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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‘Bisclavret’ phase 2 – The Audio Play

After a successful day of performances on 14th November at The Walker Art Gallery, The Liverpool Players decided to take their production of Marie de France’s Bisclavret one step further and put together an audio-only version of the play. After creating the music and sounds for the live show, I too had been thinking whether these existing resources could be reapplied somehow, so it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at something new.

When I was younger I used to listen to many stories and theatrical adaptations on cassette tapes lent from our local library (or library lorry). One of their key draws for me was their clever use of sound to create an involving and immersive listening experience. Rather than simply being narrated, these stories were accompanied by effects and dialogue within their appropriate spaces – forests, houses or caves, all kinds of adventure would come to life through the audio alone. This rediscovery of a childhood pastime was doubly helpful considering that the live show had a younger audience in mind, so the audio play could follow suit.

Although all the recording for the dialogue was completed in my studio, I did a lot of work with convolution reverb (like Cubase’s REVerence), which uses impulses responses recorded in real-world spaces to create lifelike recreations of natural reverb. I experimented with impulse responses from stone and wooden rooms of varying sizes to try and give an edge of authenticity to where these characters were supposed to be interacting. I also played with low reverb/high early reflections settings to produce an ‘outdoors’ sound for the forest scenes. All this, in conjunction with modest combinations of sound effects, was to create an overall ‘sound world’ for a play that had not been written with a purely auditory experience in mind. This was a first for me, and a very intriguing production to be involved with – props to Sarah Peverley whose idea it was in the first place.

How do you think it turned out?

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The performances took place in the Medieval and Renaissance area of the gallery, right in front of the magnificent ‘Triumph of Fortitude’ tapestry – originally woven around 1525.

‘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.

2015 – the halfway point: an update

Goodness, it’s been some months since I posted on here. Which is not to say that I haven’t had anything to talk about, just a lack of time to talk about it. A mixture of events and obstacles – some work related, some not – as well as moving house, has kept me from setting the kind of routine for the blog that might make it worthwhile. Consider this the point at which I attempt to make amends and begin said routine!

So, what’s new?

The Requiem

Around Feb/March time, I started collaborating with a game dev team called Flux Entertainment as they got to work on a new and ambitious title. The Requiem is a horror RPG that uses a meticulous narrative and its unique setting to bring a twist to a well established genre. Set in the present day UK, the game focuses on a handyman named Adam Phillips who survives the aftermath of a devastating biological attack and must struggle against new threats, in a world where society as we know it is made of little more than memories and crumbling buildings. One of the most interesting aspects of the production is how urban and rural areas of the UK are to be modelled in great detail to achieve maximum authenticity in the environments as well as the characters as the story progresses.

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The Requiem will allow players to explore accurately re-created parts of post-apocalyptic England and Wales.

Development is still in its early stages, but I’m looking to have the soundtrack invoke an eerie calm as much as possible. When writing for horror there is a temptation to draw from the most immediate themes, emphasise the unnatural and shock the listener where possible. One wants to make the nightmare seem, simultaneously, so real and yet also not-of-this-world. I thought about this and considered how I might achieve a couple of things: firstly, how to make the music less about the present horrors of The Requiem‘s world and more about what has been wiped away by the apocalypse (and how much of this might remain); and secondly, how to assist in defining the experience as a very ‘British’ affair. Thus far, I’ve been quite inspired by the original and selected music for Danny Boyle’s brilliant 28 Days Later. Although John Murphy’s main theme is panicky and aggresive, the score really shines when the film haunts us with how peaceful the world is. Along that vein, I’ve also been listening to some more ambient and soundscapey guitar music, including The Future Sound of London and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I’ve also been playing with a lot of radio static, found voices and sounds, and my trusty acoustic guitar of course.

Your best port of call for updates at the moment will be the Facebook page and you can expect to hear more and more about it very soon as the project takes shape.

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Marie De France’s ‘Bisclavret’ with The Liverpool University Players

You may remember The Liverpool University Players from my work with them on The Canterbury TalesI’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to compose for them once again, this time for a production of Bisclavret (The Werewolf) in conjunction with the UK’s national festival of the humanities this year: Being Human 2015. The performance will be part of a presentation on ‘Being Supernatural’ by Professor Sarah Peverley to be shown at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in November, and promises to be a fascinating take on how medieval literature uses fantastic and imaginative realms to consider the human condition.

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Bisclavret (The Werewolf) is one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France written in the 12th century.

Bisclavret is a Breton Lai (a form of medieval French and English romance literature) and uses themes of the supernatural and fairytale Celtic motifs to tell the story of a werewolf who is trapped in lupine form by the treachery of his wife. I don’t have all that much to say about the music for this at present, but, much as I did with Untold, I hope to reprise and refine a neo-medieval sound and make use of genuine period instrumentation to draw the audience into the world of the performance.

Read more about the The University of Liverpool’s contributions the UK’s national festival of the humanities here.

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…and the rest

My Glossom bandmates and I have got some big plans for the remainder of this year, including new releases and new gigs. I’ve been playing with some new toys in the studio (and plan to blog about them where appropriate). That, along with some new projects coming soon that you’ll hear about when the time comes, I intend to be posting on this site more often. Partially to keep those of you who are interested in the loop, but also as an exercise for myself to keep things documented and ticking over. If you want to weigh in on any of this, feel free to drop in a comment below or shoot me a message on the Contact form. Until next time!

The Music of The Canterbury Tales – mini documentary

The Liverpool University Players worked with videographer and editor Sarah Pollitt to create this film about how we created the music for their production of The Canterbury Tales. Featuring interviews with myself and producer/harpist Sarah Peverley, we discuss authenticity, collaboration and realisation in this short documentary.

 

Learn more about the production in this online version of the show’s programme.

Untold: A medieval reimagining

(Originally posted on 16th April 2014)

When The Canterbury Tales ended, I found myself with a desire to take the ideas I’d discovered during that process a little bit further. Writing the music purely for a live context shaped the sound and the performances in a very particular way. The compositions were really effective in their original environment, but what if they could be recorded and expanded upon, manipulating the instruments digitally in order to create something that sounded more ambiguous? Part medieval, part ambient, Untold is an experiment in creating a new space for an old sound.

A sneak peek at the album art

By making use of the Psaltery (very kindly on loan from The Liverpool University Players), the Harp and some spritely-sung vocals, I’ve been working to create some airy, mysterious textures that will recall the sound of the medieval period, whilst invoking a newer, atmospheric style that draws on my previous experiences. It’s only a small project, currently consisting of 5 tracks, but it felt like a concept too interesting for me to ignore. I hope you’ll agree when it’s released!

‘Untold’ is aiming for a 1st of May release date.