Transcript of The collaborative process video
ALEX MANTON: Hi. I’m Alex Manson, and I’m here today with composer Fiona Hill, flautist Lamorna Nightingale, and soprano Jane Sheldon, and we’re going to have a discussion about the Other Voices kit. So, firstly, what was the inspiration behind this kit, Lamorna?
LAMORNA NIGHTINGALE: My inspiration was really Fiona approaching me, wanting to write a piece for flute and electronics. And I was quite excited by the idea because I hadn’t done very much with electronics. And I was like, oh, this is a good opportunity to learn how to play with all the microphones and get some great sounds. And then I thought it would be also really great to share that knowledge with the broader community, with other flute teachers and with classroom teachers, and of course students because if I didn’t know very much about it, then probably there are other people out there that didn’t know that much about it either.
ALEX MANTON: Fiona, why did you choose to work with electronics?
FIONA HILL: Electronics is a medium that I’m really drawn to, especially because I feel like it opens up a whole new layer of sound that you can explore as a composer, especially when you’re combining live instruments with electronics.
ALEX MANTON: Excellent. As a performer or composer, what are the biggest challenges in working with electronics? Jane, would you like to start?
JANE SHELDON: Well, I personally don’t have a lot of expertise actually with electronic processing or with the technologies despite having performed a fair bit of music using that medium. And the reason I’ve gotten away with that is by having experts like Fiona, who really do understand how it works to make sure it all– not just that it runs right when you’re performing it, but also that element of the piece is constructed in a really fine grained way that takes into consideration the fact that there are acoustic sounds in the same environment.
ALEX MANTON: Excellent. Lamorna, what are your challenges in working with electronics as a flue player?
LAMORNA NIGHTINGALE: Well, even just the basic stuff, like knowing how to work as an amplified instrument are quite a challenge, I think, like knowing how to set up a speaker system, where to put a microphone to make it actually work as a flute player, how to balance levels. All the really basic stuff I think is quite a challenge. And then, when you have the added element of making some quite complicated music. Yeah. It’s quite an interesting challenge. Yeah.
ALEX MANTON: And, Fiona, challenges for you?
FIONA HILL: I think as a composer you’re always trying to imagine how everything’s going to sound while you’re writing the piece, so really trying to imagine the acoustic instruments and the electronics and how you want to meld them together. So for me, I love exploring the option of amplifying the instruments and processing those instruments to really help blend electronics and the acoustic instruments. And of course, the other challenge is also how playable is it. Is the performer going to be able to interact and still feel comfortable as a performer while they’re performing with the electronics?
ALEX MANTON: Yeah. Can you describe the relationship between the performer and electronics and performing the piece? You kind of did in a way then.
FIONA HILL: Yeah. Sure. In my piece, in particular, I think– well, the backing track I formed by using the instruments. I recorded both Jane and Lamorna singing, playing, speaking, and that really formed the bed of the backing track. And that really then helped me to meld the other instruments in when it came to writing the live part of the piece. So I think that really kind of helped to meld it.
ALEX MANTON: Mmhmm. And Lamorna, your relationship with the electronics?
LAMORNA NIGHTINGALE: Yeah. Well, I mean, playing Fiona’s piece is quite interesting because it has this set backing track. And because of that, it’s really important to stick with the timing of that track. So we decided that the only way to actually do that successfully was to have a timer and to put the timer on your music stand and to be following the timer along with the music at the same time with the printed music. And of course, making chamber music together. So that’s quite a big challenge in Fiona’s piece. In Tristan’s piece, more of the challenge is kind of hearing myself playing and then hearing my own process to sound kind of coming back at me. So it feels a bit different. It’s a bit like playing a duo, really, with myself.
ALEX MANTON: And Jane, do you have anything to add to that?
JANE SHELDON: Hmm.
ALEX MANTON: The relationship between yourself and the electronics as you’re performing.
JANE SHELDON: Yeah. It’s interesting. Depending on what the other electronics do, I can be very, very aware of them or I can just trust what’s going on as this layer on top of which we’re performing. Sometimes it feels very interactive and other times it feels like something going on concurrently, and I’m sure both of those feelings are all by design.
ALEX MANTON: What was the process of collaboration between the performer and composer in helping the piece come to fruition?
FIONA HILL: Well, for me as a composer, it was really drawing on the expertise of these amazing performers because they can tell me so much about their instruments that as a composer I don’t know. So we did a lot of workshopping with instruments and especially with the extended techniques, working out is this possible, what’s the best sounds, what are the really cool sounds that you can make that I can put in my piece. So for me, that process was really integral to writing the piece.
ALEX MANTON: And its performers, anything to add to that?
LAMORNA NIGHTINGALE: Well, I mean, it’s just so exciting to be working with living composers and actually having any sense of collaboration at all because as classical performers we are often playing the music of dead composers. And if you have a question, there’s no one to ask. But when you’re working with Fiona or Tristan or with Kat, then if there’s a question, I can ask them and we can work together to get the best result rather than it being this kind of fixed thing. So yeah.
ALEX MANTON: And lastly, do you have any tips for young composers or performers who wish to explore writing or performing electronic works? Jane, as a vocalist, any tips?
JANE SHELDON: I think in putting a work together, rehearsing it, and preparing it, give yourself the time to ensure that someone in the room has really mastered the operation of the technology because, you know, if you were to think, I’m sure I can sort of work out how to do this and rush that process, when something goes awry with electronics in performance live, firstly, that’s not good in the first place, but secondly, you need someone in the room who can fix it. So I would say the biggest piece of advice I would give is make sure that there’s someone there who is an expert who can either take care of that element entirely themselves or can give you really, really thorough instruction.
LAMORNA NIGHTINGALE: And I would just add to that, be curious and enjoy the process of experimenting and having fun with it because working with electronics is actually really, really fun because you can do such amazing things to your own sound in a way that you just can’t do in a natural kind of environment. So yeah, just be curious and enjoy it.
ALEX MANTON: Fiona, for the composers?
FIONA HILL: Yeah. I’d follow on from what, well, both Lamorna and Jane was saying really, that have fun, explore, listen really widely, listen. There’s so much electronic music out there, listen to as much as you can. And then find out how to do it yourself. And there’s so much technical information and things that it is really important to know, but it’s also about exploring. So it’s getting that balance right of really opening your ears to the possibilities and discovering your own possibilities, and then knowing your equipment and your software and the technical requirements, but then also knowing the instruments and what the instruments are capable of.
ALEX MANTON: Great. Thanks everybody for your time today, and congratulations once again on the Other Voices kit.
JANE SHELDON: Thank you.
End of transcript.