Tuesday 22 April 2014

Codebreaker - evoking Turing in music

James McCarthy - Codebreaker
On Saturday 26 April the Hertfordshire Chorus is celebrating the life of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius. At the Barbican Centre, the chorus with their conductor David Temple and the London Orchestra da Camera will be giving the world premiere of James McCarthy's Codebreaker

McCarthy's work uses Turing's own words alongside those of well known poets such as Wilfred Owen, Sara Teasdale, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde and Robert Burns to create a picture of the brilliant mathematician who not only worked on breaking the Enigma codes during the Second World War, but laid the foundations of computer science and committed suicide in 1954 after being prosecuted for homosexual acts. As anyone who has ever tried to read Turing's own mathematical writings can testify, Turing's work can be difficult to follow and understand, and conveying mathematical theory in music is remarkably difficult.

James McCarthy is no stranger to tackling difficult subjects in his music, his previous commission for the Crouch End Festival Chorus was 17 Days, about the Chilean mining accident of 2010. McCarthy is also working on another piece for Crouch End, centred on Malala Yousafzai (the Pakistani school pupil and education activist who was shot by gunmen in 2012) with a text by novelist and journalist Bina Shah.

The concert on 26 April is completed with music by Mendelssohn, Beethoven and RVW. You can learn more about Codebreaker from the Hertforshire Chorus on Youtube (see after the break), and tickets are available from the Barbican Centre website.

If you are interested in learning more about Alan Turing, his life and his work, then I can recommend the ground-breaking biography by Andrew Hodges  (see advert below).
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