A local reviewer – who shall remain nameless (I’ll call him ‘Steve’) – wrote of my Fringe show last year “Perhaps the high concept would go better with the more abstract instrumental pieces which are [Brian’s] bread & butter output as a working composer”… OK Steve – you asked for it!
Remember 2020? I’m sure you do. Well, for me, it started with a request from artist Natasha Parker-Edwards to create a soundscape for her installation ‘Roar & Pelting’. This was to be presented that summer but, sadly, went the way of so many things during the pandemic. I’d already done much of the work before the show had to be axed, so decided to complete my composition regardless.
The soundscape was created using multiple voice recordings. Originally, Natasha and I were each going to interview people from our respective networks of friends, family and associates. From these, I would craft a sound collage that would provide the backdrop to her visual works. In the event, we had to send out the questions and ask our contacts to record themselves. Which, actually, provided a useful starting point.
Participants were invited to record their responses on first reading our questions, with no preparation or planning and using whatever means they had available. This generated a variety of monologues, each with distinct acoustic characteristics and wildly varied interpretations of the subjects raised. But what instantly struck me was that it was often the little asides between coherent phrases that were most interesting.
So, I set about isolating the ‘good bits’, superimposing these upon one another. And what then fascinated me was how the brain immediately makes connections between these disparate voices. We innately want to make sense of things and create a narrative, even where one doesn’t exist.
I then made myself a set of rules for how these voice clips could be repeated, looped and grouped in order to build a complete work. In addition, piano, synthesizers and beats were used to enhance the colour, dynamics and rhythms of the voices. Originally, the whole piece lasted two hours, twenty minutes and was to be played as a continuous loop throughout the show. But then something happened…
Curator Anna Novakov approached me in 2022, to ask whether I would like to contribute to an audio installation for Bath Fringe Arts. Titled ‘Tipping Point’, this was a meditation on our collectively precarious situation, post-Covid, in the face of multiple global threats. I explained about my lockdown-interview-generated piece and Anna agreed this would be a perfect fit.
Except it wasn’t. The pieces for inclusion within Tipping Point were limited to a maximum 50 minutes’ duration. So, I set about cutting down my epic soundscape to meet this stipulation. And something quite magical happened. Using the rules I’d set myself in the original creation of what had now become ‘2020 Vision’, I found that the 50-minute cut-off created an extraordinarily satisfying – and poignant – end to the piece.
Want to Know?
If you didn’t make it along to last year’s Tipping Point and want to know how it does end there’s some good news. 2020 Vision will form the first half of a double-header – titled ‘Making a Song & Dance’ – at this year’s Fringe. The soundscape will underscore a unique, immersive dance improvisation at Bath Fringe’s newest venue, Burdall’s Yard, on Wednesday 31st May.
To book your tickets, please use the link below. I’ll explain a little more about the dance itself in a future post. And reveal what the second half of this double-header will be. Or – of you can’t wait for those – click through to the booking page and find out!…