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…
I composed this piece of music for my good friends Mat & Elaine on the occasion of their wedding in February this year. It was for the bride’s walk up the aisle and it ended up being a little on the long side for a couple of reasons;
I was told the bride would be walking a longer route than she actually did.
Elaine pretty much ran up the aisle to mitigate the chances of Mat changing his mind about the whole thing.
So, here I am. I’ve decided to start a WordPress blog to replace my ageing bespoke website, so for the next few weeks I’ll be trying a few things out to check the possibilities and pitfalls before transferring everything over from the old site.
So far it’s all a bit overwhelming but staggering easy to get good looking results. It helps that the process of blogging itself is so much easier than doing so on my old site, where adding a new post triggered a series of other maintenance coding to keep everything looking good.
You can describe something which perhaps isn’t there on the actual screen but which, together with the music, starts to exist. It’s interesting – drawing out something which doesn’t exist in the picture alone or in the music alone. Combining the two, a certain meaning, a certain value, something which also determines a certain atmosphere, suddenly begins to exist.
Krzystof Kieslowski (Kieslowski On Kieslowski, 1993)
Shooooooooooooooes….! Ah, new shoes… Delightful on the feet. Soft, dancing shoes; swarthy pirate shoes; silver buckle and silken soles. No one makes shoes like an elf.
Inspired by the Ladybird book, this is the story of Elvis Schumacker, cobbler and craftsman, who has worked all his life creating the most beautiful footwear. But now he’s hit hard times… Everyone’s buying boring shoes from the evil businessman, Bunyan Soleless. Time is running out for Elvis. With one piece of leather left and Bunyan’s factory growing, can anyone help him?
The music for this production by Theatre of Widdershins is composed in a variety of styles including a sea shanty and a fandango, and features an unusual ensemble of percussion instruments.
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 52 minutes 30 seconds.
It’s a profoundly uncomfortable theme, and one that is rarely discussed in academic circles: what is our responsibility as intellectuals when it comes to writing histories of hatred?
How can we talk about hatred? Do we merely sanction and further discourses of violence by engaging with them? When is documentation participation? Should we be chroniclers, or should we get involved?
The London Consortium convened a panel of academics, artists and critics to tackle these questions. Drawing on their own experiences in diverse fields and disciplines – from medieval Christian visual culture to contemporary litigation – they offered a series of compelling reflections on ethics and practice. This short documentary reviews key moments from the discussion with organiser Noam Leshem, and features Anthony Julius, Deborah Lipstadt, Pratap Rughani, Senam Okudzeto, Anthony Bale and Joanna Bourke.
This documentary was directed by Jonathan Law and Lily Ford for London Consortium TV. They had used Arvo Pärt’s Fratres on the temp track and after discussing that choice with them I decided not to stray too far from that style of music.
It’s amazing what you can find when you really look hard! Here we have three tales from the queen of all storytellers – the incredible Sheherazade. The first tale she found was hidden in the sands of the desert; the second at the bottom of the ocean, and the third she heard straight from the donkey’s mouth! Genies, camels, flying carpets, and suspicious ne-er-do-wells – welcome to the world of the Arabian Nights!
Theatre of Widdershins takes you on an exciting journey through roasting deserts, sand dunes, scented markets and fish filled seas, using storytelling and wonderfully atmospheric music.
An audiobook of this 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 66 minutes 28 seconds.