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Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010
Sunny symphony at Plymouth University
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Sun on the Roland Levinsky Building
The sun reflecting from the Roland Levinsky building

Arriving at the University of Plymouth in driving rain at 6.30am, there seemed little hope of any sort of sunrise happening.

But then, within just a few minutes the clouds had parted, and the skies above the Roland Levinsky Building were clear.

Perfect conditions for Sunlight Symphony: Sunrise.

The symphony, composed by Alexis Kirke, involved the sun interacting with light sensors attached to a few windows.

The sensors, in turn, 'communicated' with a computer linked to a sound system set up in the foyer of the building.

At 6.45am on 26 February, sound started to emerge, causing some consternation.

"Twilight has arrived too early," said Alexis. "It's all kicking off.

Alexis Kirke
Alexis Kirke 'composing' the unique symphony

"It's got a mind of its own and my computer isn't obeying me. I didn't get much sleep last night, but I'm very excited."

At first, there were soft, little twinkly sounds as the light increased - you could see the sun emerging on a big screen on the wall.

Within 10 minutes, the sound was filling the foyer and after 30 minutes, the symphony reached a crescendo, with Alexis sitting at his laptop in the middle of the foyer, tweaking things for all he was worth.

"The sensors on the windows are driving these knobs on the computer here," he explained to his audience. "And the knobs are controlling the audio here."

People nodded, though whether they understood exactly what was happening is another matter.

The small gathering of people who had got up before dawn to witness it listened intently before breaking into spontaneous applause as the crescendo subsided.

"Oh, it's beautiful," said one of the 'audience,' Judy Willis, who is a member of the university choir.

Watching the sun come up on the screen
Watching the sun come up on the screen

So how was it for the composer? "I am so pleased, it's gone really well.

"I love the sounds in here. I've been developing all this sound on my headphones or on small speakers and to hear all this sound now and see the sunlight is, wow!

"It was spooky at the start. I thought 'oh no, it's not going to work' - but it was just the sun doing its own thing."

A recording was made of this unique and stunning piece of music but Alexis said: "I don't know what the plans are for it.

"And we still have the Sunlight Symphony:Sunset to perform yet."

Sunlight Symphony:Sunrise launched the Peninsula Arts Continuum contemporary music festival at the university, which runs until 7 March 2010.

The Sunset element will close the festival - find out more using the links on this page.

In pictures: Plymouth's Sunny symphony
26 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Listen to the start of the Sunlight Symphony
26 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Listen to the middle of the Sunlight Symphony
26 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Listen to the end of the Sunlight Symphony
26 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Sunshine music at Plymouth University
19 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Exeter is feeling the vibe
25 Jan 10 |  Arts & Culture
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