A Sentimental Journey


About the digital opera

A Sentimental Journey (45mins) is a digital opera for a mixed ensemble of technologies, remote audiences and live performers: 4 musicians, 4 laptops, and an actor/singer. It is created from a book: A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne, first published in 1768.

It is not an opera about the book, nor is it with the book – as in a libretto – but something that is more inbetween. In this sense the music is created from within the book; that is to say, the imaginary dimension that the book generates when read, or was in the mind of the author when written.

The digital opera is performed live to an audience in a theatre, and within the minds of remote audience members who are “listening in” to the real-time Internet stream of the performance. These remote audients are situated in, say, a hotel lobby, a airport departure lounge, or a coffee shop in the centre of a tourist district, experiencing the digital opera through headphones and the physical presence of watching others journey. As such, their digital opera will be cast by the people that they are watching, and their set will be their surrounding environment.

The end result is a shared experience between the audience(s) and the performers. It is as if the theatre space expands beyond its physical constraints; we all experience the digital opera together - somewhere between place, space, memory, imagination, and the worlds within the book.

LINK Full length recording of premiere

LINK visual score facsimile (6x speed)

LINK AI score tour (password protected)

About the performance

Live performance website:   http://asj-live.blogspot.com/

“it took me on a journey - I liked the sense of the audience being there as well”

“Sterne is brilliant at controlling the fine line between self-indulgence and virtuosity; or drawing attention to the form while at the same time presenting us with sociable good humour and warm humanity - and I think you controlled that fine line too”

“Would love to experience from the live audience's perspective in the theatre to see how much of an impact this would have had on my interpretation. I have never experienced a live piece (in which I am very aware of the presence of an audience gathered elsewhere) "alone" before and this lack of a fellow audience in the space with me made my narrative feel very much lonely.”

“All the riffs and motifs were very captivating - a bit hallucinogenic like when you are a child with a fever - not at all unpleasant, but a bit disturbing and distorted.”

“the more I think about it, the more important it becomes that we knew that it was reaching the world”

“the sound-scapes were mesmerising - one of us said how it drew out Yorick's loneliness.”

About the composition

The 14 month compositional process began with a forensic gathering of source material for the computer generated visual score and soundscape. The sound library consists of:

- Field recordings from places mentioned in the book (2010)

- Archive music recordings from places mentioned in the book (1930-1960)

- Musical impressions recorded at places mentioned in the book (2010)

- A recording of an ‘old Sterne’ reading the text Journal to Eliza

- Electroacoustic miniatures created in response to the book or are treatments of the above field recordings

- Silence

The visual score for the musicians is generated from a fixed library of:

- Scans of the original pages from the book

- Transcriptions of 18th century street songs

- Transcriptions of music compositions mentioned in the book - particularly period dance music of Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-86)

- Research outcomes from the Sterne collection at Shandy Hall

- Original illustrations from various editions of the book

- Black screen

The music is realised through improvisation and each musician has a responsibility to a narrative exposition – however abstract this may be. They must approach the performance embracing any of the definitions for the word play (noun or verb). They must also contribute to a society of improvisation (there are 12 voices in total).

Of paramount importance is that each musician enters into the spirit of this piece:

This piece should be rollicking good fun!

It should ooze a philosophy of pleasure.

The music can digresses through the folds and creases of an individual’s mind into a world where anything might happen.

It can meander from the macro to the micro, from the outer to the inner. It has no universal scale of values.

It is a reflection on the emotions of the heart,

and of pleasure, fun

and wholehearted joy.

“Vive l’amour! Et vive la bagatelle!”

Each musician– performing or listening - must pirouette about its world, peeping and peering, enjoying a flirtation here, bestowing a few coppers there, and sitting in whatever little patch of sunshine one can find.

The first performance featured (9-Feb-2011):

Audrey Riley - ‘cello and voice

John Richards - bass, electronics and voice

Jonathan Eato - soprano sax and voice

Craig Vear - percussion, KYMA and voice

Michael Lambourne - Yorick, solo voice and percussion

Thanks to Damian Cruden, Jonathan Eato, Aine Sheil, Peter Boardman and Patrick Wildgust.

Dedicated to Patrick Wildgust.


A Digital Opera

2010 - 11