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By Kate Campbell-Payne on

Brighter Sound: Hexachords, flying frogs, and Andre Geim

Go behind the scenes of the four-day Brighter Sound Artistic Director Series residency, which brought together female musicians to interpret our Wonder Materials exhibition through music and art.

Please note: Wonder Materials ended on 25 June 2017. To find out what exhibitions and activities are open today, visit our What’s On section

Brighter Sounds 1

Exploring experimentation in science and music

“Human progress has always been driven by a sense of adventure and unconventional thinking.”
– Andre Geim, Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics

Graphene pioneer and Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Andre Geim is a great example of how scientific experimentation leads to breakthroughs. However, the above quote could also easily apply to experimentation in art too.

Adventurous and unconventional experimentation was something Anna Meredith was looking to capture in her Brighter Sound Artistic Directors Series Residency at the Museum of Science and Industry in late July 2016. She brought together a diverse group of female musicians to create music and art, taking inspiration from the museum’s latest exhibition, Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond. On 27 July, the group performed as part of Science in the City Late, alongside other experimental attractions such as mind control Scalextric and insect sushi.


During the four-day residency, the musicians and artists kept diaries and posted on social media about how their pieces came together, and we’ve collected some of these entries below. They provide an insight into the creative process, but also show how that process parallels Andre Geim’s own attitude to experimentation in science, and how it can lead to big leaps for frogs (read on), artists and scientists alike.

Collaboration and inspiration

“When people are thinking, we are quite inventive animals.”
– Andre Geim

Having women from all sorts of musical and artistic backgrounds made for some fun and quirky ideas when it came to interpreting the exhibition. It made me think differently about the way I respond to a topic or stimulus as a composer.” – Carmel Smickersgill residency diary

“…improvising and rehearsing with Miranda in the Ticket Office’s beautiful acoustics…” – Anna Appleby residency diary



“Graphene exhibition – great to learn about it in more depth and pick out concepts to translate into musical ideas.” – Miranda Rimmer residency diary

Get out of your comfort zone

“The biggest adventure is to move into an area in which you are not an expert. Sometimes I joke that I am not interested in doing re-search, only search.”
– Andre Geim

“…it’s time to go around recording sounds of the train track… I think it looks like I’ve lost my mind to heatstroke, hitting random rocks against bins.” – Caroline Haines residency diary

“…it’s good to work in a different way from normal sometimes… it forces you to think differently… a good way of stopping yourself from writing the same piece over and over.” – Carmel Smickersgill residency diary


Have fun

“In my experience, if people don’t have a sense of humour, they are usually not very good scientists, either.”
– Andre Geim

“There’s a song about a frog wanting to fly… It’s gonna be a kind of They Might Be Giants meets Destiny’s Child. That works, right?” – Caroline Haines residency diary



“After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.”
– Albert Einstein

The links between art and science continue to be explored by people from both disciplines around the world, and residencies like this that encourage artists to get direct inspiration from the work of scientists like Andre Geim can only add to our understanding and get everyone to experiment more.

“This residency really has been one of a kind. Arts and sciences are rarely combined and I feel that this week has been invaluable to my development, both as a musician and a person.” – Amy Thompson residency blog



Image credits: Brighter Sound and Rachel Bywater for Anna Meredith’s artistic residency at the Museum of Science and Industry, as part of Brighter Sound’s Artistic Directors Series.

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