= Objects of Curiosity (Supercity) – Nigel Morgan

Objects of Curiosity (Supercity)

for String Quartet (with digital media)

Scenario from Will Alsop’s SuperCity exhibition 2005 at the Urbis Centre for Urban Culture In the past twenty years the medium of the string quartet has been re-imagined thanks to the Kronos Quartet. They have inspired a new generation of string players who have commissioned new work, made collaborations with musicians from other cultures, explored improvisation and devised work, adopted amplification, sound projection and electronic treatments, and most recently brought in elements of digital visual media and communications technology. Objects of Curiosity (Supercity) is composed to suit this new kind of string quartet, but does not altogether rule out more traditional approaches to the medium. A second work in the Objects of Curiosity series – The Prisoner for double bass and piano – was completed in 2007.

The genesis of what is an expanding collection of single movement works for quartet (with or without external / additional performance elements) comes from the work of the architect Will Alsop who, like the Kronos with the string quartet, has re-defined many people’s experience of architecture. Alsop’s often visionary work is not just about buildings; it embraces a concern for the whole environment and quality of lives people lead.
This is often first expressed in a web of collaborative practice using painting, sculpture, music, poetry, documentary, and the latest in digital visualization. In his 2005 exhibition SuperCity at Manchester’s Urbis Centre for Urban Culture Alsop presents a vision for the future of the North of England, a SuperCity development stretching from Hull to Liverpool.

In the SuperCity quartet the ‘objects of curiosity’ are presented as scored musical material in small type – to be played as a distant musical presence, literally a backdrop, against images and sounds from the SuperCity exhibition. In amplified performances this musical material should be imaginatively projected and electronically treated. The backdrops may even be pre-recorded and ‘dropped in’ to enable the performers to devise their own ‘objects’ in the sonic foreground.


Objects of Curiosity (SuperCity) study score [pdf]

Objects of Curiosity (SuperCity) parts [zip]

Flash presentation [swf]

Reference recording [mp3]

Annotated SCOM code [pdf]


A version of Objects of Curiosity (SuperCity) is also available for String Orchestra (minimum This version was premiered during the Voices III Peninsula Arts Festival. As composer in residence to Plymouth University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research Nigel Morgan gave a festival lecture on the background of this piece. The lecture titled Objects of Curiosity and the Composing Continuum can be downloaded here as a podcast or a PDF paper.