Music and the Brain

Music and the Brain

New Music

FREE, booking required

Gunnar Gudbjornsson tenor
Sarah Parkin soprano
Helgi R. Ingvarsson conductor and electronics
Satoshi Kubo piano
Helen Whitaker flute

A chamber opera about brain damage, addressing the neurological and emotional effects that music can have on us.

Inspired by the writings of neurologist Oliver Sacks, Music and the Brain tells the story of The Singer, whose successful career has been cut short by an accident. The resulting brain injury has caused her to lose the ability to comprehend music and perform. She is treated by The Doctor, who, as well as being a fan of The Singer, hopes that his research on this rare and interesting case will redeem him in the eyes of the academic community.

As they both grapple with trying to understand the Singer's condition, questions regarding the nature of music arise. What is music? Is it neurological? Or emotional? What happens in the musical brain when things fall apart? But the Doctor is nearly out of time, his big presentation is coming up and he needs to present his "findings" no matter what.

The opera features a broad selection of musical styles, from delicate pastiche bel canto arias to experimental semi-improvised recitative.

The authors of Music and the Brain opera, Helgi R. Ingvarsson and Rebecca Hurst, were nominated for a Gríman award in Iceland in 2022 for "originality or outstanding innovation."

Part of the Lunchtime Concert Series.

Recommended age 15+ (non-graphic theatrical representation of brain surgery)

About the Authors

Helgi R. Ingvarsson is a composer, conductor, singer and scholar based in England and Iceland. He holds a doctorate degree in composition from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. His music is regularly performed in the Nordic countries and England. Helgi has, amongst other works, written six operas to date, all of them having been performed in Iceland and/or England. Music and the Brain, is his fifth opera, and it received audience praise when premiered in Iceland in 2021.

Other notable works by Ingvarsson include his work for vocal quartet Þrjú ljóð fyrir loftslagið / Three poems for the climate (2021) commissioned by Reykjavík Opera Days festival, the playful Random notes I found in the street (2021) commissioned by Personal Clutter, his instrumental quintet ELEKTRA (2019) commissioned by Elektra Ensemble, the art song Vetrarþoka / Winter Fog (2016) commissioned by soprano Rannveig Káradóttir, and Loftkastali / Castle in Air (2013) for solo cello. Ingvarsson’s original music for strings was described in 2015 by Icelandic critic Jónas Sen to have “a strong personal style” which "echoes the past” but with a completely unique inspiration. Recordings and further information are available on Ingvarsson's website.

Rebecca Hurst is a writer, opera-maker and co-founder of the Voicings Collective. In 2021, a selection of her poems was published in the Carcanet anthology, New Poetries VIII, and she is the author of a poetry pamphlet, The Fox's Wedding (The Emma Press, 2022). Rebecca has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester, and an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development from the University of Sussex. As an undergraduate, she attended Smith College, in Massachusetts. She teaches creative writing in museums, schools, and the community.