During the pandemic, one of the earliest goals – like many musicians – was to get a self recording set-up sorted out. I bought some basic gear and got on with it.
What then happened was ‘Liberté’ – my first project in sound design that was born purely out of experimentation and a love for text, language, improvisation and composition.
I asked myself some questions…
How might I use it to give people a voice?
How might I express my own voice through this medium?
Could it shed new light on an existing poem, speech or text in interesting and respectful ways?
How might it illuminate a text in another language for an English ear?
How much fun can be had with this?!
How can it bring relevance and meaning to works from the past?
So far I have explored the answers across a number of projects:
An exploration of the classic french poem about freedom, expressed by 21 women and children in French and English
‘A sheep’s life’ 2021
An interview with a shepherd before a showing of Acid and Galatea
(with Dan Samsa, Jonathan Darbourne and Vache Baroque Festival)
‘Paradise and Pandemonium’ 2021
An interview with a shepherd before a showing of Acid and Galatea by G.F. Handel
(with Dan Samsa, Jonathan Darbourne and Vache Baroque Festival)
‘The Pale Blue Dot’ 1990/2021
An exploration of the Pale Blue Dot speech by Carl Sagan
(with Clod Ensemble)
‘Promise and Oath’ 2022
An exploration of the basic elements of a promise and what philosophers, doctors, lawyers and detectives might have to say about it… before a showing of La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers by M.A. Charptentier
(with Jonathan Darbourne and Vache Baroque Festival)
The Royal Philharmonic Society asked me some questions – here are the answers…
How did you overcome any challenges?
Being someone who has worked almost exclusively with live sound until 2020, there were some real ‘technical mountains’ to climb at times. By keeping the passion of the speaker or author in mind, this really helped me keep going. It was a real driving force for me – the more passionate the interview or material, or the more ‘unheard’ the voice seemed to me, the more it drove me to see the project through with detail and precision!
I took a short course in sound design course with CLOD Ensemble and guidance from producers and composers such as Melanie Wilson, DJLeoLeoLeo, Sarah Angliss, Sophie Cotton and Dan Samsa.
The Vache Baroque Festival provided an invaluable opportunity to engage with real live audiences and interesting briefs to work towards which has been crucial as playing work took over again.
What have you learned?
To set mini deadlines for each part of the project and stick to them!
Not to collect too much material.
To be extremely focused about what content and style the piece will have.
Not to become too emotionally attached to the material as it doesn’t always fit the piece!
Find your balance of working on the shape vs the detail and try and be methodical in switching between the two.
Going forward, I would like to write my own text more and use my singing voice more than I have previously. I would like to make more connections between my views and opinions and my output as I have tended towards others’ voices thus far.
Any practical advice, guidance or tips?
In my opinion, don’t start with a course – first find and hone an idea or message and then try and work out how you want to say it as it’s much more fun when you learn tech with a clear vision!
YouTube usually has the answer..
Invest in a powerful enough computer as soon as you can so that you’re not fighting the tech.
Any useful leads, contacts, resources and links that others may benefit from?
Arts Council Award: Develop Your Creative Practice… I am over the moon to have be awarded this funding to allow me to focus on my musical endeavours during 2021 and I am now also helping many others with their applications! You can read more about the award here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/DYCP
Shobana Jeyasingh Dance / I Fagiolini – UK / Sadler’s Wells Tour 2022 – I am currently working with SJD and Robert Hollingworth on an exciting new dance production for next year. Monteverdi’s ‘Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda’ opens the work, followed by a new work by Kareem Roustom. This has already opened up exciting new avenues such as arabic tunings and rhythms, and getting to know my way round electronics more intimately! https://www.shobanajeyasingh.co.ukhttps://www.ifagiolini.comhttp://www.kr-music.comhttp://edlyon.info
English Touring Opera Spring 2021 – Our plan is for a UK tour from April to May of Handel’s Amadigi with Jonathan Peter Kenny conducting a stunning piece which he has performed countless times, worldwide as a counter tenor. We very much hope this can go ahead in these difficult times. https://englishtouringopera.org.uk
Guildhall ‘Leaders on Stage’ course in Mentoring and Coaching… In October/November 2020 I took part in a short course on mentoring and coaching from a leadership perspective. Participants ranged from leaders of orchestras and section principles to managers. It was an amazing insight into new ways of thinking and working with others and I am really excited to see how this infiltrates my work and to help be a part of a changing atmosphere within the music profession. I will be taking this work further with RNCM students in the spring to gain my ECMM qualification and making my first steps into the field.
Despite these strange times, I’ve been lucky enough to record two Handel discs – one in the UK and the other in Germany.
The first was with La Nuova Musica, with the extraordinary singers Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies and Christine Rice – however, unusually it was putting the solo instrumentalists namely Leo Duarte, Thom Gould and Joe Qiu, at centre stage as the ‘Unsung Heroes’ for a cracking set of arias directed by David Bates.
As we emerge from a quiet time, lots of exciting things are emerging including filming a music video in 18th Century costume with a rock band! In a secret mansion in London, 5 string players met Filous, an upcoming Austrian artist and The Kooks. Watch this space for the release later this month..
In this time of deep political and social unrest and pain, I decided to put a set together in the form of a 30 minute, ‘Words and Music’ a meditation on the theme ‘GRIEF AND HOPE’. Sitting in the key of A to hold this stream of thought, I chose some stunning folk tunes from Sweden that I’ve been working on during lockdown from Erik Rydvall (Nickellharpe player) and some old favourite pieces / tunes from friends Feargus Heatherington, Badinage ensemble, Alehouse Sessions and Fra Fee. Folk and Baroque seem so close as genres anyway, but with four texts to tie it altogether, it feels even more natural as a medium, with the text illuminating the music and visa versa. It has also been a great joy to sing and improvise again and I look forward to developing this more in the coming months.
Ollie Mansfield’s series ‘FRONT ROOM CONCERTS’ on Facebook seemed like a great platform for what I wanted to achieve. I threw open the doors and windows and told a few neighbours to listen outside if they strictly socially distanced. The seagulls even joined in.
Here are some of the scenes… and to hear the set, go to my Listen page!
I’m thrilled to have recently received Arts Council Funding to support my work. The first of my proposals has just come to fruition! It is a project about Freedom in aid of Refuge, the charity against domestic violence for women and children and involves 26 performers using spoken word and music.
In October 2019 I was lucky enough to be funded to take some time to compose uninterrupted in a residency setting. I invited cellist Zosia Jagodzinska and percussionist Michaela Antalová to join me for this creative period and we went over to ‘Madstun’ in Norway, Jon Balke’s stunning spot in the hills. The results are nearly ready but in the meantime, here is a snippet of one of my poems we worked on.. Above you can see us with some students that we worked with in a college not far from Madstun.