Honeybee research inspires Glastonbury act

Honeybee research led by a scientist at Nottingham Trent University has helped spark one of the more unusual musical acts at this year's Glastonbury Festival, which takes place from 22 to 26 June.

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The band performs at an earlier event (Image Dom Henry)

Honeybee research led by a scientist at Nottingham Trent University has helped spark one of the more unusual musical acts at this year's Glastonbury Festival, which takes place from 22 to 26 June.

Music from BE's ONE album incorporates the harmonious buzzing of bees collected by University researcher Dr Martin Bencsik.

Using accelerometers embedded in the hive – devices sensitive to tiny vibrations – the physicist is able to study the patterns of sounds the insects make in order to monitor the health and behaviour of colonies.

The live performance of BE ONE is something you must experience for yourself. No words can describe where it takes you

Dr Martin Bencsik, Nottingham Trent University

His research attracted the attention of artist and Nottingham Trent University fine art graduate, Wolfgang Buttress, who was commissioned to create the honeybee-themed centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at last year's World Expo in Milan.

Visitors to the exhibit map the journey of the bee, meandering through an orchard of apple trees and along a meadow of British wildflowers before entering The Hive – a giant 14m cube-shaped aluminium lattice structure based on an abstract reinterpretation of a honeycomb.

Wolfgang needed a soundscape for the award-winning sculpture – which aimed to highlight the importance of the honeybee in food production – and the live-streamed signals from one of Dr Bencsik's hives contributed to it.

It was from this original concept that the musical development emerged, with Wolfgang setting out to form a band which could accompany the soundscape from the pavilion, including violins, piano, cello, and guitar.

Dr Bencsik's wife Deirdre, a classically-trained cellist, contributes to the musical mix, after working out that the bees were humming in the key of C. The musicians then followed their lead, using their pitch to improvise around their sound. Wolfgang's daughter Camille provides the vocals.

The result was a constantly changing and evolving symphony between bee and human, which led to the creation of a full album, ONE, on the Rivertones record label. This was released in February to widespread critical acclaim. It is in The Guardian’s list of the best albums of 2016.

The band will perform in Glastonbury's "Glade Area" on June 23. As well as Glastonbury, the album will also be performed at the Bluedot, Caught by the River and End of the Road festivals.

Dr Bencsik, who is based in the University’s School of Science and Technology, said: "I have heard a concert performance of the BE ONE album with my son, and had the most extraordinary experience of being immersed in a journey that made me forget anything else. That one hour of performance felt like five minutes.

"After the concert, everybody stayed in the theatre, mesmerised. The live performance of BE ONE is something you must experience for yourself. No words can describe where it takes you."

Wolfgang added: "This project continues to blossom and surprise. I am very happy that the art, music and science continues to develop, and I very much look forward to working with Dr Bencsik and this talented collective of musicians over the coming years."

Last week The Hive took up its new home at Kew Gardens.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Media Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email; or Helen Breese, Media Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    Nottingham Trent University’s five-year strategic plan Creating the University of the Future has five main ambitions: Creating Opportunity, Valuing Ideas, Enriching Society, Connecting Globally, and Empowering People.

    The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Nottingham Trent University in November 2015. It is the highest national honour for a UK university and recognises the institution’s world-class research. Pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula, and combat food fraud, led to the prestigious award.

Honeybee research inspires Glastonbury act

Published on 20 June 2016
  • Category: Research; School of Science and Technology

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