The Frome Maidens – A GPS-Triggered Poetic Contemporary Symphony

A new immersive user-mediated mobile soundscape experience

Poet Ralph Hoyte, composer Marc Yeats and coder Phill Phelps have been awarded an Arts Council GftA (Grants for the Arts) to conduct a ‘proof-of-concept’ scoping study for a GPS-triggered poetic contemporary symphony, THE FROME MAIDENS.

John William Waterhouse: Hylas and the Nymphs – 1896

This ‘proof-of-concept’ study aims to investigate how poetry and music could be fused and then placed in located virtual space. We also intend to involve ‘guinea-pigs’ with little or no previous experience of this media platform to test out how people react to and negotiate this new artform. Once we have shown that this scenario is plausible, we intend to seek further funding to make the concept real.

THE FROME MAIDENS, one of the first of a whole new generation of immersive user-mediated mobile experiences, is conceived as a located soundscape set out in virtual space along the 18-mile course of the River Frome, from her source near Old Sodbury (in Dodington Park on the escarpment along which the A46 Bath to Cirencester runs, a few miles north of the M5 motorway) to her confluence with the Avon in the centre of Bristol. The Frome is the reason Bristol is where she is, the Saxon settlement having been built at the easily defendable confluence of Frome and Avon. When Bristol Castle was built, the Backditch, connecting the two where Cabot Circus shopping mall now stands, completed the protective watery triangle.

THE FROME MAIDENSis based on the conceit that if the Rhine can have Rhinemaidens (created by Wagner for his Ring Cycle), then why can’t the Frome have Frome Maidens? Ralph has written a script based on this conceit and Marc has composed the music. All three of us are currently building a GPS-triggered ‘scratch model’ for testing purposes and intend to look for further funding to realise ‘the real thing’.

The project’s timeline is calculated to tie in with platform developers’ Calvium’s adaptation of current mediascape technology for potential iPod apps (“by late summer 2010”). We are also involving Interactive Media students from the University of the West of England (UWE). We aspire to develop further variations on the project, including a possible audio-visual installation.


    Ralph Hoyte is a Bristol-based professional declamatory public poet, writer and spatial word designer. He works with words and images live, visually and sculpturally, for the stage and screen, writes interpretive scripts for the Heritage sector and works, increasingly, cross-artform and in locative media. Ralph is particularly interested in ‘the music/poetry interface’ and in 2004/2005 was funded by the Arts Council for a pilot project, RESPRAY, involving experiments in this area. Ralph has recently completed a Technology Strategy Board-funded feasibility study into ‘The Dramatic Potential of Pervasive Media’ with the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol & Hewlett-Packard Labs. In 2009 he wrote the audio and ‘Peppers Ghosts’ scripts for the refurbished Dover Castle Great Tower for English Heritage.

    Marc Yeats has received performances, broadcasts and commissions nationally and internationally, working with many distinguished performers, ensembles and musicans including Psappha, the London Sinfonietta, the Endymion Ensemble, Paragon Ensemble, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Tokyo City Philharmonic and Gewandhaus Radio Orchestra, among others.

    “Marc Yeats’ musical voice is quite unlike anything else; the music is challenging to both performers and audiences, and very communicative. He produces extraordinary compositions that not only look and sound good, but demonstrate a very high level of academic learning, while being breathtakingly original.” (Sir Peter Maxwell Davies)

    Phill Phelps has recently completed a BSc (1st Class Hons) in Music Systems Engineering from the University of the West of England.

    Phill has published work and is ‘fascinated by new audio experiences and enjoys syncing unusual sounds to unusual video’. His research interests include symbiotic synthesis, circuit-bending and retrocomputing culture, human computer Interaction, speech recognition and speech synthesis, audio experimentation, electro-acoustic composition and recording.


Stampfli & Turci – Art Dealers

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~ by Stampfli & Turci on April 22, 2010.

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