Zoom Time – Over and Out is a collaborative work co-created and performed by musicians of two inclusive music ensembles: Acoustronic, led by Prof Frank Lyons and based at Ulster University in Derry and Queen’s University Belfast based “Performance without Barriers” (PwB) Research Group, led by Prof Franziska Schroeder alongside Belfast International Arts Festival Featured Artist 2023 Nicholas McCarthy that celebrates inclusivity in classical music.

Zoom Time – Over and Out is an extension and re-invention of an initial work, entitled Zoom Time that was created during the Covid pandemic and that told the stories of the lives of the musicians during this difficult period. Given the restrictions imposed by lockdowns and social distancing, much of the creative work of Zoom Time was undertaken online using the Zoom platform, hence the title of the original piece.

The work features voice recordings of the musicians, portraying the constantly changing emotions that they experienced during the pandemic, with newly recorded voices that portray life as the musicians experience it now. Layered onto an orchestral score, composed by Prof Frank Lyons, are musical components by the Acoustronic and Performance without Barriers musicians. These materials were created in online Zoom sessions, during the pandemic and in recent collaborative physical workshops during September and October 2023.

Musicians are using specifically designed new, inclusive, digital musical instruments, including instruments that have been created as Accessible Virtual Reality Musical Instruments (AVRMI) by Damian Mills (PwB); With Feel VR Instruments by Dr Lewis Smith (UU), an Accessible Long Cane Instrument (ALCI), created by PwB researchers James Cunningham and Dr Alex Lucas, as well as specifically created virtual environments, rendered in UnrealEngine 5 by PwB researcher Leonid Kuzmenko.

Prof Paul Moore has worked with the musicians to create a visual accompaniment to Zoom Time – Over and Out. The film will be shown with additional footage made during our 2023 workshops.

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Performance without Barriers (PwB) was set up in 2015 by Prof Franziska Schroeder as a research partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Drake Music Project Northern Ireland. Together the group explores the role of technology in removing access barriers encountered by some disabled musicians in creative pursuits. The group understands music as a powerful medium for personal expression, with the potential to amplify the voices of those marginalised in society. PwB’s aim is to build sustainable environments for inclusive music-making that live beyond any research project. Performance without Barriers is the proud recipient of the 2020 Vice Chancellors Prize for Research Innovation, and has received numerous funding through the AHRC.

Musicians/Designers from PwB are: Mary Louise McCord, James Cunningham, Gary Wylie, Christine Williamson, Damian Mills, Leo Kuzmenko, Alex Lucas.

Acoustronic was formed by Prof Frank Lyons in 2015 under the Inclusive Creativity banner at Ulster University and over the past few years the group have performed their original compositions in high profile venues in Lisbon, London, Dublin and Derry. They have been core to innovative research projects funded by the Performing Rights Society Foundation, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and the British Council, and have facilitated workshops for composers and technologists at the Walled City Music Festival and St Magnus Festival amongst others. They were appointed as musicians in residence at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, the first inclusive ensemble to be awarded such a post at any national conservatoire in the world. The group has collaborated on the development of new digital instruments with PhD researchers including Brendan McCloskey’s ‘InGrid’ and Lewis Smith’s ‘WithFeelVR’, and they have co-created a gestural conducting system, ‘Conductology’, with Denise White.

Acoustronic are: Marie Anderson, Paul Brown, Alison Cooley, Jay Hagon and John Lynch.

Zoom Time – Over and Out was realised with support from AHRC/Future Screens NI.