke, Senior Research Fellow within the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to digital innovation.

The accolade was presented during the 2015 Media Innovation Awards, organised by the Media Innovation Network and held in The House at Plymouth University on Thursday 26 November.

Launched in 2006, the awards are designed to celebrate the innovative use of media and design in the UK and are open to companies and practitioners across the creative arts.

Dr Kirke, Composer in Residence at the University’s Marine Institute, said:

“It was both a surprise and an honour to receive this award. The last eight years have been the most exciting of my life, thanks to the support of Plymouth University and mentors such as Eduardo Miranda and Simon Ible, directors of Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival. I was very touched to receive this recognition, but see it really as a recognition of the innovative spirit and unbridled creativity of all of us who work to create what feels to me like one of the most exciting and productive art/science scenes in the world.”

In recent years, Dr Kirke has established a national and international reputation for developing eye-catching and forward-thinking projects and presentations, many of which have been premiered at the University’s own Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival. His recent works include:

  • Sound Wave, premiered at the launch of the University’s £19 million Marine Building in October 2012, for which Dr Kirke collaborated with technologist Samuel Freeman and used sensors on his body and computers to ‘conduct’ the facility’s groundbreaking wave tanks;
  • Open Outcry saw him working alongside Greg B Davies – the Head of Behavioural and Quantitative Finance at Barclays – to create a ‘reality opera’ inspired by the ebb and flow of emotion and money on a stock trading floor;
  • Cloud Chamber saw him partnering with Antonino Chiaramonte, Anna Troisi and Professor Eduardo Miranda to develop a duet for violin and subatomic particles;
  • To create The Career Sonification of David Bowie, he worked with Heaven 17 and Human League founder Martyn Ware to conduct an in-depth analysis of Bowie’s music and success and then transform that into new compositions;
  • He collaborated with Dr Peter Hinds and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on Conducting Shakespeare, which saw audience members fitted with sensors which measured responses to a particular scene and determined which was chosen to follow it;
  • 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 fitted with tiny sensors.

All of these projects have won, or been nominated for, regional and national accolades, and all have been performed at high-profile venues or events including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Mansion House in the capital, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Stephen Gray, Chair of Judges for Media Innovation Awards, said:

“The Media Innovation Awards let us recognise the achievements of the incredibly talented companies and individuals behind exciting, innovative and cutting edge projects. On the panel of judges are some of the most highly respected industry leaders, and we were blown away by the creativity and diversity of the entries for this year’s awards. With this amount of high-class talent in the sector, it’s really not hard to see why the UK is one of the most innovative countries in the world.”

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