Composer Writes Music Based on Durham Castle Data

Composer Writes Music Based on Durham Castle Data
Durham Castle

A young composer plans to give a concert in Durham Castle – playing music written using data from the ancient building. Jo Coupe analysed large amounts of data concerning things such as visitor numbers, temperature, light levels, postal deliveries and measurements of humidity. She then transformed these statistics into a musical score. Jo, along with a group of musicians, will perform the music on Friday 21st October at 7.30 pm.


Jo’s compositions, entitled Vital Signs, will be played on medieval percussion instruments. Jo collaborated with the percussionist Brendan Murphy as well as three other musicians who are experts at playing medieval instruments. Vital Signs is described as “a suite of compositions, which aim to reveal the rhythms and patterns of human presence in the building.”


Jo said, “I didn’t know what the end result was going to sound like. Each piece sounds very different; some are very rhythmic while others are more atmospheric, but every piece emerged from a huge amount of research into the building, the instruments and the information gathered from the Castle.”


Gemma Lewis, Durham Castle’s curator, said, “Durham Castle is nearly one-thousand-years-old, but it’s not like so many other castles and museums, frozen in time. It’s a living castle where spaces like the kitchen and chapel have been used for the original purposes for hundreds of years.”


Built by the Normans in the Eleventh century, the Castle functions today as part of Durham University. It houses University College, which is the University’s oldest. Over one-thousand students use the building and one-hundred live there. Ms Lewis said, “All this makes for interesting fluctuations in the data Jo has been looking at.”


The Castle, along with Durham Cathedral, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


At the end of the performance, the public will be able to meet and chat to Jo Coupe, the musicians and Gemma Lewis.


Jo’s project is a part of Meeting Point, a programme which has partnered leading UK and international artists with nine museums in the north east and Yorkshire, with the aim of creating artworks inspired by the venues and their collections. Meeting Point is funded by Arts Council England.


The concert is free of charge. More information is available at


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