Bee Composed at Aldeburgh 2014

While I was in Suffolk last week, as well as sitting in on the dress rehearsal of Owen Wingrave, I was also introduced to composer Lily Hunter Green. A gradute from Brighton University, Lily has been spending the last few weeks working on a project entitled Bee Composed, a piece written in response to the decline of the british Bee population. When I first discovered what it entailed, I was intrigued.

For those of you who are familiar with the layout of the site of Snape Maltings Concert Hall, you’ll be familiar with the tranquil environment, the fields and the river carelessly passing by. You may be less familiar with the latest addition to the Henry Moore lawn, just in front of the entrance to the main concert hall building. Sitting atop a wooden stage is a piano, but it isn’t just any old piano – this is Bee Composed. As you approach this piano, you see two hive shaped objects attached to it, and as you approach it further, you hear the sound of buzzing bees, occasionally punctuated by the sound of a twanging piano string. If you cast your glance into one of the hives (containing no actual bees), you see that Lily has transformed the inside of a piano into a working beehive, installed some microphones, and then allowed the bees to do the composing.

What you’re actually hearing, is a pre-recorded piece of music, made using the natural frequenceis of the buzzing bees (which is almost exactly the frequency to which we tune A) and various pitch correcting functions and filters on Logic. It is a thing of both strange beauty and beautiful strangeness.

Experiencing Bee Composed must certainly have been a highlight of my brief trip to Suffolk. It has made me more aware of all the natural music we experience on a daily basis – music we experience, but process more as the ‘noises of nature’. It is a truly fascinating piece, and if you find yourself presented with the opportunity to experience it, I highly recommend it.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Lily, you can visit her website, or if you want to experience Bee Composed for yourself, then why not visit it at Snape Maltings, where it is being exhibited throughout June.

Feature Image Credit: Lily Hunter Green / Douglas Hunter