Lab-residency in Suffolk

Stevie Wishart, composer (United-Kingdom)
Thierry Pécou, composer (France)

This project was born from an encounter with the English composer Stevie Wishart with whom I now share a keen interest in ecological issues and the way in which these issues infuse into musical creation. It will take the form of a composition in several sections articulating parts written by Stevie Wishart and others by myself.

Thierry Pécou

Note by Stevie Wishart

The Snape nature reserve is notable for what ecologists call ‘ecotones’ which is a term that resonates for music since (by chance) it is also has a musical connotation.

Using Snape’s ecotonal regions as a template for our creative residency at Snape has the potential to:
• develop a musical composition which can improve our human ability to listen to and learn from and about nature
• explore ways to raise our awareness of ecology in everyday life by harnessing the well-developed tools of musical pedagogy and methodology
• give two composers whose work has independently embodied ecological issues, the time and place to work apart and together see how they can start to create extraordinary music through focusing on aspects of their musical expertise which relate to Snape and its transitional ecotone regions.
• work on-site with local knowledge from ecologists and naturalists in order to find the most relevant content in terms of both music and ecology which can then be developed in the subsequent stages of this collaboration leading to its eventual creation and performances in 2023-2024.

Note by Thierry Pécou

This is an opportunity to undertake a week-long residential retreat in one of the dwellings owned by Britten Pears Arts Trust in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in the UK, in the place where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears lived and made their music. Britten Pears Arts make these dwellings (which used to belong to Britten) available to composers as a place for creative development, infused with the special character of Aldeburgh. Our intention is to create work through an immersive experience exploring the vast protected natural area of Aldeburgh woods and beach, Snape village, Snape Maltings and Iken marshes.

The ecosystems encountered in this reserve, composed of a mixture of marshes, sandbanks, fresh water and salt water, characterise a singular ecological phenomenon which could be the inspiration of the composition project: the ecotone. The ecotone is a transition region between two ecosystems which is particularly rich from the sound point of view, due to an increase in its biodiversity. The eco-echo also reflects the duality of the two composers working together and reflecting each others’ composing styles.
Listening to its unique areas, capturing the sounds that pass through them, being on the lookout for birds and their songs (particularly the elegant avocet), whilst establishing a dialogue with researchers specialising in ecology, environmentalists, ornithologists, ethologists… will be the preliminary work for the writing of a score for instrumental ensemble and pre-recorded fixed sounds testifying to this experience.
The retreat is facilitated by First Light Festival in Lowestoft, Suffolk (June 18/19) which has been offered three retreat opportunities by Britten Pears Arts in late May 2022 to enable the development of work for possible inclusion in the 2023 festival. They have selected this project between myself and Stevie Wishart because of an interest in working with us in the future. It will also lead to an association with the team at Snape Maltings, one of the most interesting and innovative music centres in the UK. It is a perfect opportunity to develop work in the UK.
American writer Ursula K.Le Guin said that poetry is the human language that can tell what a tree, a rock, a river is... that science explains, describing from the outside while poetry involves looking from inside. If we think that music is a form of poetry, this is certainly the ambition of this project which seeks to connect human music and the non-human sound world.


This project is developed in partnership with First Light Festival, Britten Pears Arts Creative Retreats programme, The Shift Norwich, SACEM and Ville de Rouen. This residency-laboratory marks the beginning of a programme that will bring together the sounds of nature and musicians.