“OK. When did you know it was love?”
I had great fun making some music for Amy Morvell’s new duet called Turtle Dove. All the sounds take their lead from some beautiful soundbites of people talking about love, that Amy had collected during her research. So rather writing music for contemporary dance on the theme of love, the musical tracks are inspired by the places and characters we hear in the text, and that is what makes it so varied!
Huge thank you to The Point for hosting a preview of my immersive sound exhibition The Choreography of Sound. The exhibition gave me an opportunity to test some of the recordings I have made while researching the project, and get some audience feedback on what has been successful so far.
They Live Next Door is a touching, tender and gritty show that knits unique stories with intricate choreography and nostalgic live melodies. Set in a home, on a street not too far from your own, it explores the light and the dark of familiar relationships. The duet is an emotional rollercoaster that sensitively uncovers the complexities of preconceptions around masculinity. At times conforming and other times shaking off stereotypes, multiple relationships between the two men unravel, weaving memories,expectations and domestic rituals. They Live Next Door sets out to ask how social stereotypes affect our identity and our relationships with each other.
Following an 8 year career writing and designing sound for contemporary dance, the Choreography of Sound is my first attempt at taking away the dancers and exploring just the movement of sound. After all, sound is a wave; and exists only within movement. So what happens when I start to shape how that sound moves in a space?
In Brighton the sound of seagulls, traffic and people blend into a mixture of noise that most people have unconsciously trained their minds to filter out. Modern life has added a fairly invasive mix of mobile notification sounds, buzzing home appliances, music piped into every shop, self service check out machines, and phone waiting music to name a few.
Room tones are the sound of silence.
I‘ve borrowed the term ‘roomtone’ from the film industry, where regular practice is to record the stillness of a room or location after each shoot. That way, when various takes of are edited together, they can be glued into one continuous scene by a consistent audio background.
Every environment has a its own distinctive audio fingerprint of almost imperceivable sounds. They include everything from the quiet humming of electrical equipment, extractor fans and appliances, to the weather outside or distant traffic noise.
If room tones were missing in a film, the silence would be so unnatural that the audience would think that the sound had stopped working. And yet I am constantly surprised at how many Theatre and Dance soundtracks don’t include a constant ambient track. For me, the moment I hear silence breaks the illusion of the theatrical world, and I remember that I am sat watching a show.
My soundtracks are peppered with recorded silence, room tones and ambient tracks. In The Deluge by Lila Dance, I created a track called endless rain. It’s over an hour of constantly evolving rain which loops automatically so that the audience will always be immersed by the sound. The soundtrack is run on Qlab which allows the tracks to not only overlap, but also automatically cue volume shifts in the rain. The Deluge is an immersive physical theatre show, and the sound plays a huge part in helping the audience feel like they are living in the fictional world.
Another example is Stopgap Dance Company’s The Enormous Room, which features a track predictably titled ‘The Enormous Room Tone’. It runs throughout the show, and ensures that when a music track ends there is never ‘true’ silence. The whole show is situated in a living room, and the track reflects that by including a ticking clock, gentle hums of the kitchen next door, and the faint sound of traffic outside the house.
For me, these sounds at the edge of our perception fill theatrical worlds with life and character, and have become a fundamental part of my work. But perhaps my ears have become too tuned into this kind of thing.
So let me know if you’ve ever noticed silence, or felt completely engulfed by a soundtrack in the comments below.
2016 was an explosive year for me, and one that questioned some of the biggest issues currently surrounding our sense of identities. I started the year with Joli Vyann’s jaw dropping dance-circus show Imbalance. Watching two dancers performing breath-taking moves while holding a mobile phone really puts into perspective how mad our lives can be. It is currently being performed at Sadler’s Wells, so you should definitely check it out. Then I had the great pleasure of working with the super talented Tim Casson on Night at the Theatre, which playing off the stereotypes of what a theatre can be and do, and was a shed load of fun.
Talking of which, in April had two brilliantly fun photoshoots with Commotion Dance and KJ L Mortimer. KJ and I found some really interesting images exploring contemporary dance against Chichester’s unique identity as a small city with a unique mix of urban and rural architecture. Next I brushed up on my balkan tangos and man waltzes for Ieva Kuniskis‘s They Live Next Door, which asks how social stereotypes affect our identity and our relationships with each other, and tours this year (2017). It follows two male performers negotiating the complex matrix of male relationships showing that you can feel immense frustration, anger, and incredible love all in the same moment.’
Then there was The Enormous Room that spoke of loss and nostalgia with some mesmerising dance from Stopgap Dance. When our relationships are such a huge part of our identity, what happens when that part of you dies, and what impact does that have on your other relationships.
At the end of the summer I remade The Deluge for rural touring with Lila Dance, which continues to tour into 2017. It is about a whole community finding a sense of identity through their shared experience of a natural disaster. When a flood washes everything away, what remains precious to you?
I was then very fortunate to travel to Dubai to make Where is Christmas with Commotion Dance, which is a magical and heart warming dance show for children, proving that the identity of christmas can be made with a few cardboard boxes and just the children’s imagination.
Finally, I worked with Floods of Ink on People are People, an absolutely fascinating theatre show about gender identity- probably the most complicated identity issue of today. Still filled with taboo, stereotypes and misrepresentations our ideas of gender need a serious update, which makes People are People a hugely important show.
Hope you’re feeling in a Christmassy heartwarming mood because here’s a short animation I scored for NIX. The film was produced by Cass Productions who brought me on board to write some original music for this rather special animation. NIX wanted to make something a bit more special than ‘just’ and advert and I think the result is really beautiful.