Composer’s Sound and Vision New Piece Inspired by Dyslexia

Composer Andrew Lewis’ sonic art work was inspired by a poem about dyslexia and his daughter who has the condition.

Composer Andrew Lewis’ sonic art work was inspired by a poem about dyslexia and his daughter who has the condition.

by Karen Price -

The words “classical music” usually conjure up thoughts of late great composers, like Beethoven and Strauss, who were  brought to life during school history  lessons.

But for the last two decades, contemporary pieces have been the firm focus of the Vale of Glamorgan  Festival of Music, which celebrates  living composers.

And this year is no exception.  Launched at St Donats Arts Centre in Llantwit Major last night with an  opening gala entitled Discovering  New Music, the festival will host six  world premieres and seven European  premieres at  formal and informal venues  in the area  – from concert  halls to churches – during  the next nine  days.

Audiences will be able to enjoy performances from international  groups, such as  Mexico’s Onix  Ensemble and  Vox Clamantis  from Estonia,  as well as those  a little closer to  home.

And a musician who will  be firmly in the spotlight is  Graham Fitkin.

The Cornish  composer, pianist and conductor is particularly  known for his music for solo and  multiple pianos, as well as for music  accompanying dance.

The festival has commissioned a new piece from him which will be  premiered at All Saints Church in Penarth next week to mark his 50th  birthday.

Harpist Ruth Wall will also be  showcasing a number of Fitkin’s  works as part of her concert at  Cardiff’s Norwegian Church.

Meanwhile, Bangor-based composer Andrew Lewis is looking forward to a performance of his sonic work Lexicon, which highlights the  plight of dyslexia sufferers.

Lexicon uses sights and sounds  to convey the complexity of language, emphasizing the challenge  to people battling the condition.

The inspiration for the work was  a poem, As I See It, written by  documentary maker Tom Barbor- Might when he was just 12 years  old.

The project came about through  the Wellcome Trust, which encourages arts projects inspired by medical science. Lewis was put in touch  with the Miles Dyslexia Centre in  Bangor when one of the researchers  mentioned the poem.

“In the poem, Tom expresses his  feelings about being a dyslexic  child, his struggles with language  and so on,” says Lewis. “That became the basis for the piece – it’s a  great poem, especially for a 12-year-old.”

The poem illustrates some of the  word confusion the pupil faced  while writing his poem and Lewis  says they add to his piece.

For example, he uses the word  ‘lifes’ instead of ‘leaves’.

“It provided an additional image  which he didn’t intend about life  itself being blown around and  chaotic,” says Lewis, whose artist  daughter Martha is also dyslexic.

The starting piece for the composition was recording a number of  dyslexic people reading the poem,  including its author.

“I didn’t let them see it before  the recording and they were struggling to read what it said, but I was  trying to compute their struggle  through sound. It led to some interesting and unexpected outcomes.”

Lewis then used computers to  manipulate the sounds of the  voices.

“Sometimes you can hear the  words being said, but sometimes  you can’t make them out. Sometimes they are quite chaotic and  jumbled and something new can  emerge.”

The 16-minute piece was premiered in Manchester last October  and Lewis warns that it’s not always  easy listening.

Read more at Dyslexia inspires composer Andrew Lewis’ sonic art work.

[Via Wales Online]

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