On Sunday 8 June, you’ll be directing a performance by contemporary vocal ensemble EXAUDI in MURAL at LimeWharf – what should we expect to see and hear?
It’s an installation with music and film, and on that Sunday there are two live performances of the music element by eight singers from EXAUDI. The music is mostly chordal, quite slow and serene, and the singers are split into two quartets that overlap with each other across the space of the installation. The film will be projected onto large screens erected between the pillars that divide the space, and the audience is able to walk around and take up different positions in the space during the performance. As for what the actual images and sounds will be – you have to come and find out!
You’re working with film artist Sam Belinfante on this project – what do you look for in a creative collaborator, how did you meet Sam and what do you enjoy about the collaborative process?
This particular collaboration started in an unusual way in that I didn’t initially think I was looking for an equal creative partner but for someone to realise an idea I’d had for a film to accompany some music I’d written – but I was delighted and relieved when Sam came on board and suggested making it a more equal collaboration, not least since it had become clear that my own ideas for a film were fairly lame. I’ve known Sam for years and we’ve done several things together with EXAUDI. We share a strong interest in Cage, and of course he’s very preoccupied in his work by music and musical performance. He’s a visual artist who is fascinated by listening, I’m a composer who is fascinated by seeing.
As a composer, where’s your favourite place to write music and why?
My room at home in Gateshead, on the top floor of the house. It’s quiet, it’s light, it’s mine…nothing special really!
Where do you look for inspiration and what are your top tips for stimulating creativity?
That’s a funny question. I don’t go looking for inspiration, and certainly don’t hang around waiting for it to strike, that’s a hopelessly naïve view of creative work. All writers and artists have mechanisms that get them into a headspace where they can begin to make something, a routine or automatic task perhaps, a bit of technical play (Cage talks about this, Stravinsky too, and any number of painters and visual artists). But at root it’s a natural thing to do and should on some level remain essentially easy, like breathing, even if you may feel the need to put difficulties in the way, or rather keep inventing new questions to answer. The artists I feel closest to and trust the most are the ones who seem never to tire of investigating their own medium, its technical and expressive resources and limitations, and somehow through this find out their subject and larger place in the world as creators. It’s not necessarily a case of casting about for some external subject matter and only then starting work. (That said, sometimes an idea strikes out of the blue, and then you need a trusty notebook…)