‘On a Theme of Hermes’ (2011)

Marc Yeats - Composer

‘On a Theme of Hermes’ (2011)

IMG_1063‘On a Theme of Hermes’ (2011) will launch in late May 2012 in Poole, Dorset; in June around the Bristol Floating Harbour; and in early July in Wroclaw, Poland. Our delivery partners are the Arts Unit, Poole Borough Council; Hamworthy Library, Poole; the Lighthouse Poole; MShed Bristol; Arnolfini; the Bristol Ensemble; the Electrostatic Festival; the Pervasive Media Studio; PVA MediaLab Labculture Ltd; and Wroclaw European City of Culture 2016.

‘On a Theme of Hermes’ is an original work for large-scale ensemble and voices which fuses contemporary music and contemporary poetry in an entirely new and innovative way, and, moreover, one which has a truly unique method of delivery. ‘On a Theme of Hermes’ is user-directed and geo-located. It responds to location, to where the user is. It morphs, changes, according to what the user does. This is an entirely new music/poetry paradigm. We have chosen the theme of the Greek god ‘Hermes’ as he is, traditionally, messenger of the gods, guide to the Underworld, patron of thieves, liars, of literature and poets, as well as of boundaries (and those who, as in this project, “travel across them”). These attributes of his quicksilver nature give us massive scope for weaving symphonic stories around him and for integrating classical and contemporary allusions and illusions, words and music.

Some examples of sound modules from ‘on a theme of Hermes’.


‘On a Theme of Hermes’ is originally composed in three distinct stages. The music, played by members of the Bristol Ensemble,as well as the voice parts were professionally recorded. The results are currently being modularised and ‘composed into a virtual layer’ over a chosen location using the Calvium ‘AppFurnace’ suite. It can then be accessed in the specified locations by anyone, whether they are technically adept or not, downloading a free app onto a smartphone*. Then they go to the actual exterior space where the work is geo-located, put headphones on, and ‘walk the symphony’. The easiest way to think about this is that ‘the landscape is the score: the audience member literally walks around in the score’, or it can be thought of as ‘a virtual auditorium’ or ‘an intelligent environment seeded with artistic content’.

SATSYMPH are currently in receipt of a major Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award along with financial support from the PRS for Music Foundation and PVA MediaLab/labculture ltd., to realise our next major work. ‘On a Theme of Hermes‘ fuses the music of contemporary composer Marc Yeats, the words of poet Ralph Hoyte, and the expertise of coder, musician and composer Phill Phelps, using live, top-flight musicians (from the Bristol Ensemble) and voice-artists. SATSYMPH LLP is composer and artist Marc Yeats; poet, writer and context-aware media director and producer, Ralph Hoyte; and coder, composer and audio engineer Phill Phelps. We use leading edge software to create GPS-triggered immersive soundworld apps for smartphones.  Why do we use this technology? Because this emerging platform has three very interesting characteristics:  (1) it is locational, that is to say, it responds to the actual physical location of an individual with a smartphone; (2) delivery is personalised; (3) it is a very challenging compositional environment with immense potential.  The technology creates intense, evocative personal experiences in actual physical locations which are user-directed. You are at one and the same time in the real world and completely immersed in a virtual soundworld which responds to your movements. Trials have shown that this is an utterly compelling experience. SATSYMPH have the in-house know-how and experience to create very sophisticated contemporary music and contemporary poetry soundworlds as well as to engage with artistically rich dramatized heritage interpretive projects.

For more information about ‘on a theme of Hermes and the work of SATSYMPH, please visit our website.