Bee-sharp Honeybee is a brand new music work currently in development. It’s an independent art-science creation project, inspired by, and directly derived from the research of bees (with a focus on bee buzz frequencies/wing-beat speed).
SO, in short, I’m creating quirky chamber orchestral music based on the bee-buzz (spanning a number of genres), to perform live, and accompany animated visuals derived from my hand-illustrated graphic scores. It's my contribution to help spread the word about bee culture, promote bee research and educate the public about the importance of bees to human survival. Better bee-lieve it! It's a long journey and an ambitious project, so if you'd like to Bee A Contributor, we're now crowdfunding, to make this project come to life. Your contribution will assist directly with the animations and music development, and the possibility of including a live stream of bees, plus beats & samples made from the field recordings, during live performances.. this is why we'll need your help!
During 2017 I spent time working with a community of Minnesotan hobby beekeepers, as well as scientists and researchers from the University of Minnesota (UMN) Bee Research Lab (USA). With access to bee-hives in a number of locations, I immersed myself in field recording, interviewing beekeepers, collating technical data, and analysing technical & musical (frequency) details of the bee buzz. Creating spectrograms (visual colour maps of frequency details) and frequency line graphs, I began to explore ways of creating music through the visuals of the frequensices.
My research observations & analysis grew into musical starting points, which I workshopped with Minneapolis musicians the Laurels String Quartet. We experimented with tone, texture, phrasing, rhythmic elements and pitch, and from rehearsal recordings I developed these ideas further, and started designing a graphic notation system that best represented the concept and process of Bee-Sharp Honeybee, based on the way a bee-hive works, and so that every musician reads from the same score. A number of ‘Miniatures’ are now composed (each between 30 seconds and 4 minutes), using the graphic scores, part-improvised, guided by frequency information in audio & visual form, utilising structures of tone, pitch and wing-beat speed. The work-in-progress miniatures for string quartet are hot off the press, as a 21 minute EP (audio example below!) if you'd like to Bee A Contributor..
With the help of a small team, alongside this we created a series of miniature claymation stop motion animation clips, to experiment with the bee-buzz as a moving image. This process included the combination of 3D claymation bees and flowers animated in stop motion, 2D hand-illustrated backdrops, and after-effects. Thanks to the Laurels String Quartet for playing the sound of the bee-buzz in the clips!
The nerdy part: The bee buzz tone (wing beat), can usually sustain approximately 250 beats per second (250Hz~ fairly close to middle C, or B#, hence the title). This frequency / wing beat intensity, changes with behavioural patterns (maximising pollen release, threatening situations etc), environmental/weather conditions and body/wing size- I’ve barely touched the surface of these buzz variations, so I look forward to digging deeper as the project develops.. (in bee-tween bee stings that is).
We performed the initial string quartet miniatures live at The Pollinator Party, on Thursday July 27, 2017, as well as a house-concert performance in Minneapolis the following evening. Stay tuned for a live-recorded video of this performance very soon..
Long-term, Bee-Sharp Honeybee will culminate in a large-scale full length chamber orchestral work with electronics - the electronic component consisting of a pre-recorded element of bees (from the field recordings), and contemporary and abstract beats & samples derived and manipulated from these recordings. The animated visuals will be developed from my hand-illustrated graphic scores of the music, based on the way a bee-hive functions.
Huge thanks goes to: The Finzi Trust, APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund, The UMN Bee Research Lab & Bee Squad, Jared Miller, Deacon & Jenny Warner, Kurt Weimer, Celia and Ron Wirth, Film North, Emily Downes, Marcie LaCerte, Sam Ballis, Fiona Toth-Gillies, MN Hobby Beekeepers Association, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, and many more yet to come on the next stage..
With thanks to:
Art Music Fund
Bee-Sharp Honeybee Sketches
Private link with password to view the (live) house concert
Private link with password to view the entire Bee-Sharp honeybee documentary film by Deacon Warner (following festival screenings, estimated delivery: Sept/Oct 2018)