Regular co-conspirators Theatre of Widdershins’ The Magic Porridge Pot & Other Tasty Tales is hitting the road this coming weekend at The Quay Theatre in Sudbury. As usual I supplied music and sound effects for this trio of food-related fairytales. You can find information about further dates at their website. For those who are interested, we’re currently making plans to record an audiobook of the show as soon as possible and I’ll put some of the music from the show up on this website in the near future for your delectation!
In addition to the above I’ve also been working as an assistant composer on a couple of TV series; the third season of Ripper Street, which was saved from cancellation by popular demand earlier this year and The Missing, a mini series starring James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tcheky Karyo and Jason Flemyng.
Williamsangst (Williams + angst) is the terrible feeling that John Williams is suddenly standing behind you as you write, peering over your shoulder snickering and clicking his tongue in disapproval. This is a very real anxiety for many composers. Even John Williams is said to experience this phenomenon from time to time.
Charles Bernstein (Film Music And Everything Else!, 2000)
CollabFeature is a group of independent filmmakers from all over the world who have come together to create multi-director feature films. Each filmmaker writes and directs a segment of the bigger story in his or her own country.
The second CollabFeature, Train Station (working title) is now in post production. It follows one main character who is played by different actors in different international cities. Each segment is filmed by a different director who continues the story, re-interpreting the situation in his/her own style. Train Station involves over 40 filmmakers in 26 countries.
I composed music for one of these segments, written and directed by Guillem Serrano. I can’t say much without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say that the story begins with a couple acknowledging that their relationship is in crisis and seeking to rekindle it.
Poor Polly Buckwheat, the Miller’s daughter, is in a bit of a pickle! If she doesn’t turn a roomful of straw into gold by morning, the greedy King will turn a bit nasty. But should she accept the kind help of an eccentric dwarf who mysteriously appears in her prison cell?
An audiobook of the story, written and narrated by Andy Lawrence from Theatre of Widdershins and featuring music from the production, is available for purchase with a total running time of 59 minutes 27 seconds.
* Our MP3 files use high quality, variable bitrate (VBR) encoding and can be played back on any computer, iPod or MP3 player. There is no digital rights management (DRM) on the files – we trust you to support independent artists. The MP3 files are delivered in the form of a compressed ZIP folder that also contains an image of the CD cover and a text file of the sleeve notes. You will be sent an email immediately after we process your payment providing you with instructions on how to download this product.
A happy new year to you all! As we begin this exciting new year here’s a quick roundup of my current projects:
Train Station is a feature film by CollabFeature, a single story made up of continuous segments by 42 directors across 22 countries. Guillem Serrano, whom I met whilst working on Red Kingdom Rising, was directing and editing one of these segments and asked if I would be interested in scoring it; an offer to which I eagerly agreed. Guillem’s “director’s cut” was completed last November and working on the film was a hugely enjoyable experience; but we’re not quite finished yet! The feature film has yet to be assembled from the various segments so it’s entirely possible more changes may be required. A fuller description of this unique project, along with some of the music, will be posted once it’s finalised.
Rumpelstiltskin is being revived by Theatre of Widdershins and is due to start touring at the end of January. The music for this popular fairytale has been reworked from the previous production and a little bit of new music has been added for those of you with particularly attentive ears! Andy Lawrence and I will be recording narration soon with a view to an audiobook release before Easter.
The final project is one I can’t say too much about; it’s the new project from the director of Red Kingdom Rising, Navin Dev. I’m currently working on establishing some thematic ideas to help with the pitching of the project to talent and investors. This is the most exciting and intimidating moment during the creation of a score; you know that potentially the best work you’ve done is hiding in the blank piece of paper in front of you but you have no idea what it sounds like!
In addition to the above, I continue to assist Dominik Scherrer after a brief break between commissions. Following his work on Ripper Street (currently screening on BBC1 and imminently on BBC America) he is now hard at work on a new season of Marple, including the exotic-sounding A Caribbean Mystery!
Composing for movies is hard. That’s why so many movie scores are bad. They either duplicate the action or emotion already being played on screen or are so neutral that they simply fill silences like Muzak in an elevator. The key to a good score is finding a function for the score that is not being filled by any other element in the picture.
Mary Ann, a troubled young woman, has been tormented her whole life by dreams of a sinister figure called the Red King and his morbid fairytale kingdom. Following the death of her father, Mary Ann returns to her family home where she recalls the childhood stories of the Red King and Alice from Through the Looking-Glass that her father once read to her. Haunting events and suppressed memories propel Mary Ann through the dark corridors of her parental home into the realms of her nightmares where she must finally confront the Red King and gain closure to her scarred past.
The majority of the music for this feature-length fantasy/horror was, like my work on director Navin Dev’s previous short film The Tree Man, composed using the rules for twelve-tone composition. I also made substantial use of modernist orchestration techniques to emphasise the surreal nature of Mary Ann’s descent into her own personal horrific wonderland. The score itself was for the most part intended to be insidious and atmospheric, rather than grand and thematic, but the timbral “motif” of the Red King was anything but subtle! The instrumentation varies from upright piano and strings for Mary Ann through eerie woodwinds and whispers for Alice to pounding percussion and blaring brass for the Red King.
A special thank you has to go to David Caron who, in addition to playing the role of father in the film, also performed principal cello parts throughout the score. More information about the film can be found at the official website.
I recently worked on the sound design for this installation by artist Suki Chan for Aspex.
Inspired by Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities, A Hundred Seas Rising explores how literature might be implicated in the imagination and trajectories of revolutions. The installation will use the sound of 100 individual voices as a sculptural material, re-imagining Dickens’ revolutionary mob sonically by creating surges of ideological thought that reverberate across the gallery space.
In the summer of 1957, the Hundred Flowers Movement in China invited a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues. The name of the movement originated from a poem: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” This movement was the first of its kind in the history of the People’s Republic of China in which the government opened up to ideological criticisms from the general public. The campaign grew in momentum, from expressions of minor issues of a few to increasingly large numbers of intellectuals voicing their radical ideas, including the overthrowing of the government. Six weeks into the campaign, threatened by the overwhelming criticisms of the people, Mao Tse-tung ordered a halt to the campaign. The result of the Hundred Flowers campaign was the Anti-Rightist Movement in which ideas against the government were suppressed, leading to the loss of individual rights and persecution.
The public will be invited to participate in the imagination of modern day revolutions. These might be personal, social, cultural, philosophical, technological, as well as political revolutions. They will be encouraged to describe the cause or structure they would like to transform, the motivating ideology for this change – including books that might have inspired their ideas, how they would mobilise others, the objectives of the revolution and how this would be achieved, i.e. through peaceful or violent means. The voice of each individual will be recorded individually and each recording will be assigned to one of the school desks, arranged in rows like a classroom environment. It is intended that the voices represent a cross-section of views from different cultural and social backgrounds. The topics for discussion might range from small personal revolutions that perhaps improves the daily life of one person, to ambitious ideas attempting to solve recurrent social ills, such as housing, distribution of money, debt, social welfare, education, the prison system, etc.
The sound design of the installation was based around the concept that a visitor could choose to listen to an individual desk and closely follow that interviewee’s ideas about revolution, but also that the sound of the whole room, all one hundred desks, would create the auditory illusion of waves of sound moving through the gallery space. Some rippling and some crashing. Others threatening to sweep the visitor away with this sonic revolutionary mob. At other times an individual voice would take advantage of a brief silence to speak out, only moments later to be overwhelmed by the ninety-nine others all wanting their say on the matter.
Needless to say converting the concept to a reality required a lot of editing, as well as overcoming some daunting technical hurdles. Apple’s Logic Pro software was used for editing and playback. In order to achieve the technical requirements of one hundred separate audio channel outputs three Apple Mac Mini computers using M-Audio Profire Lightbridge soundcards were networked and synchronised via MTC. The computers with their associated ADAT converters and amplifiers were placed in a storage room close to the gallery space and cabling was then laid to each of the hundred desks. More than two kilometres of speaker cabling was required.
All the audio from the interviews was pre-processed by Ivan Williams, a student on loan to us from University of Portsmouth, so as to be of an equally perceived loudness, after which began the task of editing the audio into sections that could later be spaced out as necessary without disrupting the flow of the interviewee’s discourse.
These “paragraphs” of revolutionary thought were then carefully placed onto the timeline in Logic and synchronised so as to allow for the creation of “waves” of sound as each of them began talking. By placing a small delay between groups of desks we could change the speed that the “wave” moved across the gallery space. We could also create additional “swell” by using volume automation in varying degrees in order to control the size and shape of the “waves”.
The installation will be at Aspex in Portsmouth until 2nd September, after which it will be touring in Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight. More information can be found at the websites of Suki Chan and Aspex.
…is short for first feature film score! Red Kingdom Rising is a feature-length horror/fantasy film I composed for throughout summer 2011 with some rewrites in April this year.
Written and directed by Navin Dev (with whom I also worked on The Falling, Red Hood and The Tree Man), it tells the story of “a troubled young woman who must finally come to terms with her horrific past as she is propelled through dreams into the terrifying fairytale world of the Red Kingdom where she encounters figures reminiscent of her memories and fears”.
The film has been completed and is doing the rounds of festival submissions. I will post some cues for your listening pleasure very soon, but in the meantime here’s a rather disturbing poster to entice you…