Pet Shop Boys and Proms for Wadham Fellow

28th July 2014

Andrew Hodges joined the Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall for a standing ovation following the world premiere of A Man from the Future, at the BBC Proms on 23 July 2014.

  • The Pet Shop Boys in Berlin, 2013. Photo by Henry Laurish via Wikimeida Commons

     

Text for the Pet Shop Boys' 45-minute work for electronic sound, orchestra, choir and narrator comes from Andrew Hodges' 1983 biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma.

Andrew, who is Tutorial Fellow in Mathematics at Wadham,  and also a long-time PSB admirer, collaborated closely with them in selecting the passages, read in this performance by actor Juliet Stevenson. This collaboration has twice involved Wadham in welcoming Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe to dinner and to the SU bar to meet students afterwards.

The British mathematician Alan Turing formulated the concept of the digital computer  and was central to the breaking of the German Enigma ciphers during the Second World War. In 1952, he was prosecuted for his homosexuality, suffering chemical castration and the loss of security clearance. He took his own life in 1954. A Man from the Future presents this story, and continues to an extraordinary choral rendition of the posthumous Royal Pardon granted in 2013.

The vibrant multi-layered sound structure, for which the PSB are renowned, is pushed into new territory of musical and technical ingenuity by the incorporation of both choir and orchestra. Andrew's text also  fuses many elements, ranging from core statements of Turing's scientific work and historical significance, to his personal letters, and his own quotation of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. This diverse narrative is developed into songs for the chorus and complemented by intricate rhythms of Morse code and machine parts amidst the pulsing waves of PSB sound.

Performance details

A Man from the Future by Neil Tennant / Chris Lowe (orch. S. Helbig)
Juliet Stevenson (narrator)
Chrissie Hynde (vocalist)
Pet Shop Boys
BBC Singers
BBC Concert Orchestra
Dominic Wheeler (conductor)

  • Wadham Fellow, Andrew Hodges