The Little Mermaid at the British Academy Literature Week

Following on from the successful performances in Liverpool and London for the Being Human Festival 2016, the Liverpool Players have been invited to return to the capital and show their live storytelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic once again. This time it will be courtesy of the esteemed and historic British Academy at their Literature Week 2017,  an event that explores the evolution of literature across time, culture, language and form. Our performance will be on the 20th May at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace.

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The performance will take place at the British Academy’s headquarters at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London.

Late last year we released an audiobook version of our Little Mermaid adaptation and then the standalone soundtrack followed – now available on Bandcamp. It is a retelling that sticks close to the original story and Madelaine Smart’s enchanting performance is bound to be a hit with young children and anyone with a taste for the fantastical. My accompanying orchestral score ebbs and flows throughout the journey, hoping to whisk the audience away to our fictional realm.

Once again this will be a free event, so if you’re in London and looking for a fun and insightful journey into the worlds of classic literature for you and/or some little ones, then hurry and book your tickets for the 20th May 2017!

BOOK YOUR FREE TICKETS ON THE EVENT PAGE

Oh and take a gander at The Liverpool Players new website whilst you’re at it!

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The Little Mermaid at The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, for Being Human 2016.

End of 2016 Roundup

I’m back! Though in truth I’ve never really been away. It’s just that proceedings have been disorderly over the past few months because I’ve had limited access to the internet (until now, hooray!) and that’s mostly due to the process of moving house – an arduous affair that had me in limbo far longer than I expected. So here’s a quick round up of everything that’s happened since my last post and what will be happening before the end of the year.

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A highlight of the year – Glossom playing our London debut at Brixton East, 12.11.16

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Pure Psaltery / Video Jam @ Bury Art Museum / future projects

I took a very pleasant trip to Bury Art Museum on Thursday with a good friend of mine, where I performed Brébeuf once more – my live psaltery score to Stephen Broomer’s short film for Video Jam. I’ll admit that, when I first wrote the score, I felt strangely detached from it and took great effort to develop the composition into a performance. Having now performed Brébeuf twice, the preparation involved has slowly encouraged a stronger connection to the piece, and I think Thursday’s performance went a lot smoother as a result. It was, at the very least, a more faithful following of the intended dynamics and tempo. Once again, Video Jam put on a brilliant night of sound and vision, but sadly a late start had me dashing for a train so I missed most of the other performers – suffice to say that what I did catch had me feeling very flattered to be included. Well done to all involved.

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Textbook Studio provided some stylish programmes for the night.

In other news, I recently released a small sample pack called Pure Psaltery. As the title suggests, it’s a modest library of 101 samples recorded using the psaltery, featuring chords, melody ideas and sound design. With it being my first attempt at such a project I decided to give it away for free (you can read more and download it here). I also received some great advice from a couple of sample production library companies and hope to release some even better sounds for you fellow music-makers to use in the future. If some of my Pure Psaltery samples (or should that be psamples?) do creep their way into a track you’ve made, then send it my way! I’d love to hear it.

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Free psaltery samples – how could you say no?

What else is next? My showreel could do with an update, so expect some new music to that end through the next few months. Glossom are working on some new tunes that will hopefully be released as live videos. There might be a video game soundtrack or two on the way soon as well, but I can’t quite talk about that yet… Until next time!

Video Jam at Bury Art Gallery

Brébeuf and my live score for psaltery is going to be performed once more at Bury Art Gallery on 18th February! If you missed it at Manchester Jewish Museum in November last year then now is your chance to see it at this brilliant free live event.

Video Jam will be bringing together some of their favourite live scores from their catalogue of previous events, and I’m very flattered to be included. It is part of the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC) conference 2016.  The programme will be as follows:

– 2 Koi Karp scoring ‘Untitled (YMA Sumac Waiting)’ by Graeme Cole. First performed at Video Jam at Title Art Prize 2013
– Mary Stark and Chaines commissioned piece ‘Film as Fabric, Thread and Lace’ for SPACES tour 2014
– O>L>A scoring ‘I, Dismantled ‘ by Paul Daly. First performed at Video Jam at The Whitworth re-opening 2015
– HORRID scoring ‘The Time That Remains ‘ by Soda Jerk. First performed at Video Jam at AND Festival, Liverpool Cathedral 2013
– Alex Cottrell scoring ‘Brébeuf’ by Stephen Broomer. First performed at Video Jam at Manchester Jewish Museum 2015

Hope to see you there!

 

Scoring ‘Brébeuf’ for Video Jam

The Video Jam event at Manchester Jewish Museum draws closer. Next Thursday (12th) I will be joining Flamingods, Metaphysical Human, Layfullstop and the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir in performing a live score for a selection of short films and extracts, all focussing around a brief of faith and ritual. I’ve been assigned to write for Brébeuf by Stephen Broomer (see my previous post for more info on the film itself) and this event is shaping up to be a really intriguing and intimate night, so much so that tickets have now sold out. I wanted to take a moment and write a bit of context for my part in this show.

Video Jam during its SPACES tour. Image from The Salfordian.

Video Jam during its SPACES tour. Image from The Salfordian.

This event feels like a first for me. Only on a couple of other occasions have I done a solo public performance of a piece entirely of my own making and this one will be on an instrument with which I’ve only recently become properly acquainted. In my excitement I decided to set a challenge for myself whilst considering the brief I was given, and originally had plans for an ensemble piece. Unfortunately, due to various issues it never came to be, so instead my challenge would be to write and play a piece for the psaltery, alone. If you’re aware of any of my recent work, you might know that my collaborations with the Liverpool University Players has pushed me toward some experimentation with medieval instruments – including this 22-string trapezoidal lap harp (pictured below). Picking the psaltery made sense as I had done some basic work with it before and the history of the instrument is steeped in connections to faith and religion. Firstly, the word itself comes from Christian literature in 3rd Century B.C, and a book of Psalms bound with containing additional devotional material has become known as a ‘Psalter’ from the hymns sung with this harp (Source). That and I would need some belief in myself if I was going to become proficient enough on this niche instrument to competently write and perform a 10 minute film score with it.

The Psaltery - very kindly on load from the Liverpool University Players. Has been augmented with a Fishman SBT-HP Transducer Pickup.

The Psaltery – very kindly on loan from the Liverpool University Players. Has been augmented with a Fishman SBT-HP Transducer Pickup.

In keeping with the kind of neo-medieval styles I had been trying (like with Untold), I added a pickup to the instrument so it can be sent directly to my Boss GT-10 (meant for a guitar). This allowed me to incorporate looping, adjustments to volume, pitch manipulation and a multitude of other digital effects into the live performance. Stephen Broomer has said that some of his films – Brébeuf included – look at the way history and legend combine (Source), so this felt like a good way of tingeing a historical item with modern exaggeration. However, in all honesty I was intimidated at first by the film I was scoring for – Brébeuf is an abstract study of Huronia, Ontario, containing landscapes, collages and stabs of imagery. Water, earth, snow and stone; natural elements are displayed and manipulated in equal amounts of reflective calm and panicked contortions. Images of the cross seem bound up with a small red tree called sumac. Amongst this I felt themes of worship, memorial and brutality. With all that in mind, I faced perhaps my most impressionistic brief so far and considered a compositional approach.

A still from Brébeuf by Stephen Broomer. Image from INCITE!

I am not a religious person, nor do I come from a religious family, so I suppose my perceptions of faith in that context are always one of an ‘outsider’. However, I have been a following a daily habit of vipassana meditation for about two years now and my personal views on the matter have slowly started to stem (albeit with some hesitation) from a belief in presence and impermanence. If this has affected my music in any way, then it has likely given encouragement to the rising/falling dynamics and minimalistic tendencies of my more classical output. As a result, what I’ve been writing for this performance has brought out the historical uses of the psaltery for spiritual and ritual purposes. The use of drones, repetition and bell-like harmonies feature heavily, as the digital effects enhance the instruments sensitive and incremental changes in tone. As an original piece it establishes some key subjects, builds and fragments in ways similar to that of the film. I confess the whole process has been a testing ground and will have to wait for the performance and the judgements of the audience to see if that’s been successful at all. But there is no doubting that, at least while playing it, the psaltery has a hypnotic and meditative quality to it that I have not experienced before.

Video Jam at the Manchester Jewish Museum takes place Thursday 12th November at 8pm.

‘Bisclavret’ at Being Human 2015 – a festival of the humanities – 14th Nov

If you reach back into the intervallic archive of my blog (which is to say, 2 posts ago but back in July), you’ll have your memory jogged that I’ve been writing some more music for The Liverpool University Players. In fact, I recently finished the score for the Players’ latest production of Bisclavret – a 12th Century Breton lai by Marie de France. The show tells the tale of the titular character and his questionable wife who learns that he is living a double life as a werewolf and conspires to trap him in his lupine form.

Furthermore, Bisclavret is being performed at Liverpool’s wonderful Walker Gallery which is hosting the event as part of Being Human – a nationwide festival of the humanities running from the 12th to the 22nd of November. It promises to be an exploration to the fringes of humanity, delving into supernatural worlds and fantastical creatures within medieval literature and seeking relevance to our everyday lives. Plus, the play will be preceded by a talk from Prof Sarah Peverley.

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As for the music – once again I have been trying my hand at a delicate balance between authenticity and creativity. Though it is a short production, I’ve taken what opportunities I can (along with input from the rest of the lovely crew) to develop some clear themes using traditional European instrumentation from the medieval period. For example, during the feast there is a rather rousing number for lute, harp, recorder, accordion and percussion inspired by pre-Middle Ages Breton dances being reinterpreted by contemporary artists, like Orlulas. And of course, much like with Untold, there is a light touch of modern production and ambience to give a sense of something old being discovered and re-imagined for today’s audience.

It’s worth mentioning that my duties extended to sound design this time around. During the planning stages, we were discussing how to navigate a limited performance space and minimal scenery whilst maintaining a strong sense of place and time throughout. I suggested that the use of audio beyond just music would help conjure up the appropriate mental images – and so set about creating some soundscapes to complete the picture of a medieval interior, a forest, a feast etc etc. Once again it has been a pleasure to work with the Players and Sarah Peverley and I can’t wait to see the final performance. The event is free, so if you’re in Liverpool, feel like some thought provoking period drama, and want to be part of a nationwide event on what it means to be human, then the Walker Gallery is the place to be on Saturday 14th November.

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Photo from rehearsal: Bisclavret in werewolf form.

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Photo from rehearsal: the man and his conniving wife.

Video Jam – Manchester Jewish Museum – 12th November

This November, I will be performing an audio-visual piece live in collaboration with Video Jam – a community that looks to bring film-makers and local musicians together in unique settings. The performance will be at the Manchester Jewish Museum on the 12th of November and will focus around the themes of faith, worship and ritual.

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Video Jam is a night of short films and live music experimentation

The film I will be writing for is Brébeuf by Canadian filmmaker and preservationist Stephen Broomer. It’s a study of St. Ignace II, in Huronia, where the ethnographers and Jesuit missionaries, later saints, Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, were killed in 1649. According to the creator’s description: “The images in this film arise from a reading of that story – the joining of the sumac and the cross, the blessing gestures, struggles in the field, elliptical scans of stones, and the shimmering of water to summon a glimpse of the flesh boiled from the skin, in fables of the killing.”

I will say more about the piece itself soon, but for now I will leave you with the event on Facebook, and a link to buy tickets now if you find yourself in Manchester and up for a night of experimental film and live music.

BUY TICKETS NOW