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Library echo to be ‘third performer’ in unique composition

Thursday 20 October 2016

A composer and a scientist from the University of Salford have collaborated to create a unique piece of music designed to be played against Manchester Central Library’s famous echo.

Alan Williams, Professor of Collaborative Composition, has teamed up with Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering, on the composition which will be performed in the library’s reading room on Wednesday October 26.

The reading room is well known for its lengthy echo, which will form the rhythm for the specially-written piece of music.

Professor Cox, who has gained an international reputation for his study of unusual manmade and natural soundscapes, visited the reading room to take detailed timings of the length of the echo.

Professor Williams then used this data to compose the music, which will be performed by two percussionists who will play notes and chords on marimbas which will then be ‘answered’ by the room’s echo.

Audience members will be able to move throughout the room to create their own listening experiences, as the echo will sound different depending on where it is heard from.

The piece of music, entitled Pillars of Wisdom after the text from the Book Of Proverbs which is inscribed around the room’s ceiling, is to be performed as part of the University of Salford sponsored Manchester Science Week which runs from October 20-30.

Professor Cox, author of works such as Sonic Wonderland, will also talk about the science of sound and answer audience questions following the performance, as part of the Playing The Echo event.

Professor Williams said: “Along with anyone who has visited Manchester Central Library, I’ve always been fascinated the reading room echo which is part of the unique character of this incredible building.

“Professor Cox is one of the world’s leading authorities on acoustics and the opportunity for me to work with him has resulted in what will be a truly unique listener experience.  

“The room’s echo effectively becoming the ‘third performer’ and not only can the piece never be performed anywhere else, but due to the room’s strange acoustic properties it will sound different depending on where the audience are standing.”