I love collaboration. I thrive on it I think, and it is always exciting to have that first meeting to discuss a new project. My next incidental music project is for a solo show by Jamie Zubairi, Unbroken Line, that will be premiered in Ovalhouse this December. What particularly grabs me by the project is the need to capture Jamie’s ethnicity through his own cultural heritage – Indonesian music, notably gamelan – and yet there is still scope for to exploit these sonorities and musical structures freely in my own way. I immediately thought of John Cage’s prepared piano as something that captures the timbres recognisable in gamelan yet would allow me to detach myself even further from gamelan.
I like to get a feel for what each piece of music needs to evoke yet not too precisely of course – but the dramatic structure needs to be understood if it needs to be created in the music too. Quite a bit of music needed for this piece, which excites me! I envisage a prepared piano suite coming from the incidental music, as I hope I can create much of the material using the same preparations as the John Cage Sonatas and Interludes.
Jamie is passionate about using live gamelan in the music, and I agree that this is important too. I was amazed to find samples of gamelan – I am still new to the world of VSTs and Logic – and I will experiment with these initially to try and get the necessary structure. I hope to liaise with gamelan musicians once I have a clearer picture of the music to see if I can record some elements live and integrate these with the music I will create on Logic. Another fascinating element that is important to Jamie is a particular sound that I need to record from a noisy building – I’ll not spoil the surprise yet of what the element is. I hope that if I can get the right recording, this will inspire much of the music to help create cohesion across the work – I hope too that it will inspire melodic and rhythmic shapes, that can merge with the gamelan material I will create. Of course, it will not be all gamelan, but the timbres of a gamelan ensemble and its key instruments need to be present. Balinese music will be of particular inspiration as this is what inspires much of the movement and thought behind Jamie’s work I think. Non-western music has been a huge influence on much of my teaching and I’m pleased I have a good excuse to make use of my experiences with gamelan, Japanese taiko and African drumming to inform my composition in Unbroken Line.
Further information about the production can be found at http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/unbroken-line