On the Operations of the Sun


Unaccompanied choir with digital video | 9'

Programme Notes

On the Operations of the Sun was commissioned by Musica Beata for premiere at the Three Choirs Festival, Worcester, 2011 (cond. Tom Hammond-Davies). It explores the interrelations between science, music and architecture in medieval thought.

The title comes from De Operationibus Solis by the thirteenth-century philosopher, Robert Grosseteste. For Grosseteste, light was the first form of things. In this work, the tracery of the South Rose Window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris gives compositional form to the sounds of twelve voices.

Photo of Musica Beata performing On the Operations of the Sun by Nicholas Brown in a church

A computer animation of the window’s stone tracery, from the centre to the circumference, was first programmed in Processing software. The x/y coordinates of each rose petal were then mapped to MaxMSP to determine a rough draft of the pitch progression of each voice.

This use of a computer model as part of the compositional process reflects contemporary architectural practice. The digital animation acts as a spatiotemporal proposition for musical processes. It is a ‘blueprint’ for each singer to reify in sound during the course of the performance.

Audio excerpt

Version 2 (2013)

12-channel sound & video installation.

In 2013, I made an installation version of the work to be featured in a solo exhibition of my sound installations at Hungate Medieval Art, Norwich (From Birdsong to Light, May 25 - June 16, 2013). The video documentation above shows the installation in situ at St Peter Hungate, Norwich.