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MLAC EVENTS BULLETIN: 20th – 27th February

Monday 20th February

IAS Fellows’ Seminar – Aristotle’s Account of Measurement

13:00-14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Dr Barbara Sattler (University of St Andrews, UK)

This paper analyses Aristotle’s account of measurement and shows how it allows him to react to problems with determining the quantity of a motion, as they arose from Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. Dr Barbara Sattler tries to demonstrate that Aristotle uses a very powerful notion of measurement against Zeno in his Physics, but that he in fact defines the concept of measurement in a much weaker way. The reasons for this weaker definition, she argues, are on the one hand constraints from the mathematics of Aristotle’s time and on the other hand from Aristotle’s metaphysics.

Fellows’ seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin’s Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Click here for more information.


IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – The Third Mode of Life: information transfer in networked organisms

17:30-18:30, Joachim Room, College of St Hild and St Bede, Professor Mark Fricker, University of Oxford

Fungi form extensive interconnected mycelial networks that scavenge efficiently for scarce and ephemeral resources in a patchy environment, in the face of aggressive competition from other fungi and predation by soil micro-fauna. Exploration, repair and combat require internal transport of nutrients from spatially disparate sources to these rapidly altering sinks. Thus, the network architecture and internal flows continuously adapt to local nutritional cues, damage or predation, through growth, branching, fusion or regression. As these organisms do not have any centralized control system, we infer their relatively sophisticated behavior has to emerge from parallel implementation of many local decisions that collectively manage to solve this complex, dynamic combinatorial optimization problem. To understand how such behavior is achieved and coordinated, we have developed combined imaging and modelling approaches to characterize the network structure, link the structure to predicted nutrient transport, based on models of fluid flow dynamics, and then test these predictions using experimental measurement of nutrient flows using photon-counting scintillation imaging. We have also explored control of network development in the acellular slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, which is taxonomically completely unrelated to the network forming fungi, being essentially a single giant animal cell, yet appears to exemplify common solutions to self-organised adaptive network formation driven by fluid flows, local rules and oscillatory behavior. In contrast to single celled organisms and other multicellular organisms, we propose that networked organisms constitute a ‘Third Mode of Life’ in which complex behaviour emerges as a result of intrinsically coupled, adaptive networks with a distributed processing architecture.

This lecture is free and open to all.

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Durham Castle Lecture: World Consciousness and Sustainable Development

19:30-21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University will deliver this lecture. Prof Sachs will discuss the challenges, and possible solutions, to create a global response commensurate with declared objectives

The world is on a dangerous and unsustainable path regarding climate change, other environmental threats, and sociopolitical instability. In response, governments have adopted several high-level goals and objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitment to keep global warming to “well below 2-degree C.” Yet we are aware that our social and political systems are profoundly difficult to reorient. While we call for “rational” responses to global challenges, we too often face paralysis or even open conflict.
Prof Sachs will discuss the challenges, and possible solutions, to create a global response commensurate with our declared objectives. His focus will be on fostering a “world consciousness” that at a global scale can effectively recognize challenges, adopt goals and targets, identify and test potential solutions, and choose collectively on actions to achieve the agreed goals. He will draw on my 16 years experience as senior UN advisor, and on analogies from the neuroscience of rationality at the level of the individual to develop concepts of collective rationality at the global scale.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders. He was called by the New York Times, “probably the most important economist in the world,” and by Time Magazine “the world’s best known economist.” A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade.
Doors open at 7.30pm. Seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. No ticket is required. Lecture commences at 8pm.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Tuesday 21st February

“Text mining and Topic Modelling with Deep Learning for Digital Humanities”

13:00–14:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College

DH Durham and the Institute of Advanced Research Computing are pleased to invite you to the latest in our series of Lunchtime Seminars on Digital Humanities: Dr Steve McGough and Dr Noura Al-Moubayed  will present a talk titled: “Text mining and Topic Modelling with Deep Learning for Digital Humanities”

A light lunch will be provided from 12.30 with the talk beginning at 13.00

These seminars are designed to explore how collaborative research from across all the faculties of the University can bridge the gaps between themes and enable new directions in Digital Humanities.  The seminars will be fortnightly over the current academic year and will showcase research from both Arts and Humanities and Computer Science Academics.


There is an ever-increasing wealth of written material available to researchers. This may be from social media sources such as collections of tweets, blog posts or the digitisation of existing documents. We are now reaching a point where it is no longer feasible for an individual to process the overwhelming volume of material. However, for many tasks we can now employ Artificial Intelligence systems to classify and analyse the documents in order to massively reduce the number of documents that a researcher needs to consider and allow an easy navigation through the corpus. This could be for tasks such as identifying documents within a corpus which are similar to a document you already have, categorising documents into different topic areas, identifying which documents share a particular sentiment or view, identifying the ‘odd’ documents within a corpus or being able to discard quickly all documents which are of little interest. In this talk we shall present a tool for automatically performing these tasks without the need for domain specific knowledge to be encoded into the tool.


IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – Giant Ears and ‘anatomical dolls’: theoretical, practical and cultural challenges of scale in the history of anatomical models

17:30-18:30, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s College, Dr Anna Maerker, King’s College London

Three-dimensional models at different scales are central to learning about the body today, from miniaturized dolls which show the location of large organs to giant ears explaining the mechanism of hearing, and life-sized plastic torsos designed to teach CPR. This lecture traces the emergence of this genre of object since the Renaissance, focusing mainly on anatomical models in wax and papier-mâché from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which were celebrated as innovative tools for teaching and research. Such models were frequently part of reform projects: the anatomical waxes of eighteenth-century Florence for instance were meant to turn Tuscans into enlightened citizens, while the French papier-mâché models of Dr Auzoux were distributed globally to contribute to a wide range of social and political projects, from the French public health movement to medical schools in Egypt and India.
The lecture will consider different ways in which scale mattered for modelling enterprises: For critics who derided models as ‘anatomical dolls’ and denied their utility as tools for teaching or research; for entrepreneurs who marketed mass-produced models on a large scale; and for model users who responded to encounters with the body at unfamiliar scales in different ways, with amusement or horror.

Click here for more information.


Fathoming the Deep in Early Modern Tragedy

17:30, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library, Dr Laurence Publicover, (University of Bristol)

This event is free to attend and open to all and will be followed by a drinks reception in the Courtyard Café, Palace Green Library.

In Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, Guildenstern tells Claudius—who has sent him to spy on the prince—that Hamlet is not ‘forward to be sounded, / But with a crafty madness keeps aloof’ (3.1.7-8). Recent scholarship on maritime culture has helped illuminate the second of Guildenstern’s maritime metaphors: Hamlet keeps his inquisitors at arm’s length, just as a vessel stays ‘aloof’—on a course ‘close to the wind’, usually to avoid a hazard—in order to avoid shipwreck. But due to its focus on the sea’s surface, such scholarship has been less helpful in unpacking Guildenstern’s first metaphor. He figures the mysterious Hamlet as an ocean bed that has not been ‘fathomed’—has not had its depth measured by a lead line.

As Paul Hammond has argued in ‘The Strangeness of Tragedy’ (Oxford, 2009), tragedy is a genre consistently concerned with how individuals become incomprehensible to both others and themselves. In this paper, which marks an early step in a new project on oceanic depth in early modern culture, I will demonstrate how this aspect of tragedy is articulated through the language of watery depth. Bringing tragedies by Middleton and Shakespeare into dialogue with texts concerned with the maritime practice of ‘sounding’ and ‘dredging’, I will argue that plays imaginatively dive into the alien deep in order to suggest profound matters that are glimpsed rather than fully comprehended, just as fathoming offered early modern navigators an inexact sense of their geographical location and of the sea beneath them. Further, I shall demonstrate, tragedies’ images of ‘bottoms fathomless’ (The Changeling, 5.3.120) can suggest the psychic hell to which characters’ ethical transgressions have led them.

Register here for this and other seminars in the Landscapes series taking place during Epiphany Term (16th January – 17th March 2017).

Click here for more information.


Paul Celan and the Truth of Poetry

18:15-19:30, Williams Library, St Chad’s College, Dr Michael Mack (Durham University)

A Centre for Poetry and Poetics research seminar.

Contact for more information about this event.


Wednesday 22nd February 

Temporal and Spatial Scales: Ophthalmology and the Cosmos: Medieval and Modern Measurement of Sight in a Multi-Cultural Context – workshop

10:00-16:00, SCR Dining Room, Hatfield College

Measurement and scale were subjects central to medieval learning, which were pursued within interdisciplinary and multi-cultural environments. Ophthalmology and the Cosmos: Medieval and Modern Measurement of Sight in a Multi-Cultural Context takes the form of a collaborative reading workshop, which follows in those interdisciplinary footsteps. The workshop will gather experts from a wide range of disciplines (from arts, natural and medical sciences) to explore two central elements of pre-modern appreciation of scale and measurement: astronomy and the human eye. The workshop on 22nd February 2017 will focus on three foundational medieval works, from the western and Islamic traditions which illustrate the diverse routes by which knowledge reached the medieval west: directly from its own inheritance of the Ancient World, and through the Islamic absorption of ancient Greek thought, passed, eventually, to the West. Each treats the subjects of scale and measurement, of space and time, in different ways and in different contexts. Together they represent the breadth, richness and surprising modernity of medieval thought concerning the natural world.

These texts are:

1) the eighth century De temporum ratione – On the Measurement of Time of Bede;

2) the ninth century Kitab al-Ashr Maqalat fi’ l Ayn – Book of the Ten Treatises on the Eye by Hunayn ibn Ishaq, translated into Latin as De oculis by Constantine the African at the end of the eleventh century;

3) the second century Almagest, Ptolemy’s Handbook of Astronomy, translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the mid-twelfth century

The workshop will bring together experts in Arabic science and its transmission in the West, western medieval specialists, modern ophthalmic surgeons and vision perception specialists, as well as experts in ancient Greek and modern cosmology. Gathering this creative and specialist team allows their interpretative skills put to use in a focused, problem-solving, discipline-sharing series of tasks. This forms a genuinely interdisciplinary approach to the history of science. An appreciation of ancient and medieval modes of measurement, the ends to which measurement was put, and how different scales of time and distance were related to each other, has considerable potential to spark new interpretations, both historical and modern. This workshop will open up some of these possibilities.

The intended outcomes take the form of an online presentation of the materials discussed. A series of dedicated webpages will include the text, the original and translation (with appropriate publication permissions secured). These will be surrounded with linked commentaries on all aspects of the text.

External participants include: Professor Hannah Smithson, University of Oxford and IAS Fellow; Professor Nader El-Bizri, American University of Beirut; Professor Cecilia Panti, Università di Roma, Tor Vergata.

Attendance is by registration with Dr Giles Gasper Numbers are limited to a first come first served basis.

Click here for more information.


Workshop: Discussion of Philip Steinberg’s ‘Of Other Seas: Metaphors and Materialities in Maritime Regions’

10:00, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library, Dr Laurence Publicover, (University of Bristol)

Laurence Publicover will lead a discussion of Philip Steinberg’s ‘Of Other Seas: Metaphors and Materialities in Maritime Regions’, Atlantic Studies, 10 (2013), 156-69. This provocative piece is closely engaged with the fields of oceanic studies and the blue humanities, and should make for a fascinating discussion for those with interests in environmental humanities research.

Before the seminar, participants should read the article which is downloadable from and should come along prepared to discuss (for 2-3 minutes, and informally) something from their own research that involves the maritime world in some way. This could be (but does not necessarily have to be) something that bears a relation to the Steinberg article: the idea is that these mini-presentations, and a discussion of Steinberg’s piece, will open out into a broader conversation about the place of the sea in the humanities (and, more specifically, scholarship on the medieval and early modern periods).

This event is open to all Durham colleagues or postgraduates, please click here to register.

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Temporal and Spatial Scales: Scale in Ecological Systems, Past and Present – seminar series

12:00-14:00, Turner Room Van Mildert College, Professor Chris Thomas (University of York)

Seminar by Chris Thomas, University of York.

Chris is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, interested in the dynamics of biological change in the Anthropocene. He works on the responses of species to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and biological invasions.

All are welcome. Attendance should be confirmed with

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The Effect Size Fallacy

13:00-14:00, ED134, School of Education

A seminar from Professor Adrian Simpson of the School of Education, Durham University. Everyone is welcome to attend and booking is not required.
The “what works” agenda which drives much education policy is often based on comparing and combining a form of effect size: the standardised mean difference. This measure is assumed to give an indication of the educational impact of an intervention with greater effect sizes generally associated with better bets for what might bring about improvements in learning than smaller effect sizes. We will show that this assumption is wrong.

Standardised mean difference is, instead, a measure of experimental clarity which can be legitimately manipulated by researchers. The freedom for researchers to manipulate this measure varies with context, rendering popular league tables of educational impact meaningless and misleading.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Maps, Meridians and Missions: Christopher Maire, SJ (1697–1767), a Durham Cartographer in Enlightenment Italy

17:30-19:15, Exhibition Hall, Ushaw College

Prof Maurice Whitehead (Schwarzenbach Research Fellow, Venerable English College, Rome; Hon Fellow CCS) will give this lecture as part of the Ushaw Lecture Series.

The Ushaw Lecture Series explores different aspects of Ushaw College’s history and that of the Catholic community more generally, with expert contributors drawn from within and outside the University. Lectures take place three times per term.
The lecture will start at 6pm and will be preceded by a drinks reception at 5.30pm. All are welcome.
To register, please email
If you need help with transport between Durham City and Ushaw College, please contact Jane at or on 0191 334 1656 by 9am on Monday 20 February 2017. For directions, please see This lecture is organised by the Department of Theology and Religion.

Contact for more information about this event.

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‘Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America’

18:30-19:45, Leech Hall, St John’s College, 3 South Bailey

A lecture by Michael Wear one of the youngest White House staffers in modern American history.
Michael Wear is the founder of Public Square Strategies LLC, and a leading expert and strategist at the intersection of faith, politics and American public life. He was one of the youngest White House staffers in modern American history: he served in the White House faith-based initiative during President Obama’s first term, where he led evangelical outreach and helped manage The White House’s engagement on religious and values issues, including adoption and anti-human trafficking efforts.

All are welcome, please register your attendance with Clare Towns –

Contact for more information about this event.

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Durham Castle Lecture: A Greedy Queen: Queen Victoria and her food

20:00-21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle

Dr Annie Gray, Writer, broadcaster, and resident food historian on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet give this free Durham Castle Lecture offering a fascinating insight into Queen Victoria’s diet and love of food. All welcome. No ticket required, seats allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Meet Victoria. She’s a morbidly obese 78 year old with an unhealthy relationship with food. Forced by her hated mother onto a diet intended to impose discipline and control as a child, and used to taking refuge in food as a means of control, as an adult she eats what she wants and as much as she wants. Money is no problem, and Victoria has lived most of her life eating seven course meals twice a day, plus a generous breakfast and cake in the afternoon. Her doctors worry about her, especially about her chronic indigestion, and her acquaintances – for the most part not exactly friends – urge her to take more care of herself. Victoria ignores them all. For Victoria, christened Alexandrina Victoria, is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India. And Queen Victoria, in 1897, still has the constitution of an ox, and an appetite to match.
Covering childhood, marriage, widowhood and old age, and well as kitchens, cooks, and cooking, this lecture is part-biography, part-investigation. Drawing on brand new research, illustrated with rarely-seen pictures, and packed with information, as well as often touching stories, it will give you an entirely new perspective on Britain’s most famous monarch as well as the food and drink of the period named after her.
Food historian Dr Annie Gray is a writer, broadcaster and consultant. She specialises in British food and dining c.1650-1950, and is the resident food historian on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet. She also advised on, and presented, BBC 2’s Victorian Bakers. She is a research associate at the University of York.
Her first book, A Greedy Queen: eating and drinking with Queen Victoria, was shortlisted for a Jane Grigson Trust Award for new food writing in March 2016, and is due for publication with Profile Books in mid-2017.
Doors open at 7.30pm. Seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. No ticket is required. Lecture commences at 8pm.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.


Thursday 23rd February

IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – On the Animated GIF

17:30-18:30, Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Professor Anna McCarthy, New York University

GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) is a string of computer code with particular characteristics, although in everyday usage the term describes looped animations, often sampled from a commercial source, formatted to play on a variety of digital platforms. Considered solely as animations, GIFs are fairly rudimentary. Many exist simply to catch your attention, like spinning disks revolving in the wind outside a shop.

Others are visual one-liners: a loop of Oprah Winfrey shaking her head with a caption saying no, no, no; Benedict Cumberbatch frowning and saying, what? Users insert these reaction GIFs into the social media stream the way players in a game of trumps discard hot cards, each time aiming for just the right spot.

GIFs, as Professor McCarthy explains, are expressions of craft. The word carries many connotations. All are relevant, although we must start with the ways that GIFs emblemize in a digital register the craft of making do, a knowledge base formed from experience, touch, and know-how, a practice of making sometimes called tinkering, known in various trade argots as jury-riggingpantsing, or kludge.

Makers of GIFs follow a comparably improvisational logic of assembly. GIFcraft, let’s call it, a certain feel for one’s materials, the latter treated as if they are tactile objects. As examples of GIFcraft, we will look at GIFs that display the form’s capacity as a social and political language. Originating in an online culture that values sophisticated impudence, millennial cuteness, and the interchangeability of truth, belief, and commitment, GIF making is a communicative means for collective politics in the age of digital content.

Professor McCarthy finds some small hope for a form of public sphere in the anarchic cultural mixing that GIFcraft embodies. Still, it must be noted that within the larger sphere of cultural production, the same expedient talents that GIF-making hones often find expression in far more insidious forms. One well known example is what is known as “fake news”: digital press releases that circulate on Facebook and propagate falsehoods, often with audiovisual evidence attached. (In the days leading up to the recent U.S. Presidential elections, for example, one such item explained to users that every anti-Trump demonstrator receives $1500 from philanthropist George Soros.)

The public sphere of online culture is a millennial realm in which statecraft, the craft of policing, the entrepreneurial craft of self-making, and the craft of deception coexist and, indeed, constantly confront each other in the marketplace for our minds. Identifying the symbol-making logics of GIFcraft is a step towards identifying the tendencies and conflicts that shape, with all its vulnerabilities, the popular craft of political speech today.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Click here for more information.


Historicist Interdisciplinarity in Literature and Science

18:00-19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Michael Whitworth (Merton College, Oxford)

An Inventions of the Text seminar.

Unlike evo-criticism and other critical approaches that draw their authority from science, the historicist study of the inter-relations of literature and science is not methodologically interdisciplinary with respect to the sciences. However, it draws on other disciplines, notably the history and philosophy of science; in recent years, a turn towards the history of the book has also been apparent. Moreover, in many cases the authors it studies can be said to have been interdisciplinary. In this paper, drawing on my own work in relation to modernism and early twentieth-century science, I will consider interdisciplinarity avant la lettre, and the relation of critical practice to other historical disciplines.

Contact for more information about this event.


Friday 24th February

Human Scale: either end of the SCALE 1

19:30, Department of Music, Palace Green, Concert performed by Lore Lixenberg and Ives Ensemble

Lore Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano)

Ives Ensemble

Programme: Oliver Christophe Leith – new work (commissioned by MUSICON)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Vier kurze Studien
Igor Stravinsky – Trois pièces pour quatuor à cordes
Morton Feldman – Three Voices

The first evening in “either end of the SCALE” features the amazing vocal phenomenon that is Lore Lixenberg, singing together with herself and herself in the breathtakingly beautiful hour of Morton Feldman’s Three Voices. Written for Joan LaBarbara in 1982, and based on the poem Wind by the American poet Frank O’Hara, the work is an elegy for absent friends. As the composer puts it: “One of my closest friends, the painter Philip Guston, had just died; Frank O’Hara had died several years before. I saw the piece with Joan in front and these two loudspeakers behind her. There is something kind of tombstoney about the look of loudspeakers. I thought of the piece as an exchange of the live voice with the dead ones – a mixture of the living and the dead”.

Tickets: £10, Students £4, Under 18s £1 Festival passe-partout: £25, students £10 Box Office: Department of Music, Durham Tel: 0191 33 43140 Or online at:

Click here for more information.


Saturday 25th February

Human Scale: either end of the SCALE 2

19:30, Durham Town Hall, Concert performed by Ives Ensemble and Forum Neue Vokalmusik

Programme: Anton Webern – Sechs Bagatellen, opus 9
Helmut Lachenmann – Toccatina
György Kurtág – Hommage à Mihaly Andras: 12 Microludien
Karlheinz Stockhausen – Stimmung

The second evening in “either end of the SCALE” promises to be a truly magical evening with the world-renowned vocal sextet Forum Neue Vokalmusic, performing Stimmung, one of the iconic compositions of the sixties by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Written in 1968, this 80-minute work is a meditation on overtones. “Stimmung implies not only the outward tuning of voices or instruments, but also the inward tuning of one’s soul. When people feel in tune with one another they are said to be in a good Stimmung. And of course its root syllable suggests Stimme: voice.” Another translation of the word “Stimmung” is mood. Among the moods that inspired Stockhausen were the experience of ancient Mexican ruins and the view of a frozen and snow-covered fjord in Connecticut, the place where Stimmung was composed. Spoken elements form an important ingredient: detached words, magic names of Gods from various cultures, and Stockhausen’s own passionately erotic love poems. Preceded by three masterpieces for strings that are as subtle as they are short, this evening will be a truly spiritual and uplifting musical experience.

Tickets: £10, Students £4, Under 18s £1 Festival passe-partout: £25, students £10 Box Office: Department of Music, Durham Tel: 0191 33 43140 or online at:

Click here for more information.


Sunday 26th February

Human Scale: either end of the SCALE 3

19:30, Concert Room, Department of Music, Durham University, Palace Green, Concert performed by Ives Ensemble

Programme: Anton Webern – Drei kleine Stücke, opus 11
Arnold Schoenberg – Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, opus 19
Charles Ives – A Set of Three Short Pieces
Morton Feldman – Piano and String Quartet
The final evening of “either end of the SCALE” sees another of Morton Feldman’s hauntingly beautiful long creations, the 75-minute Piano and String Quartet. Here we find Feldman at his most lyrical and restrained, pairing a magical translucency with the subtlest harmonic and rhythmical shadings found in contemporary music. Considering it his favourite piece, the composer summarized the work as “the history of the speed of a broken chord”, and claimed that it had “everything I always wanted”. The first half of the concert features exquisite pieces by composers that were of immense influence on Feldman’s thinking. The brief masterworks by Webern, Schoenberg and Ives form a perfect gateway to the expansiveness of Feldman’s musical landscape. This concert, performed by MUSICON regulars the Ives Ensemble, is an evening that will remain in any music lover’s memory for a long time to come.

Tickets: £10, Students £4, Under 18s £1 Festival passe-partout: £25, students £10 Box Office: Department of Music, Durham Tel: 0191 33 43140 Or online at:

Click here for more information.


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