The sound of St Andrews

Wednesday 23 September 2015


A new experimental series of ‘in conversation’ style events, pairing leading musicians with writers, is being launched by the University of St Andrews.

The series, called ‘Soundings’, will launch on 4 November with PJ Harvey appearing alongside Irish poet Paul Muldoon in an intimate event at the University’s Byre theatre.

The aim of the series – which will initially see three events taking place between November and April 2015 – is to pair together internationally-renowned figures from the worlds of music and literature that are ‘spiritually or creatively influenced by one another’.

Each event will include a short solo set by each performer, followed by an unscripted conversation between the two on their working process.

The programme is the creation of the University’s new International Writer in Residence, Reif Larsen, and Professor of English, Don Paterson.

Mr Larsen said: “I approach other disciplines with a great degree of awe and a bit of suspicion. I sometimes get tired of the same little loops of conversation that can happen when you bring two artists of the same discipline together. But when you pair two people from different disciplines together, suddenly anything can happen. We’re hoping to capture a little lightening in a bottle with these events.”

Not all of the pairings in Soundings will be expected or known to one another, Mr Larsen explained: “I love the interplay between the written word and music. I wanted to pair people who weren’t necessarily friends but each have admiration for the other’s work.

“Writers aren’t necessarily used to talking to musicians and vice versa, so this slight discomfort can become a real path to discovery. The best conversations are the ones that develop organically on the stage in front of the audience’s eyes. We’re expecting the unexpected.”

‌PJ Harvey has released eight critically acclaimed albums, been nominated for six Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have been awarded the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize twice.

In 2013, she was awarded an MBE for services to music. The Hollow of the Hand, her first published collection of poetry, was edited with Don Paterson.

Paul Muldoon is a Professor of poetry, editor, critic and translator. He has published over 30 collections of poetry; his work has been the recipient of the T S Eliot Prize, the International Griffin Prize, the Shakespeare Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The Irish-born poet, an honorary graduate of the University of St Andrews, has been described as quite simply one of the most influential poets of the age”.

Music has always played a huge role in his life – he has collaborated with the composer Daron Hagen on several operas, has had a song recorded by Bruce Springsteen, and is lyricist and guitarist with the Princeton band, Wayside Shrines.

It is hoped that, as the series continues to develop, the programme will grow to include masterclasses in writing and music by Soundings’ performers, and one-off student performances of their work.

Mr Larsen added: “Since arriving in St Andrews last year I’ve seen it as my mission to encourage the growth of contemporary – even avant-garde – culture in this town, which often prides itself on its ancient history. I’d like Fife to become synonymous with artistic experimentation, and for St Andrews to be seen as a retreat for contemporary writers and musicians to work on new forms and to present cutting-edge material.”

Tickets for Soundings: PJ Harvey and Paul Muldoon at the Byre Theatre, Wednesday 4 November, 7pm, are available from the Byre box office in person, by calling 01334 475000 or online. Tickets are priced £20 (£5 students, U25s).

Notes to news editors

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews. Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 or email [email protected]. Press images of PJ Harvey and Paul Muldoon.

Category University news

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