Music Premiere Composer’s Notes

Open Bridges Hull: For the first time in Hull’s history the city will be split in two when all Hull’s 13 bridges will be simultaneously raised or barriered, momentarily denying the freedom of movement east or west across the River Hull. On September 22nd Open Bridges will signify the vital role bridges play in our everyday lives with a river journey, the mustering of historic vessels representing three centuries and a new musique concrète commission by BAFTA winning Hull based composer John Stead.


The Open Bridges music premiere is at an outdoor stage – The Stage @ The Dock –  it starts at 7.30 pm and finishes at 10.30 pm. From there you will be able to see the historic vessels as they enter the Humber to be met by SMS Towage and Svitzer (Maersk) tugs. Click link here to visit Hull Box Office for ticket sales.

John Stead is a multi-award winning and internationally respected composer who has lived in Hull for most of his working life. Best known for light and sound installations, John’s work throughout the UK includes son et lumières to celebrate the opening of Hull Tidal Barrier and Princes Quay, sacred space installations Day of Light at Lastingham and Another Mighty Angel at York’s NCEM.

The Open Bridges programme opens with a live diffusion of John Stead’s new work Moments in Time. 

John Stead at Sutton Road Bridge

Moments in Time invites us in with familiar sounds, allowing us to hear everyday life and unfamiliar sounds of the bridge mechanisms and then shaping this into a piece that has momentum, a point of repose and reflection before taking us to a world of musical freedom where the sounds are transformed into a dream like musical landscape before returning us to the familiar, as the composer says ‘in a moment.’ Shaped sounds and intricate rhythms take the listener on an evocative journey building dynamically to the ‘revelation’ of the working sounds of the bridges and beyond. – Electro Acoustic Ensemble cellist Nigel Bartram

The programme continues with rare performances of musique concrète works by pioneers of electroacoustic and acousmatic music – Jean-Claude Risset’s “Elementa” and Francis Dhomont’s “Cycle du Son”.

Read composer John Stead’s personal notes on the associated composers:

Jean-Claude Risset (1938 – 2016)

Jean-Claude Risset studied composition, physics and mathematics with the composer Andre Jolivet,  at the École Normale Supérieure. From early years his music has always had an instrumental thread, yet his pioneering work with John Chowning lead to the development of DX FM synthesis and creating acoustic illusions like the Shepard tone, where the sound appears to be continually going up or down, as in an Escher drawing. As a composer in residence at M.I.T. He developed music for the Yamaha Synclavier where the piano acts as a responsorial performer; Duet for 1 pianist (1989). At the inception of the experimental music centre in Paris, I.R.C.A.M., Pierre Boulez asked him to head the computer music department. He is respected and admired worldwide for his theoretical as well as his electro-acoustic work. He pursued research into computer music at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Marseille up to his death last year, and is the recipient of many important awards including the Magisterium Prize (Bourges).

My personal association with him goes back to to 2004 when we corresponded about various strategies for diffusing “Elementa” for a concert of musique concrète at the Live Arts Space at the Ferens Art Gallery in June 2004. I also had the opportunity to diffuse it again at E.A.E workshop and concerts at the N.C.E.M in York in February 2009.

Elementa is a beautifully crafted work of immense subtlety and refinement, combining both synthetic and musique concrète elements.

Francis Dhomont (1926 – )

JS and FD2cropMy relationship with Francis Dhomont also goes back to correspondence in 2004, specifically relating to various approaches to the diffusion Cycle du Son over an 8 channel system, and the location of the loudspeakers in relation to the audience. I have diffused this work twice using 8 channel systems. This complete diffusion performance is rare, in that at most acousmatic music concerts, only 1 or maybe 2 parts of the whole cycle are diffused. For Open Bridges this will be all 4. We recently met in Birmingham in 2015 at a performance on the BEAST acousmonium, where he was diffusing some of his own work.  Francis Dhomont is one of the pioneers of tape based music, beginning with his early experimenting with an old wire recorder. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Charles Koechlin, and pursues a creative path in the composition of musique concrète and the performance of its diffusion over multiple loudspeaker systems called an Acousmonium. Although living and working in Canada for many years he now lives in Avignon, and at nearly 91, focusing on research and composition. He has had many prizes and honours around the world and is regarded by some as the doyen of acousmatic music. Cycle du Son is a sort of resume and commentary on the nature of musique concrète since its inception. This music represents freedom given to sound.

Pierre Henry (1927-2017)

Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer were the originators of what became known as musique concrète. Its important aspect was that the music was created using recorded sound, rather than synthetic sound. A group of composers who became interested in this medium formed what became the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM). Moments in Time (for Open Bridges) was created using software developed at GRM called GRM Tools. Pierre Henry however left and set up his own independent studio and continuing to work until a few months before his death in hospital at 89 earlier this year. His early work “Variations on a Door and a Sigh” shows what extraordinary sound worlds can be with created with a creaking barn door, a series of breaths and a sort of musical saw using simple techniques in the studio. His “le livre des morts egyptien” commissioned by and worked on at IRCAM is, for me one of the very best examples of his ability to explore minute and vast spaces, inhabiting them with extra-ordinary sound objects.

John Stead, September 2017


Open Bridges Hull: We are delighted that every aspect of planning and delivery of Open Bridges is by people who are Hull based.

Open Bridges is an independent Hull based project by Duffy-Howard Music taking place during the Hull City of Culture Freedom Season. It is supported by Arts Council England and Hull City Arts Fund with partnership support from Hull City Council Streetscene and project partners Malcolm Scott, John Stead, Streetscene’s Andy Burton, Pete Curry, Graham Lownsborough and Bridge Operations staff, Helen Thackeray: Hull Events, John Medland, Phil Withers, Mal Nicholson and Historic Motor and Sail, Paul Escreet: SMS Towage, Simon Lee: Svitzer (Maersk), The Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society, The Beverley Barge Preservation Society, Team Humber Marine Alliance, Freedom Festival’s Jenny Coombes, Hugh Jones of HPSS , C4Di, creative writers Christina Lewis and Russ Litten, photographers Piotr Korczynski and Graeme Oxby, Humber Film Creative Community and Octovision Media.

Project concept, website, narrative and photography © Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard (unless otherwise stated)