Calculus of the Nervous System - Britten Sinfonia

Calculus of the Nervous System

18 Nov 2019

Emily Howard

Ada sketches

Emily Howard

Wild Clematis in Winter

Emily Howard

But then, what are these numbers?

PRiSM Team led by Robert Laidlow


Ada Lovelace


Laura Tunbridge

librettist (Ada Sketches)

William Cole



The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) presents works by leading British composer, Emily Howard, inspired by the pioneering nineteenth-century mathematician, Ada Lovelace, as well as a new work by the interdisciplinary PRiSM team at the RNCM led by composer Robert Laidlow, PRiSM Researcher in AI-assisted Composition, which similarly engages with questions of art, science and artificial intelligence. These are the second performances of new commissions for the Barbican Centre, But then, what are these numbers? and Alter premiered in London on 2 November 2019 and are supported by TORCH.

Lovelace dabbled in mesmerism, a forerunner of hypnosis developed by physician Franz Mesmer, and wrote that she wished to develop a ‘calculus of the nervous system’: a mathematical model for how the brain could give rise to thought, and nerves to feelings. This evening’s programme – performed by Britten Sinfonia and the outstanding British-Spanish soprano, Marta Fontanals-Simmons – explores the relationship between science and art, thought and feeling, new technologies and human creativity, and pays tribute to Lovelace’s remarkable scientific imagination and its continued relevance for our own contemporary society.

In addition to performances of these compositions, Emily Howard and Robert Laidlow will be in conversation with David de Roure (Professor of E-Research, University of Oxford) and Ursula Martin (Visiting Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford), about Lovelace’s legacy and the interface between academic research and artistic creativity.

Free and open to all. Please book via Eventbrite or email the TORCH team at [email protected].


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