Heart Variations for String Quartet

unnamed-312-300x216Words by Sinead Nunes

When Conceptual Artist and psychologist Egle Mei got in touch with Art in Liverpool to announce her newest project, we were excited. Having loved her last exhibition at the Blade Factory in Camp and Furnace, we wanted to see what she would do next. T/HERE explored boundaries of normality through a photography project with visually impaired and autistic adults, focusing on how individuals realise a composition.

Mei’s latest project, Heart Variations is about the music of the body. Last year, Egle Mei recorded a selection of ECGs (heart electrocardiographs) from member of the public in Liverpool hospitals and encoded them into notes, working with composers Meike Holzmann and Ian Stephens, who came up with two beautiful compositions from these findings. Each composer produced a piece comprising of 5 movements: Over-Comsumption, Self-Alienation, Awareness, Hope and Love.

Knowing the origins of the composition, I was expecting a convulsive, unconventional piece of music to ensue, but in fact, what enfolded before us from the talented Liverpool String Quartet, was a very beautiful and seamless melody. I was intrigued by the titles of the 5 movements, and even more so regarding how each composer would interpret these themes in their own unique way.

It was interesting to see that the work of each composer was so different, considering that the initial outline for both compositions had come from the same data set. Meike Holzmann’s “Awareness” movement was brilliant; overflowing with emotion, this piece commanded the attention of the audience, as we were swept up in its beautiful sadness. First Violinist Rakhi Singh brought beauty and skill to this piece, which demanded some incredible, technical solos. It is a wonder that the Liverpool String Quartet, with such a talent throughout the group, is not better known in the city and beyond, as this piece really proved that Liverpool boasts genius in the orchestra’s string section.

Cellist Nick Byrne also gave a brilliant performance in the second half of the evening, as the Quartet performed Ian Stephens’ composition. Bringing depth and expertise to the vibrato sections of the movements, his playing complimented the harmonies produced on the other instruments, with Sarah Hill on 2nd violin and Dani Sanxis playing viola.


As part of Heart Variations, Mei and her team also delivered cross-curricular science and music school workshops across the North West. Mei recorded students’ brainwaves and converted them into notes with the IBVA brainmachine. Students then created their own compositions from these brain rhythms, with 6 of the best chosen as the winners of the Young Composer’s Awards, and performed at the end of the evening, showcasing the work of these promising young composers.

Heart Variations is currently on tour across the North West, making stops at Liverpool, St Helens, Burnley, Fleetwood and Preston. The Liverpool String Quartet, featuring Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra musicians, will perform Ian Stephen’s, Meike Holzmann’s and the students’ compositions. Follow them @Liverpool_4tet

Find out more about Egle Mei and her project at www.heartvariations.co.uk / eglemei.com