A new project from The Clerks explores the puzzling experience of musical hallucinations.
Gramophone Award-winning ensemble The Clerks follow up their cutting-edge music/science project Tales from Babel with a new programme entitled Phantom Voices – about the way the mind imagines music, and what happens when the imagined and the real seep into one another.
‘Phantom Voices is first and foremost a concert programme,’ says Clerks Artistic Director Edward Wickham; ‘an immersive musical experience with music by our long-standing collaborator Christopher Fox. It melds together live and pre-recorded elements to give some sense of what it is like to experience musical hallucinations.’
Composer Christopher Fox explains: ‘The audience will be led through a series of musical ‘hauntings’, a sequence of interrelated songs and motets which take us from the present back into the Middle Ages, via Bach, Heinrich Isaac, bluegrass and folk song. Like unpacking Russian dolls, each new element in the music will reveal itself as a reinvention of something we already know. At the same time, the audience will also be haunted more directly, by pre-recorded speech, music and sampled noises, to evoke the experience of voice and music hallucinations.’
The Clerks vocal ensemble, known both for their pioneering interpretations of Medieval and Renaissance music and their challenging, genre-breaking collaborations, have again received the financial support of The Wellcome Trust, and are working on this project with Charles Fernyhough of Durham University and the Hearing the Voice project.
‘Hearing the Voice is all about understanding the huge variety of ways in which people hear voices in the absence of any speaker,’ says Professor Fernyhough. ‘Voice-hearing is usually associated with serious mental illness; we are discovering that it can happen in all sorts of different circumstances, to all sorts of people. What we are hoping to do with Phantom Voices is to find out whether the conditions that provoke musical hallucinations are similar to those associated with voice-hearing; and also to improve our understanding of how we remember and imagine music in our heads.’
To achieve this, the project is being developed through conversations with voice-hearers and those who experience musical hallucinations, including in September at a ‘Hearing the Voice’ conference in Durham on 17 & 18 September.
The full concert programme will launch at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas on Friday 31 October, in the evocative surroundings of the Museum for Archaeology and Anthropology, followed by the Spitalfields Winter Festival on 15 December.