Nigel Osborne has the slightly shambolic air of the otherworldly music professor, with crumpled linen and a thick beard. But first impressions can be misleading: while Osborne is currently Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, there is nothing otherworldly about a man who is keenly alert to issues as disparate as political oppression and new discoveries in neuroscience - and how both these things relate to music. Osborne is that rare artist, someone who can talk as fluently about musical composition as about politics or the physiological impact of music. He packs several lives into one: as founder of a new Edinburgh institute for the role of music in social development; as one of the UK's leading composers; and as a collaborator in various projects in areas of conflict, from Palestine to Georgia. An inveterate traveller, he speaks eight languages. When we meet, he delivers a dizzying run-down of what he is up to. The only thing to interrupt the flow is the automatic sensor that switches off the office lights while we are talking. He leaps to his feet and does a little jig to bring them on again. Next Wednesday, Osborne begins a four-day programme of events with the London Sinfonietta at the new concert hall at Kings Place, near King's Cross in London, the culmination of a remarkable project exploring the sound of rock gongs on the remote island of Lolui in Lake Victoria, Uganda. Lolui is a six-hour drive from Entebbe airport, followed by seven hours in a canoe. It was a journey that nearly cost Osborne and his team their lives when a fierce storm blew up, but they were more than rewarded by what they found there.