The Heaviside Condition

The Heaviside Condition


A brilliant mathematician and electrical engineer (1850-1925) who received no formal education past the age of sixteen. Despite revolutionising telegraphy and radio communication, he was neither generally acknowledged nor properly remunerated for this work. Others capitalised on and patented his ideas, making money and garnering acclaim, while he remained poor and lived out his twilight years in South Devon; socially marginalised and frequently misunderstood. He died after falling from a ladder in Torquay and is buried in Paignton.


In 2014, Trio Of Men embarked on a research, devising and performance project to explore this obscure and fascinating character. With funding from the Arts Council of England and support from the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth and Doorstep Arts, they developed an immersive theatre show featuring original music, projected video, shamanic ritual and creative community involvement.


This song-story in 7/8 time is a musical response to the life of Oliver Heaviside W.O.R.M. and combines new and inconclusive research with experiments in practical magick, scientific debates in municipal buildings and transcribed dreams. Lyrics are drawn, often verbatim, from Heaviside’s own writings; charting his ground-breaking achievements, his passion for cycling, his eccentric relationships with humans and animals and his love of music and mechanical instruments.

‘The Heaviside Condition’ is rendered in the rich tradition of the classic English concept-album; featuring twelve different keyboards (from a Victorian harmonium to a vocoder), a newly perforated barrel organ roll, bicycle spokes played as percussion and a bassoon. It was recorded in a hair salon, a Methodist church and a Paignton Bed & Breakfast. 

The Album and accompanying booklet (priced separately) is available in the Torquay Museum Gift Shop.


The Choral Engineers were formed as an experimental creative choir in January 2015 to take part in the initial performances of ‘The Heaviside Condition’. On the album, they can be heard singing, whispering, speaking, producing animal voices and playing mechanical instruments.

Since forming, The Choral Engineers have devised a surround-sound audio-visual piece for the iOrchestra installation, created a new song-cycle for the opening of The South Devon Highway alongside the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and, most recently, they became key performers in the UNESCO Opera ‘Earth Echoes’. They are currently exploring their feral voices in a 13th Century Abbey.

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