Amble Skuse: RememberedImagined #1

I’ve not managed to blog anything yet on this process. If I had, it would have read “aaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh – I don’t think I can do this”. A word to the wise against setting yourself a challenge then dragging others into it.

It’s also a lesson in not listening to that voice.

When you hear that voice, you have to start anyway, and then you have to keep going, even though the voice will get louder and louder…. *silence* … and then, at some point, you will have a fragment which you like, and that fragment will turn into something larger, and you will sleep on it, and add to it, and dream it, and it will grow and build into something you think *might* work. And then, you work on it, and work into it, and you think, this is gonna work. That’s what happens when you hear that voice. You ignore it and start anyway.

A great quote I can across in China “Confidence is not a pre-requistite of starting, confidence is a result of doing” I need that tattooed on the inside of my mind.

SO what of the actual process? I’m lucky enough to be working with two different writers, Angus Peter Campbell (Aonghas Phàdraig Caimbeul) and Sophie Cooke. Both excellent writers and both incredibly different. Unsurprisingly, each collaboration has had a totally different process. The process with Angus Peter has felt tenuous, partially because we live far away from each other and partially because our schedules have refused to meet up and allow us to work at the same time. We send a few e mails, and have a discussion about what we think, using short sentences, we get to the bottom of what we each mean, and then make that thing. Sophie and I started our collaboration in a coffee shop in Edinburgh, and unpicked a story, imagined around it, made up people and characters and lives and legends and meanings and symbols and metaphors. Then we arranged to meet 10 days later. We did it all again, everything shifting, changing, new ideas coming, foundations being laid and relaid as we strip through our layers of ideas. Then we did it again 10 days later. Each time we are getting closer to what *it* will be, but I still don’t quite know, and it’s 8 days until the first rehearsal.

It seems that every pair has had a different process and relationship on this project, which is obvious but interesting. What is it that makes that relationship? It’s something human, it’s in the characters of the people, but also in the way they manage their workload and their creative process. We’re learning about each other’s creative processes, but we’re also learning to communicate, to trust, to take risks with someone else’s work (!) to hope that they will like it, opening ourselves up in this short timeframe to find something we both want. It sounds simpler than it is.

The four pairs have varying levels of prior knowledge, Ailie and Rebecca had never met before the project, Mike and Charlotte work in each other’s pockets as she is his Manager, Angus Peter and I had collaborated on a previous work, but have never spent a lot of time getting to know each other socially, Sophie and I know each other socially but had never experienced each other’s work before. It will be interesting to spend some time talking together to see how those relationships have developed through this project, and how people have made them bear fruit.

Artistically I have taken two very different approaches, mainly due to the desires of my writers. Angus Peter brought the concept of the project into question by asking why something new had to be made. Was it not enough to let the story stand for itself? Why do we need to reinvent, remake, re-imagine this when it has been told so well and so beautifully on tape for us? This took me a while to digest, because, well, that sort of is the brief of Remembered Imagined. But having spent a few days reflecting I realised that it would be just as challenging for me to write to the authentic voice as to write to a newly written piece. With this in mind, I decided to literally use the voice as my melody and set to work transcribing it note for note, rhythm for rhythm. Yes, it takes ages, yes it drives you mad, and yes, after a day or so yo start to see notation in front of you every time someone speaks. Once I had my melody, I then worked in some harmonic structure. This was also challenging as the voice doesn’t sit in one key, or one time signature, each phrase had to be worked out in terms of it’s harmonic direction and total beat length.

My work with Sophie is the complete opposite. We decided to work with the same story as our base, but to imagine all different angles, the voices of the people involved, the experience of the onlookers, the motivations, fears, the landscape of the place and how the buildings looked. Sophie is stepping away from the narrative and giving us the voices of the characters, telling their back stories, their emotions, their realisations. Musically I am planning to make this piece much more electronic in nature (the piece above has minimal electronics and full string quintet) In contrast, this one will have loops made of tape noise from the original interview, broken and scattered harmony from the piece above played on the strings, and some of the melodies turned into rhymes for the characters to sing their stories. This means Sophie will be writing to the rhythms set by Gaelic speech, but in English.

So, just over a week to go, and my writing has been intense but very affirming, a marathon, but an enjoyable one. I now have to begin making Sophie’s backing soundscapes and collaging my strings parts for her monologues. But that’s tomorrow. For now, Tha mi sgith.

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