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Festival promises multi sensory experience

29 Jan 2022 5 minute read
PIctured L-R: Patricia Morgan (keyboard/bass guitar), Angharad Davies (violin),& Rhodri Davies (harp)

The heaven scent smells of jasmine, coffee beans, freshly baked bread and even musty books will be the odour of the day at a top music festival.

The fragrant aromas and the melodies will be harmonising to create a whole new experience for music lovers with a combination of sound and smell called Smound.

It’s being unveiled at the Bangor Music Festival that’s being held at the city’s Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre on February 11-12.

The concept has been developed by Aberystwyth-born harpist and composer, Rhodri Davies, who calls it Clywed Arogl (Hearing Smell) in Welsh.

Rhodri, 50, who now lives in Swansea, was motivated by his own personal experience.

He said: “In 1999 I significantly lost my sense of smell and taste. Although there has been a partial recovery over the years both senses remain diminished.

“Smell training has been shown to help recovery in some studies, and involves repeated stimulation of the smell nerves.

“Traditionally musical scores privilege the eye but I am keen to investigate how might sound be inspired by different types of smell.

“Listening to a concert the audience never see the score, what the musicians are playing. In the same way they may not smell what the performers are smelling either.

“This will be the first time I will have done this and it’s a complete experiment,” he added.


Sonic installation

Rhodri will be joined in Bangor by his violin playing sister, Angharad, who lives in Aberystwyth, and their friend, Patricia Morgan, who lives in Hay-on-Wye, on keyboard and bass guitar.

He explained their performance during the festival will be in two parts.

Rhodri described the first part during Saturday afternoon as a “sonic installation” that presents the audience with different aromas and sound.

The trio will perform at various locations around the Pontio building from midday until around 4pm, interacting with the sound and smell installations.

The aromas used by Rhodri include ground coffee beans, baked bread, lilies, garlic, Jasmin plants, essential oils, incense, lavender, earth, hay, leaves and even musty books.

Learners from local secondary schools will take part in their own sonic performances to the  smells within the installation, under the guidance of Rhodri.

The second part at 5pm involves a performance that will include an “immersive and interactive experience” for both the audience and performers.

According to festival director, Guto Pryderi Puw, Rhodri Davies is one of the world’s leading experimental musicians and has been a feature of the festival in the past.

He said: “The senses are the themes of the festival and there is something about the senses in every concert.

“Hearing is clearly one of the senses and the trick is to bring the other senses into the festival.”

Rhodri has created a number of installations and performances which involve destroying or disassembling the harp. In 2010 he was longlisted for the Northern Arts Prize and in 2012 he received the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award.

World premieres

The concert featuring Darragh Morgan and Electroacoustic Wales will explore the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) phenomenon, a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.

It will include the music of Arshia Samsaminia, a recent work by Jonty Harrison alongside world premieres of pieces by Bangor composer Andrew Lewis and Irish composer Irene Buckley. Also being played for the first time will be pieces by the two finalists of the William Mathias Composition Prize.

Among the performers will be Darragh Morgan who has established himself as a soloist of new music giving numerous recitals at festivals around the world.

After Rhodri Davies’ presentation, a concert in the main Bryn Terfel Theatre will feature new works by Guto Pryderi Puw, Dutch-born composer Carlijn Metselaar and Welsh composer Joseph Davies, with the works being commissioned and performed by UPROAR.

A new work by pupils from an educational project established by the festival will also be performed along with a piece by Du Yun from China and a work inspired by the visual elements of a street theatre by South Korean composer Unsuk Chin.

The concert on Saturday will be the climax of a day of musical activities in the Pontio building.

During the morning Marie-Claire Howorth will present Camau Cerdd (First Steps in Music) to children aged from six months to seven years of age on the themes of touch, sound and space, in collaboration with Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (The William Mathias Music Centre).

Young talented performers from Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias will also have a stage, performing an eclectic mix of music for soloists and ensembles during the early afternoon.

This will be followed by the Bangor New Music Ensemble performing new compositions inspired by the senses by students at the Department of Music, Drama and Performance at Bangor University.

Guto Puw is confident the festival can go ahead as planned, with arrangements in place for a hybrid event where the live concerts attended in person will also be live streamed simultaneously on various digital platforms.

He is also thrilled that highlights from this year’s festival will be broadcast at a later date on BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show programme.

More information about the festival online at and tickets can be purchased from the Pontio Box Office on 01248 382828.

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