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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 18:28 UK Time, Friday, 5 November 2010


Humanaquarium at The Sage Gateshead

Humanaquarium at The Sage Gateshead

It's 630pm on Friday 5 November and the first event at this year's Free Thinking Festival is starting in The Sage Gateshead's Hall Two: it's the Free Thinking Lecture by Dame Jacqueline Wilson, creator of the Tracy Beaker novels - she's drawing on years of correspondence with her young readers andt their families, to understand the changing nature of happiness (one of the Festival's key themes), and how we can find it today.

As ever, The Sage is buzzing with activitiy - the central core of the building is its busy cafeteria; there are cello cases standing by tables as members of the Northern Sinfonia meet for a coffee and a chat before their evening concert at 730 - you can hear the concert (Ives's The Unanswered Question, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's 'Little Russian' Symphony No.2) on Radio 3 at 7pm next Monday, 8 November.

One fascinating feature of the foyer installations this year is 'Humanaquarium' (see picture). It's a gauze box in which a singer and an instrumentalist sit and perform ambient music live. The technicals, as I understand them, are that the front wall of the 'Humanaquarium' is a touch-sensitive window. Software translates the locations of touches into control data which acts on the varius sound beds of the music. So you can interact with the musicians and the music by going up and touching the screen. The installation is attracting a lot of attention ...

Free Thinking events are broadcast on Radio 3 during the weekend, and on various Radio 3 programme strands such as Night Waves in the coming weeks. Scheduling details are on the Radio 3 website.

For an unusual take on the festival, I recommend Jon Jacob who's an independent presence, wired to social media through tweets, YouTube, blogs and audioboos. His boos are short clips and interviews which give a vivid up-to-the minute commentary on what's going on, filtered through Jon's fertile imagination. You can hear about his arrival in Newcastle - And the Sage is where? - by clicking this link, and one of the first people he bagged for interview was Anthony Sargent, director of The Sage Gateshead - you can hear what Anthony had to say by clicking this link.

More news as it happens ...

And the news is that The Verb's host Ian McMillan has just come to the desk as I've been writing this to tell me he'll be on the computer during the breaks tomorrow to give us his up-to-date thoughts and ideas.        

Full details of the Free Thinking festival are at https://www.bbc.co.uk/freethinking




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