The Fragmented Orchestra and The Local present

24 Fragments

Saturday 21 February 2009

24 Fragments | Live Spiking Graph | The Fragmented Orchestra

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24 hours of music, neuroscience and performance at 24 sites across the UK

With performances, presentations and panels by Jane Grant, John Matthias and Nick Ryan of The Fragmented Orchestra plus Adem, Philip Jeck, Professor Mark D'Inverno, Alasdair Roberts, Huw Stephens, Paul Broks, Liz Green, John Fairhurst, Dr Magnus Richardson and many more.

Locations include: Gloucester Cathedral, Goodison Park, Institute of Psychiatry London, Millenium Stadium Cardiff, Brighton Pier, National Portrait Gallery, Kielder Observatory, Northumberland.

The Fragmented Orchestra is a huge distributed musical instrument, modelled on the firing of the human brain's neurons. Made possible by a £50,000 prize awarded to Jane Grant, John Matthias and Nick Ryan, as the winning project for the PRS Foundation's New Music Award 2008, it is installed at the FACT Gallery Liverpool and 23 other sites across the UK and runs from December 12th 2008 to 22nd February 2009.  24 Fragments will run at all of these sites for 24 hours, from 10am on Saturday 21 February. This sprawling collaborative work, spanning music, art and science, has evolved from a fascination by its creators of the inherent sonic rhythms and adaptive learning of spiking neurons – ie. the electrical impulses of the human brain.

24 Fragments is a 24-hour festival funded by The Wellcome Trust, including all 24 sites of The Fragmented Orchestra, which are linked up by microphones that pick up sound at each site. The diverse locations which will host events include Gloucester Cathedral, Goodison Park, Institute of Psychiatry London, Brighton Pier, National Portrait Gallery, The Rochelle School, Blueprint Recording Studios in Manchester, and a school in Devon. All of the events during the 24-hour festival are designed to be relayed through the distributed 'neuronal system' of The Fragmented Orchestra and via its website:

As each event is ticketed and open to the public, audience members will become part of this giant musical instrument or 'firing of neurons' by attending individual performances across the country, or experiencing the event online.

The Science

When we hear, sound enters our ears. The information is translated into electrical signals via sensory neurons and is processed in the brain via cortical neurons. The majority of the processing of sensory information in our brains is thought to take place in the cerebral cortex, which contains a population of billions of neurons, each making thousands of connections with its neighbours. A single neuron can be thought of as a cell which generates a travelling 'spike' signal to connected neighbours when the voltage on its membrane exceeds a certain threshold value, a process which is called 'firing'.

How it works with 24 Fragments:

In The Fragmented Orchestra, there are 24 neurons – or 24 locations, which will emit sound through performances. In a sense, The Fragmented Orchestra is a strange, tiny hybrid organism involving 24 cortical neurons, which are also crude sensory neurons (they are only stimulated by the volume of sound). This tiny organism is then spread across the 24 sites and online, and becomes a huge musical instrument.

Sound enters the microphone at each site and is streamed to the FACT gallery in Liverpool to a computer to one of the 24 neurons. If this neuron fires, it will send a tiny fragment of the sound through to one of the speakers in the gallery at FACT and online. The firing of this neuron may also cause other neurons to fire causing ripples of sound to cascade across the gallery. These firing events can be represented by a dot on a diagram of neurons against time called a 'raster plot' –you can see this online on the 24 Fragments page on our website.

All the 24 channels of sound are then mixed together and sent back to the 24 sites where the sound can be heard from the soundboxes housed at location.

Select 24 Fragments Locations

All events are free unless otherwise stated.

FACT, Liverpool

10am – Midnight

Jane Grant, John Matthias, Nick Ryan + more

At intervals throughout the day, members of the public will be invited to play the software of The Fragmented Orchestra in Gallery 1. From 11am, founders Jane Grant, John Matthias and Nick Ryan will discuss the ideas that lead to the creation of The Fragmented Orchestra. Dr Magnus Richardson, University of Warwick will give a talk on modeling spiking neurons. At 5pm Jane Grant will perform Threshold. At 9pm, Philip Jeck will perform live. At 11pm Liverpool based musicians Neil Grant and John Fisher will be remixing the remixes of Cortical Songs.

Newlyn Art Gallery

10am – 12pm

David Prior

Performance from the award winning composer and sound designer with a background in electronic and experimental music.

Gloucester Cathedral

Entry £5.


Performance by Joel Newsome (Trumpet) and Adrian Partington (Piano)

Includes works by Vaughan-Williams, Ivor Gurney and Britten.

Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth with Landscove School, Devon


Landscove C of E Primary School will be connecting with The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth to break down some of the barriers that can create a fragmented society. During the session the children will be linking up with children from Victoria Primary School in Keighley, to create a dynamic opportunity to share information about our different localities & heritages. The children from Keighley have their family roots in Pakistan & the schools have been working together on a linking project since October so that they can gain a better understanding of each others' backgrounds. During the morning they will have the opportunity to "meet" their linking partner for the first time & have an interactive discussion about their lives in their different communities and schools. We will also be entertaining each other with songs & other things that help to put the fun into learning & the joy into life!

Institute of Psychiatry


The Institute's challenging and controversial public debate series 'The Maudsley Debate' will be transmitted as part of Music and the Mind to the +soundbox between 10 and 12 midday (the debate is prerecorded).

Hidden Gardens, Glasgow

11am – 1pm

Alasdair Roberts and guests

Intimate acoustic performance from fine Scottish folk singer Alasdair Roberts and invited guests. Roberts is noted for both his own compositions and recitations of traditional songs. 'Roberts effortlessly makes explicit the shared vocabulary of folk's natural weirdness and experimental music's studied strangeness.' The Times

Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast

1pm – 3pm

MiSS Four: An improvisatory challenge from the Sonic Arts Research Centre

Sound artist Paul Stapleton, violinist Gascia Ouzounian and improvisers Pedro Rebelo and Franziska Schroeder will be teaming up for a feast of sonic explorations during the 24 Fragments event. The concert will take place in the unique Sonic Laboratory, a purpose-built, variable acoustic space, known for its experiments in sound diffusion and ground-breaking compositional and performance work.

Watershed, Bristol

1pm – 3pm

A neuron unit has been installed outside Watershed's main entrance, using the massive pane of glass to capture the sound of visitors, the river, passing boats, buskers and late night revellers.

As part of 24-Fragments, Watershed will present a series of spoken word performances exploring the nature of the mind. These will include poetry and voice works by Bristol based performers, led by Hewlett Packard South West fellow Ralph Hoyte and micro-lectures from Bristol Neuroscience's Dr Anne Cooke. Performances will be free and take place in the afternoon outside Watershed's main entrance near the neuron unit – see

The Rochelle School

3pm – 5pm

At the famous Rochelle School in East London – more arts studios than actual school – we present an introduction to the idea of a stroke by a member of the Stroke Association.

Plus, Terry Riley's "In C" one of the paradigmatic pieces of contemporary classical music, and founded on the same principles of emergence and self-organisation as The Fragmented Orchestra. South London Arts collective "What They Could Do, They Did" present an open performance of the piece, with an ensemble trained in musical notation specifically for this event.

National Portrait Gallery

12 – 1.30pm

Solo violin from Rolf Wilson, recognised as one of the top violinists in Britain over the past 30 years. He'll be playing excerpts from Bach partita in E Major and Prokofiev's unaccompanied violin sonata.

Paul Broks & Co, author of Into The Silent Land - A finalist for The Guardian First Book Award


The human brain - 1.4 kilograms of jellified fats, proteins, sugars and salts - is a physical object. How does it construct a sense of self, and how does the self respond to the deconstruction of its brain? Neuropsychologist, author and playwright Paul Broks, with the help of a small company of actors, will explore the question of selfhood through neurological case stories, thought experiment and dramatic dialogue.

*In collaboration with Mick Gordon

Verbal Arts Centre, Derry

1pm – 2pm


Bloom's Café, the Verbal Arts Centre presents a performance by the Carmel McCafferty School of Drama. The Carmel McCafferty School of Drama aims to provide a safe, fun and creative space for all children in the community to express themselves through the dramatic arts.

Brighton West Pier

12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm
Free but places limited, booking essential, please call 01273 321499.

Brighton West Pier Trust present Piers, Proms and Palaces; The West Pier and Brighton Seafront Story. The West Pier was the finest pier ever built. Its story is fascinating, glamorous and tragic and is part of the weave of Brighton's historic seafront. Hear the stories behind it.

Stephen Lawrence Centre

1 - 2pm

The Local presents David Thomas Broughton

Howard Monk of The Local hosts an acoustic session featuring David Thomas Broughton and more.

Centre for Alternative Technology

1pm – 4pm


Multi instrumentalist Adem is a mathematics graduate and will give a short talk ahead of playing a set from his critically acclaimed albums on Domino records. 'Adem stands at the crossroads where computer technology and folk tradition meet.' The Independent

Barber Institute

Adults £6, children £3

'Babar visits the Barber'

The Barber Chamber Ensemble with conductor Daniele Rosina

Join us as we welcome the French composer Francis Poulenc for an afternoon of marvelous music and merriment. The flamboyant Poulenc will be telling the story of a young elephant called Babar who leaves the jungle, visits a big city, and returns to bring the benefits of civilization to his fellow elephants!

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

2 – 5pm

Huw Stephens presents BBC Radio 1 Introducing

Cardiff's Plug Two promotion agency, responsible for the Tsunami relief concert at the stadium, will produce an event featuring acoustic acts on the hour every hour to coincide with the stadium tours. Acts TBC. Hosted by Huw Stephens of BBC Radio 1 Introducing.

Goodison Park, Liverpool

Event not available to the general public.

John Matthias and Nick Ryan's Cortical Songs

With the Live-a-music string quintet, John Matthias, solo Violin and interactive programming by Nick Ryan. At the classic 3pm start usually reserved for a football match, we present this new classical work for solo violin, string ensemble following a score and LED lights controlled by computer triggered firing neurons. There will be an introduction to the work presented by the composers.

University of Plymouth, Levinsky Building

6pm – 9pm

Prof Eduardo Miranda talk: Music and the Brain

Soundbox concert: Ten Tors string quintet

David Strang: Building Systems

In the Levinsky building's impressive foyer, we present the Ten Tors string quartet, a talk by professor Miranda and a new sonic work by artist, David Strang, 'Building Systems'

This new work is made up from recordings of both the spaces and the physical structures that transport the air. This consists of ambient recordings and structural recordings (with contact microphones). To enhance certain materials within the system small motors have been attached. The result is a four-channel installation that plays back in the space and draws the ear into rhythms and frequencies that exist in the building.

St Andrew's, Fulham Fields


STATIONS of the Cross 

The Stations will be walked liturgically between 6pm and 7pm with newly commissioned music and words of reflection from those involved and the vernissage will follow at 7.15pm.

The Roundhouse, London

5 - 8pm

Erlend Cooper plays live, featuring Simon Tong (The Verve, The Good the Bad and The Queen, Gorillaz) and students and staff from the Roundhouse's award winning community projects will perform and produce the event. Lecture by Professor Mark D'Inverno of Goldsmiths College.

The Thainstone Centre


Bill Thompson is a sound artist/composer/performer living in Scotland. As a self-described throwback to the 1960s, he enjoys breaking things to see what they sound like and uses live electronics, circuit bent instruments, found objects, and field recordings.  Claire M Singer, also living in Scotland, is a composer/performer who composes and improvises with cello, live electronics, max/msp, and video.

Kielder Centre, Northumberland

7pm – 10pm

Dr Nigel Metcalfe, Durham University will talk about a new and exciting project that is about to get under way in Hawaii. Scanning the sky every night this survey will look for objects in the sky that "move" or "change". This could be extra solar planets or distant super novae. Listen to this expert tell us all about how this will work and the implications for the Kielder Observatory.

Newlyn Art Gallery


The Red Band

The Red Band works on the principle that anyone able to acquire a red musical instrument can join the band. The group covers, writes and composes music inspired or about things of a red nature  

Blueprint Studios, Manchester

8pm – 12am

Liz Green, John Fairhurst, Paris Riots

Blueprint studios is one of the UK's most respected rehearsal and recording studios, with acts such as Elbow and Johnny Marr regular users. Tonight, the only portable soundbox on the Fragmented Orchestra will move from room to room, sampling the sounds of rehearsals of the bands on the night. Add to this our addition of an acoustic evening in the bar and we've a cracking night ahead. Featuring performances from Liz Green, John Fairhurst, Paris Riots and more.