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Scottish Ensemble takes you through what to expect from Pause, an evening of music and discussion exploring the fascinating effects of music on the brain, body and soul.

From Tuesday 11 – Friday 14 September we’ll be travelling across Scotland on a tour we’ve been looking forward to for months now, for many reasons.

Firstly there are the locations. In Dundee, we’re really excited to perform for the first time at West Ward Works, a former DC Thomson printworks. Closed down in 2010, the building is now being transformed into a cultural hub for live performances and events. It’s fully accessible, but as a large, and formerly derelict, building, please do bring an extra layer or two if the weather is cold! Refreshments will be available.

In Glasgow, we’re similarly excited to perform at the Glasgow Science Centre, which should need no introduction for the majority of Glasgow residents. Your ticket to this one includes access to all the first floor exhibits at the museum, which include the hugely popular Question of Perception exhibits and the Space Zone, which you can visit during the interval and after the event. Again, there’ll be a bar open throughout.

Then, of course, there’s the event itself. Pause is somewhere between a concert and a TED talk (yes, just when you thought the two would never meet…). We’ve invited two guest speakers to lead discussions on what music does to us, from a range of perspectives. Dr. Guido Orgs is a trained dancer and neuroscientist – a wonderfully unusual combination that we imagine will lead to some interesting insights into exactly what it is that attracts humans to music and movement. Why do we like music so much? Why does it provoke such intense emotions and reactions? What happens in our brains when we listen, when we dance?

In Edinburgh only (14 September), we’re thrilled to also be joined by Dr. Richard Holloway – the esteemed (and controversial) broadcaster, writer and ex-cleric. Richard will offer his own thoughts and insights into the connection between music and our spiritual, or mental, existence. Why is music so often linked to feelings of spirituality, or other, non-physical realms?

But what about the music, we hear you cry?!

Well. In between the discussions, SE violinist Daniel Pioro has devised short segments of music for strings, ranging from pieces for solo violin, to quartets, to full 13-piece string ensemble. The music has been carefully chosen to either illuminate the discussion, provoke further thought, or simply complement the ideas that will be floating around by this point.

Musically, you’ll travel as far back as the 1600s (to Biber‘s astonishing Annunciation sonata), and hear sounds written as recently as last year (Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen‘s fun, flowing, folky Shine you no more).

To give you a taste of what to expect, you can take a look at the event programme, or listen to a selection of the pieces below, with a note from Daniel. We very much hope you’ll decide to join us in person for a mind-expanding evening of music, thoughts and ideas.

Join Scottish Ensemble for Pause in Dundee (Tue 11 Sep), Glasgow (Wed 12 Sep), Aberdeen (Thu 13 Sep) and Edinburgh (Fri 14 Sep).

Pauline Oliveros
70 Chords For Terry (A Meditation on String Theory) (2005)

In the words of composer Pauline Oliveros: “Listening is still a mysterious process that takes place in the brain after the ear hears and delivers waveforms, transformed into electrical impulses, that activate collections or networks of neurons. Networks are formed by neurons that fire together. My interest in this process led me to create Sonic Meditations, my first algorithmic compositions/ improvisations. This radical approach to music-making, through attention to listening, has been a rewarding process. Listening is what shapes the musical mind.”

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber
Sonata No.1 (The Annunciation) (1676)

The first of Biber’s extraordinary Rosary Sonatas, The Annunciation is a fleeting and beautiful depiction of the iconic annunciation scene in Christian legend. The solo violin line is a shimmering and esoteric thing, reminiscent of the sound of angels’ wings flapping, and the pulsing drones in the string ensemble are evocative of both the organ (on which it is most commonly played) and a nod towards the sacred nature of Indian Raga and plainchant that is to come in the programme.

George Frideric Handel
Sonata in D major, HWV 371 (1749-1750)

This is a masterpiece of writing for solo violin and accompanying line and, in terms of its position within the programme for Pause, the centre point from which all other sounds either lead up to or tumble from.

Not published in Handel’s lifetime, this work has been gathering great popularity in recent years due to its stunning melodic qualities but also the freedom it gives the performer. Originally scored for violin and keyboard, only the left hand part was written out, with harmonic suggestions added to improvise on. It’s rare to hear a piece of music that so gracefully takes us from one headspace into another.

Philip Glass
Knee Play 2 (1976)

An example of violence in sound – and an example of physical work, rather than musical intention – Knee Play 2 is a fascinating piece of music. Glass toys with the image of the violinist, taking away any artistic voice the player may possess and instead giving out simple instructions to be carried out.

Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen
Shine you no more (2017)

Shine you no more is a tune written by Rune for the Danish String Quartet’s album Last Leaf. The inspiration came after listening to Flow my Tears by the English Renaissance composer John Dowland, which features a a beautiful chord progression that became the foundation for this piece.

John Dowland was composer at the Danish court under King Christian IV and there is a lovely sonic link between this Danish folk song and Dowland’s sound world. This tune is sheer joy in music form, and a reminder that happiness has real depth and merit as a creative source.

Delve deeper

Read: What effects does music have on the mind, body and soul?
Read: Pause event programme (PDF)
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