Co-Incidences 2 – Orkney

International Science Festival, St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney, September 2023

For the Orkney International Science Festival 2023, Michael will be developing the ideas of “Tanpura with…” and Co-Incidences 1, in the magnificent setting of 12th Century St Magnus Cathedral.

Working with Ewan Robertson (flutes), the Mayfield Singers, George McPhee (organ), Valerie Webster and Hannah Marshall (cellos) in a concert alongside works by Stuart McRae, he will take the theme of  the “Music of the Spheres”, and  the relationship between Science and Music further. The work will also be presented  alongside a giant illuminated globe of the sun, created using live images from NASA.

The musicians will improvise to a series of Tanpura (the Classical Indian string drone instrument) based electronic drones and bells. There’s a fusion of Western and Indian classical forms and sounds, as well as Ancient and Modern.

Michael developed the piece during the summer of 2022 as part of the Tanpura with… project, using improvisation over synthesised tracks to create a series of reverberating musical pieces that are like looking at the same sculpture from different angles. The structure compels the player to listen constantly but liberates their freedom of expression in a way that embraces music from across the world in surprising ways.


The Players

Michael Oliva Michael Oliva

Electronics, Computer, Composition
Originally trained as a biochemist, Michael Oliva is now a composer, with a fondness for writing operas and music for electronics and live instruments. He is composer in residence with the contemporary music ensemble rarescale, and has also performed regularly with them in the UK, Europe and the United States.

In addition he runs madestrange opera, a company dedicated to producing new forms of the genre for modern audiences. With madestrange he has premiered his multimedia operas Black & Blue at BAC in 2004, Midsummer in 2005 and The Girl Who Liked to be Thrown Around – presented as a work in progress in Scotland in 2006 and in full production at the Tete a Tete Opera Festival, London in 2007, and the Grimeborn Opera Festival 2008. In 2010 he completed a new Requiem for the choir Mosaic, which was premiered at St Alban’s Cathedral, and then completed a new full length opera Singularity, premiered at the Royal College of Music in 2015 .

Michael also taught composition with electronics at the Royal College of Music from 1998 to 2021, where he was ‘Area Leader for Electroacoustic Music’, and ran the termly “From the Soundhouse” concerts of electronic music, exploring both classic repertoire pieces and new works by up and coming composers and students. He also lectured regularly in music technology at Imperial College, London, and researches and publishes on the use of interactive audio and video systems in performance.

Ewan Robertson

Ewan Robertson was born in Airthrey Castle, now part of Stirling University, but has lived for most of his life in the village of Uplawmoor in East Renfrewshire. He began his career in the Orchestra of Scottish Opera (1984-1994) to which he returned in 2016. In the interim he was co-principal piccolo in the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden when Bernard Haitink was Music Director (1994-1999) and a member of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra during Ilan Volkov’s tenure as chief conductor (1999-2016) and enjoyed playing a lot of contemporary repertoire including pieces by Stuart MacRae, James Dillon and Jonathan Harvey. He plays alto and bass flutes, piccolo and whistle with “Alastair Savage and Friends”, and plays bass flute with The Choir of PaisleyAbbey in Eddie McGuire’s “Three Donne Lyrics” available on the album “A Celtic Prayer” on Priory Records.

The Mayfield Singers

The Mayfield Singers is a small chamber choir  based in Orkney. It was founded in 1988 by Neil Price for the purpose of performing any choral music for a choir of such a size that would challenge and stretch its abilities. Although the aim is to achieve high standards, the choir is run informally, never losing sight of the fact that its main purpose is to provide recreation for its members. The choir performs frequently throughout Orkney and especially in St Magnus Cathedral, a magnificent building constructed by the Vikings in 1137.

  Valerie Webster


George McPhee

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, and renowned as a multi-talented musician, Dr George McPhee was appointed as Director of Music at Paisley Abbey in 1963 and has now served the Abbey in this capacity for nearly 50 years. He is also in great demand as an organ recitalist and choral conductor throughout the UK and abroad.  He has made a large number of recordings in both capacities, and has broadcast frequently, including Choral Evensong on Radio 3 with the Paisley Abbey Choir. Notable performance venues have included the Aldeburgh Festival, the Royal Festival Hall in London and many recital tours of North America.

Hannah Marshall

Hannah is a cellist, sound designer and performer living in the UK.
She is an improviser, who also works with composition and structures, making recordings, theatre and more recently short films. Much of her practice involves attention to listening and a focus on connection with people, places, situations. Her music and collaborations have been released by Linear Obsessional, Takuroku & Emanem.