Congratulations to early music ensemble The Clerks, who have been shortlisted for the Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize 2015 for their work Tales from Babel.

The Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize is awarded to a creative project which illuminates the relationship between the arts and medicine.

Tales from Babel is the umbrella title for a series of collaborations between The Clerks, its director Edward Wickham, composer Christopher Fox and a team of scientific collaborators including Professor Sarah Hawkins, Professor Ian Cross, Dr Antje Heinrich, Dr Sarah Knight and director of Hearing the Voice Professor Charles Fernyhough.

It represents an evolving portfolio of works engaging with medical issues through innovative musical presentations, all of which have been supported by Wellcome Trust Arts Awards.

The connecting theme of Tales from Babel is the science of hearing, and the challenges which arise when hearing is compromised in various ways. The first two projects explore the ‘cocktail party problem’ and the psychology and neuro-science behind hearing in complex auditory environments. The third, entitled Phantom Voices, deals with the phenomenon of auditory hallucinations. Developed in collaboration with Hearing the Voice researchers, through conversations with voice-hearers and those who experience musical hallucinations, it explores the way in which the mind remembers and imagines music and whether the conditions that provoke musical hallucinations are similar to those associated with voice-hearing.

Professor Edward Wickham said: ‘Working on Phantom Voices with Charles and the Hearing the Voice team has been one of creative highlights of the past few years for me and for The Clerks; and it’s a real thrill that the work has been recognised by the Medicine Unboxed Prize. Phantom Voices is the latest in a series of scientific adventures for us and for composer Christopher Fox, collectively called Tales from Babel; and the creative energy which can be produced from these engagements has been terrific to be part of.’

Professor Charles Fernyhough said: ‘Of all the fascinating collaborations we have been involved with in Hearing the Voice, Phantom Voices has taken us in particularly unexpected directions. Edward Wickham and Christopher Fox have produced a sensitive and challenging work that delights, puzzles and moves in equal measure, and to be deeply involved in the creation of such a piece has been nothing less than thrilling. For us as researchers, working with the Clerks has raised profound new questions about how music and language function in inner experience, and has shown how the study of musical and other auditory hallucinations can be mutually illuminating. Apart from being an extraordinary work of art, Phantom Voices has stimulated new scientific studies and collaborations, and has been a great example of genuinely significant cross-disciplinary collaboration.’

More information about Tales from Babel, our collaboration with The Clerks, and our research into the phenomenology of inner music can be found at the following links:

Tales from Babel
The Clerks: Phantom Voices
Round and Round: The Phenomenology of Inner Music’

Media coverage for Tales from Babel:

Experiments in Listening: hearing one voice above the many’, The Guardian, 1 October 2013