A Passion For Apes

For 5 singers, instrumental trio, soundscapes, children

Nigel Morgan is currently working on a proposal for GRASP a major UN initiative to save the four Great Apes – gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans – from their impending extinction. It is a global partnership involving two UN agencies (UNEP and UNESCO), the governments of countries with great apes, donor governments (including UK), the conservation conventions, most of the major conservation NGOs and the private sector. In September (5-9), GRASP plans to hold a Ministerial-level inter-governmental meeting in Kinshasa – the culmination of three years preparation and planning. Governments will be invited to sign a declaration recognizing the importance of great apes for scientific, ecological, economic and ethical reasons, and committing to implement the plans drawn up to ensure they and their habitats survive.

Ian Redmond, Chief Consultant for GRASP, has approached the UK composer Nigel Morgan to devise a unique cultural event to run alongside the scientific programme of the conference. The aim: to bring GRASP’s message to the widest possible media audience through a unique mix of music, theatre and documentary. It is to be written for live concert performance and as an Internet web-cast.

Working with unusual texts and subjects is nothing new to Nigel Morgan. His multi-location work Schizophonia – featuring the words of Internet guru Esther Dyson – tackled the subject of acoustic ecology and global communications.
Its premiere at the ILIOS Festival in 2002 involved musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Det Norsk Solistkor. Nigel Morgan is currently working on a concert length project titled Family of Man bringing
together the words and images of sculptor Barbara Hepworth, anthropologist Margaret Mead and photographer Ken Heyman.

Listen to the 12 Design Rules of Esther Dyson (from Schizophonia) by Nigel Morgan

Performed by members of Det Norsk Solistkor directed by Robert Court (keyboard).

A Passion for the Apes

Music by Nigel Morgan.
Text by Margaret Morgan

Based on the words and images of Sir David Attenborough, Dr Jo Thompson,

Ian Redmond, Dr Charlotte Uhlenbroek, Professor Biruté Galdikas and Dr Jane Goodall

For 5 singers, instrumental trio, sounds-capes, children’s choir and percussionists.

When a group of world experts on the great apes met on a public platform in 2000 they had an extraordinary story to share: of their personal experiences in the field with these remarkable animals; how our closest biological relatives were being brought close to extinction; of the many brave and imaginative steps being taken to secure their survival. What these experts managed to communicate was something of the unique relationship with and understanding of the apes only a few individuals have made possible. A Passion for the Apes fashions a concert work and Internet webcast from the Great Ape Event 2000 in music, song, and digital sound-scapes. The 45 minute work for a company of eight presents a story told passionately and poetically using the very words of those privileged to communicate with and for our cousins the apes.

Recent collaborative work between the sciences and the arts continues to produce many exciting outcomes. A Passion for the Apes provides a
really unique and appropriate opportunity for scientific research in natural history to come alongside artistic endeavor. This factor could be enhanced in this project through a significant community and education element able to develop a legacy of experience and resources. A unique feature the project hopes to include is an important role for children’s choir and percussion ensemble in presenting the soundworld of the apes themselves. This will be achieved by involving the Great Ape ‘experts’ in teaching the participating children – over internet and satellite link-ups – the many body and vocal sounds these animals employ.