Historical Project: Merce Cunningham’s MinEvents

Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts.

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Photo: Merce Cunningham in Changeling (1957) by Richard Rutledge

MinEvents 2017

A MinEvent is an uninterrupted sequence of excerpts drawn from the work of Merce Cunningham.  Each MinEvent is unique, and is designed to suit the particular space in which it is presented. Trinity Laban MinEvents are arranged and staged by Daniel Squire expressly for the dancers of Trinity Laban. Daniel said:

“This is the third year in a row for which I have created and staged four MinEvents using Merce Cunningham’s choreography for Trinity Laban. Each year, several sections have been pulled from various works ranging from the 1958 to 2002. This year we will include one section which appeared in Trinity Laban MinEvents 1, 2, 3 & 4 in 2015: this is from un jour ou deux, which was originally performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. The sections will be shuffled differently for each of the four performances, making each one unique. Some sections will be double – or triple – cast within each work, though all fourteen dancers will appear in each MinEvent.

Music is being composed and will be performed by Trinity Laban students; the décor is by Sarah Batey, a student from UCL, Slade School of Fine Art. I am very much looking forward to seeing Merce’s work and in this case a collaboration with the musician-composers, the artist, lighting designer, and costume designer to create four works never before seen but rather recontextualising extant choreography by Merce Cunningham.”

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Photo: Daniel Squire by Ed Chappell. Interscape (2000) by Merce Cunningham: décor & costumes by Robert Rauschenberg

Second year student Jon Hope is one of the dancers performing in the MinEvents, he said:

“Working with Daniel means that every day is an adventure in itself. He teaches us material at a fast pace and has high expectations of our technical ability. This has made me aware that we must always strive to improve and never settle with what is safe or comfortable. In the choreography we use chance procedure which challenges our minds as we cannot rely on memorising the movement; each time it’s different. We have to learn all the possible outcomes and be ready to do any one of them when the opportunity arises. This way of creating ever-changing dance really intrigues me.

It’s great to have such an intensive time with one technique, one teacher and one piece. It allows for full focus, quick improvement and it’s refreshing to work with a different group of people than I usually do.

To get a full experience of MinEvents I urge the audience to keep a keen eye on the details, to look for the relationships between the dancers and movement, and to enjoy the co-existence of the dance, the sound and the set. Expect to see a new combination of extracts from Events created by Cunningham in a different setting and in a different time.”

Next week we delve into the process of recreating an extract from Hofesh Shechter’s Sun.

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Craig Lutton: Side by Side with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

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Image: Craig Lutton

In January 2017, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Trinity Laban paired up for the unique Side by Side series, in which principal BSO players performed alongside and offered mentorship to Trinity Laban students. We caught up with percussionist and Trinity Laban student Craig Lutton who was a part of this year’s series.

“I gained so much from the experience working Side by Side with the professionals. Sacha Johnson was leading the sectional – he was on bass drum and I was on cymbals – and when we were playing together it was really great, it sent shivers down my spine. The two day event ended with a sold out concert at Blackheath Halls which was really successful. I’m coming to the end of my studies and orchestral music is primarily what I want to do, so to learn from Sacha and play side by side with him in a concert was really special.

The experience was intense because you’ve only got around 8 hours of rehearsal and then it’s the concert – it’s just like being in a professional working environment. You’ve got limited rehearsal time and you’ve got to nail it straight away. It was a nervous excitement I was having, with Sacha beside me, literally side by side, it was a step closer to reaching my dream of being an orchestral musician.”

During a rehearsal’s lunch break, Craig was lucky enough to receive an impromptu cymbal lesson from Sacha Johnson.

“Sacha said that when you go into the profession this is what most of you would play in the main orchestras, so he said over the lunch break he’d spend half an hour teaching me and I thought ‘this is fantastic’. I was learning from a true professional, because he’s played with all of the London orchestras and toured the world. He taught me so many different techniques and sounds, it was really beneficial. I could then put that into the afternoon rehearsal and the evening concert. He was really digging deep into how I could make my playing better. He gave me a bit of a career talk as well which was really inspiring to hear. It was a really poignant moment.”

Craig spoke about his time studying at Trinity Laban:

“It’s been very special. I’ve had lots of amazing performance opportunities and I’m so glad I moved to London from Northern Ireland. There’s so many opportunities, London’s the centre of the universe for music! It’s been incredible and I’ve met so many people, I’ve made friends for life and made some great contacts. The Side by Side concert at Blackheath Halls with BSO was a really special moment and I’ve had so many others.

My current teacher Michael Doran coached me in the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2009 – 2013 which is where I first met him. He encouraged me to audition for Trinity Laban and I knew straight away in 2009 that I wanted to study under him. Here I am now having nearly finished four years of his beneficial tuition!

In my second year, Michael got me in for two performances of La Boheme playing with the ENO and once again in third year – that was special and probably a highlight from my time at Trinity Laban. It was at the London Coliseum, and being in the pit playing the cymbals was really special. I remember the moment just as the curtain came down for the interval and I was standing on stage playing the side drum. It was amazing – I was absolutely buzzing marching out on stage. There were about 2000 people watching, it was insane! I had my dad in the audience for the first night so that was great, because I’d never really thought I’d make my professional debut in an orchestra. When I was younger it was always the dream, so for it to actually come true made it one of the best nights of my life.

The principal percussionist in the BSO is Matt King, who also studied at Trinity Laban. Sacha was telling me about him and it was really inspirational to hear about people with professional jobs in orchestra’s – principal jobs – who have studied at Trinity Laban. There’s a lot of them in the professional world and that’s another one of the reasons why I chose to study here.

I did another Side by Side series with the BBC concert orchestra. We had Alistair Malloy, their principle percussionist, who was playing beside me again. I could use things that I’d learnt from Sacha in January and bring it into that performance. I’d never really worked on cymbals until the lesson with Sacha, he said ‘if you want to be a professional percussionist you’ve got to nail this’, so I thought right, this is my moment. I then stuck at it for 2 months and it’s really paid off.”

To find out more about Craig visit his website: www.craigluttonpercussion.co.uk

For more information on studying with us please visit the Trinity Laban website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

 Musicians, don’t cramp your style!

In the last 20 years musicians’ medicine has become increasingly popular. But are musicians aware of the prevalence of injury and how best to treat them?

An article published under The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) couldn’t have said it better…

‘Musicians should think of themselves as athletes.’

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The physical and psychological demands that come hand in hand with being a musician, are no different to that of a dancer or perhaps even a rugby player?! It is essential that Musicians are attentive to their physical needs, limitations, and work, to condition their bodies accordingly.

The repetitive nature of a musicians’ repertoire, lengthy rehearsals and performances, tests posture and muscle strength, so it probably comes as no surprise that the vast majority of injuries sustained include repetitive strain, lower back pain and Tendonitis, to name but a few. However a study of 1046 musicians conducted by BAPAM in 2004, suggested 52% of injuries recorded were due to performance-related issues, such as overwork and incorrect practice or technique when playing their instruments.

Having said this an injury or trauma can be sustained by simply completing a harmless day to day activity, therefore it is essential that the treatment process is managed with the musician’s instrument and the demands of the lifestyle at the focal point. When assessing and treating a musician, a holistic ‘whole body’ approach is paramount- regardless of the type of treatment, the plan should be tailored to the individual artist!

All musicians face limitations, the physical dimensions of an instrument requires the musician to make adjustments to the body, muscles and tendons can be put under strain or ‘unusual’ positions during this modification. To maintain a high performance level, musicians may need to take preventive action or seek treatment that can help strengthen essential core muscles or correct muscle imbalances, thus keeping those dreaded repetitive strain injuries at bay!

Reduce the risk of time away from your passion…

PHYSIOTHERAPHY works towards improving your physical performance and reducing the risk of further injury by developing a biomechanical understanding of how you play. Forms of treatment can range from exercise referral, postural analysis (taking your instrument into consideration), manual mobilisations, dry needling and taping where necessary. These techniques collaborate to address the factors mentioned above, focusing on building strength to support and stabilise muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

ACUPUNCTURE is the balance of energetics of the mind and body. Chinese medicine techniques boost the uptake of oxygen and dissemination to our muscles, thus minimising those pesky cramps. Working to relieve tension, throughout the body it is a saving grace for shoulder and back pain. Did I mention its holistic approach to the body, treating headaches, anxiety and insomnia?

PILATES is a great tool for musicians. A typical Pilates class includes exercises to build or ‘restore’ endurance, flexibility, trunk and pelvic stability, muscle balance, strength, and efficient breathing patterns. Every one of these can help a musician to play a longer repertoire with less fatigue.

SPORTS MASSAGE works to relieve muscle tension as well as improve circulation, flexibility and posture. Whether it be through soft tissue release, trigger point, muscle energy or general massage techniques, this form of treatment can help bring more awareness to the body and decrease pain. Sound good? It can also tackle anxiety and restlessness pre or post performance, reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing.

Prevention is better than cure!

It is handy to know what treatments are appropriate for musicians and their specific needs but as always remember the aforementioned!! The key to any injury is prevention – intense practice (although sometimes unavoidable) should be limited and performed in moderation.

Try taking regular breaks and work towards conditioning and maintaining a strong body by introducing warm ups and cool downs to your practice. If possible gradually increase the intensity and duration of your practice and restrict yourself to reasonable playing times- we know this may be a tricky one!

For any other information regarding the best treatment for YOU and what we offer at TL Health please contact us on  health@trinitylaban.ac.uk or 0208 3059479/0208 3059482.

Remember a clear and open communication between health care professionals, teachers and most importantly Performers will aid in effective Injury Treatment and in the long haul- PREVENTION!

 

Jessica Coleman

Graduate Intern for Health & Dance Science.

BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice, MSc Dance Science.

 

Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

THE POWER OF MUSIC: INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY DRAKE

 

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Image: Anthony Drake

Alumnus Anthony Drake graduated with a Masters in 2009. Here he talks about his love of music, post Trinity Laban activities, and how he is making a difference to disadvantaged students in South Africa. 

Can you start by telling us a little bit more about yourself/your background, and how you became interested in music?

I became interested in music at a young age. Having played recorder and sung in my local church choir, I started formal lessons on the piano at 11 and on the clarinet at 14. I was so inspired by incredible clarinet players such as Jack Brymer and Michael Collins (both of whom I was later fortunate to meet) that I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career.

After studying music at Goldsmiths (University Of London), I undertook an internship in the office of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. But then my circumstances changed, leading to a complete change in career, and I moved into the field of IT and Telecommunications.

In 2006, I realised the need to do something which would touch the lives of others, and going back to music was the obvious choice. I was accepted for the Postgraduate Diploma at Trinity Laban, where I studied with Victoria Soames-Samek, then with Joan Enric-Lluna and Ian Mitchell, playing in the principal orchestras and ensembles. I was a recipient of the Leverhulme Mentorship in collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra, received scholarships from Trinity College London and a bursary from Trinity Laban, and graduated with a Masters in 2009. Both during and after my studies I worked as a clarinet and saxophone teacher, music lecturer and freelance clarinet player with various groups including the Galliard Ensemble.

How did you become involved with The Keiskamma Music Academy?

I had visited South Africa on holiday with my partner every year from 2007 and realised that I wanted to settle there. In 2012, an opportunity presented itself and I took the plunge. I spent some time as the Co-Principal Clarinet of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and as a teacher at Durban Music School. A student of mine alerted me to an advert for the post as Manager of Keiskamma Music Academy (a programme of the Keiskamma Trust); I applied, and have not looked back since.

In 2014, I became the Head of the Academy, taking over from founder Helen Vosloo. I am now responsible overall for the programme’s activities including fundraising, financial and project management, student relations, strategic planning, and staff recruitment as well as teaching clarinet, flute, saxophone and recorder and conducting the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra. In addition, I am one of the Senior Managers of Keiskamma Trust, involved in decision-making for the entire organisation. When I started, there were 47 students at the Academy; there are now over 125, since we started our newest project at a school for disabled children. Since I started, students have achieved some of the highest marks in music examinations in the Academy’s ten-year history, supported by quality of teaching awards from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Achievements include co-founding the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra in December 2015, which recently completed a six-day national tour. I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive team of teachers and administrators who have made all of this possible.

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Keiskamma Music Academy students on tour in Bloemfontein, July 2016

What are your plans/goals as Head of The Keiskamma Music Academy?

My plan for the Academy is for it to grow further to create yet more opportunities for many more young people in South Africa. The Eastern Cape suffers some of the highest poverty levels in the country, and boredom plays a role in the development of major social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. I realise the huge value of music education in addressing this issue and uplifting society and believe that music has the power to unite people and work towards greater social change. Uniquely, within the Keiskamma Trust we combine programmes such as art, education and health, creating the powerful scope for drastic social development. Some of our first graduates are now studying science and accountancy at university. The Academy and other programmes of the Keiskamma Trust – with the help of committed donors – have supported these students in achieving success.

Can you tell us some more about your plans to travel to Europe next year?

In 2013, the Academy successfully applied to the SA National Lottery for funding for an international touring project which will research the culture and music of some of the original peoples of Southern Africa, the San, culminating in performances both nationally and internationally. Since we have links with Germany and I have links with the UK, a tour to Europe seemed the obvious and exciting choice. It will give us an opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue, collaboration and an opportunity for young people on both sides to learn about life in the different countries paving the way for future partnerships across the two continents.

What was your time like as a student at Trinity Laban?

My time at Trinity Laban was an incredible experience. The level of cultural diversity created many opportunities for me to experience other cultures, and to form lasting personal and professional relationships. The high quality of teaching and support received really helped me to channel my desire to succeed. It also opened many doors for the development of my career. Balancing my studies whilst working part-time in three other jobs as well as performing was a challenge, but it helped me to really focus on time-management and offered me the opportunity to develop a very wide range of skills.

Do you have any future plans to perform yourself?

My main focus currently is to extend the opportunity of music education to as many people as possible here in South Africa. I am very interested in helping to build the province into becoming one of the musical hubs of the country. I am also very interested in developing my skills as a conductor and producer. But should the opportunity to perform again, I would certainly seriously consider it. After all, it is what I have trained for at Trinity Laban!

Five Questions: Natalie Su Robinson

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Image: Maresa Smith

Choreographer Natalie Su Robinson completed Trinity Laban’s Graduate Diploma in Dance Studies. She tells us what she learned and how she’s using it…

– Tell us about your experience of study at Trinity Laban.

My year at Trinity Laban was one of unknown growth that I would not fully discover or understand until nearly a year later.

Inspired by amazing tutors, I had my eyes opened to new mediums. I learnt how to collaborate with artists from different disciplines and I made lasting relationships which have led to alumni becoming members of my dance company – namely Liz Kirk-­Channing and David Kam, among several others. Plus, my violinist Henry Webster is a Trinity Laban alumnus.

I had freedom to critically engage and explore my artistic curiosity, which led me to encounter my own movement voice. The guidance of Susan Sentler (former Senior Lecturer) during my year-long independent investigation was particularly helpful. And Tony Thatcher (Programme Leader, MA Choreography) opened my eyes to film, which has sparked an ongoing exploration throughout my work.

– What were the most valuable things you learned during your time here?

Thanks to Trinity Laban I have learned some key concepts which have formed the foundation of my professional practice:

Let Process Guide

I learned never to take the first gesture or idea for my final outcome; I must travel through a world of many other pathways, even allow myself to divert from the theme and see where I can go. My most favourite work created at Trinity Laban was a pure accident, a diversion.

Consider Everything

Thanks to Rosemary Brandt (Senior Lecturer in Choreological Studies), Choreological Studies was my favourite module. She provoked me to rethink how I saw dance and helped me articulate my feelings with new language. Each session was a challenge and an adventure, and I never knew if Iʼd make it to the next assigned task or if I even ‘understood’ what I entered into with my body and mind. Rosemary is a glorious inspiration to me, often answering my questions with another question. She made my choreographic process into an interesting immersive pleasure that I still enjoy today. I now focus on every little detail: ‘why, what, because, does this need to be here?’

The simplest of gestures have become deep monuments within my work. As I add a breath of life to each of them, I learn simplicity is a fantastic tool.

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– How has your dance career progressed since graduation?

Since graduating from Trinity Laban I have been able to develop the pieces I created in my independent investigation and choreography projects to show in theatres.

I danced for a number of companies, continued my own dance studies and at the start of this year I formed my own professional company: Natalie Su Company.

During this year I have been in residency at the Broadway Theatre in Barking, where I have created and curated two performance nights. I have choreographed for music videos, and created a dance workshop for Sex and Relationship education. I have helped the Barbican deliver their Open Lab programme and demonstrated my companyʼs unique collaborative process at TEDx in Manchester.

– Tell us about your most recent projects.

Courage is our most recent work. We began with an R&D phase and followed an exploratory process to create our final pieces. This was a collaboration between my company and illustrator Joanna Layla, producer and composer Robert Logan, violinist and Trinity Laban alumnus Henry Webster and video artist Graham Robinson.

The concept is of three entities sitting on a bench, not related but in their own space and mind contemplating: “When content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that cannot be bought.”

The outcome of the process was described by Theatre Director Mark Civil as follows:

“Natalie put together a team of dedicated artists including film makers, fine artists, dancers, experimental musicians and singer/songwriters who set about exploring the performance potential of our space. The final results were a haunting mix of all these disciplines that thrilled the audience.”

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– Professionally, what’s next for you?

Expanding upon Courage, we are bringing the theme to an unused theatre.

Additionally this August we are curating a theatre take-over experience at the Broadway, Barking. Beyond Boundaries will offer creative workshops to young people, giving them the opportunity to participate in a performance alongside professional dancers. This will incorporate immersive performances and installations, dance companies, illustrators, photographers, musicians and behind-the-scenes access to all areas – no boundaries.

I have no limits on my creativity; I am blessed to continuously meet interesting inquisitive creatives from multiple disciplines. I will continue to be open, to engage and experiment with other art forms, especially those that I have no experience or preconceptions of. I will grow and keep pursuing my dreams, leading my company of inspirational dance artists who engage with societal issues. We will always create work that speaks to the heart, work that provokes a reaction, that informs the audience of what happens outside the theatre… life, poverty, injustice, gentrification, trafficking: the true stories of the people without a voice.

You can watch a video featuring extracts from Courage on Natalie Su Company’s website.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

 

Bring Me The Orchestra: An interview with fixer and arranger Will Harvey

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Will Harvey is a violinist, violist, composer and arranger who is currently studying for a MMus at Trinity Laban. A few days before his recent concert at the Royal Albert Hall with British rock group Bring Me The Horizon*, we talked about his experiences playing with bands and arranging for them, the challenges this presents, and how he creates his own opportunities.

*Bring Me The Horizon is British band from Sheffield, formed in 2004. They have released five studio albums to date, and follow a busy touring schedule worldwide. Their latest album, ‘That’s The Spirit’ debuted at #2 in UK charts.  

You’ve just been on tour with Bring Me The Horizon, and you’re working towards a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Tell us more.

Actually I was preparing the arrangements for the tour. The other arranger, Simon Dobson, and I we were both happy with our versions of the arrangements but the band’s Musical Director (MD) insisted on going through the scores. There was no opportunity for us to meet with the band in London. It turned out the only way we could go over the music was to jump on a tour bus to Brussels! I ended up staying on the bus for a week.

Bring the Horizon got booked to play the show at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the series for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the band asked me to arrange an orchestra for it back in September. They told me what their budget was and asked if it was possible. At the time I said ‘probably not, but I’d quite like to do it’. In the end we cooked up a plan and managed to find a way around it, and now it’s going ahead.

How did you find this opportunity?

Before I came to Trinity Laban, I used to be in a band called Dry The River for about five years. We were signed to RCA record label and toured the world for a while. We were the band of the moment for about five minutes in 2012. Through that I met so many people in different groups who I stayed in contact with, so have ended up working with a number of them.

Last year I established a session group called Parallax Orchestra with cellist Maddie Cutter. The idea was to work with bands but rather than just playing on sessions we would actively seek collaborative work. So for example we’d approach artists and ask them if they would be interested in string arrangements of their music, remixes and so on. We want it to be an artistic venture as well as a business initiative. Through Parallax Orchestra we started finding a lot more work. We’ve worked with quite a few groups recently, so we’re now in the position to fix performers for various artists and tours. We’ve kept our focus on playing on the recording sessions but we can pass out the live gigs to full-time professionals. Maddie and I are both studying so we’re limited in terms of time we can spend on external projects.

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What are the challenges of arranging music for a band like Bring Me The Horizon?

It’s quite complex. We have to think not just about the orchestra but about playing music with musicians who are not used to adapting to new arrangements. We have to use click tracks, in-ear monitors and match up our arrangements with the band’s existing structures, while some things run on backing tracks. Everything has to be precise, so we also record count-ins. One of the most difficult things about arranging for the band is how to build our arrangements around all of these different aspects.

There’s also a lot to think about when it comes to the style of arranging. We’ve got some of the band’s older songs which are much heavier, as well as more recent, softer material. How do you arrange for those different sounds? I was inspired by my time in punk bands, so I’ve essentially written ‘third-wave, ska-punk’ horn lines. Adapting that kind of sound for an orchestra presents new challenges. Also, some of the songs are epic and anthemic, but metal. Again a totally different approach. You can’t draw solely from classical sources, even though you’re writing for an orchestra.

Which skills were most useful for this work, and how have your studies at Trinity Laban benefited you?

The Paul Bartholomew arranging module was massively helpful. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to write for a symphony orchestra before coming to study at Trinity Laban. There’s just no way I would have been able to do that. At Trinity Laban if I didn’t know what to do there was always somebody I could ask for advice.

How does this experience compare to working towards a classical performance?

It’s completely different. It involves exponentially more work. I mean, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve put in over 1000 hours of work into this gig. Seriously, over 1000. The music is up to me, and it’s never finished until the performance is over. The same is true of a classical performance of course – you can always practice more – but this isn’t just practice. If I don’t like the way something goes, I can change it. So it’s in this constant state of flux and I won’t stop working on it until the gig is over.

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What have been the highlights of this experience so far?

The whole thing has been so rewarding. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s quite remarkable when I consider how many sheer pages of music we’ve written over the last few months. It’s in the hundreds. The actual arranging process is really fun. Working with other arrangers too has been great and I’ve learned a lot from that. The conductor, Simon Dobson, has been amazing to work with. Simon is a trumpet player who writes for brass bands and string groups in studio sessions. But he also plays in rock and punk bands, so he’s got all the essential skills for this job. He’s been doing this kind of stuff for years, and because we spent a lot of time working in the same room, I’ve learned a lot from him.

What advice would you give to other students?

Don’t go on tour unless you’re getting paid well! Also, arranging music is much more work than one might think, so you should know exactly what you’re getting into.

Do you value these skills and experiences as a young musician operating in a highly competitive industry?

Absolutely. It seems that many people have the view that there is no work in music anymore, that the music industry is struggling, we’re all getting paid less and less and that it’s getting worse and worse. I don’t think that needs to be the case. There’s actually more and more music being made everywhere, and it’s up to you how you can be a part of that and turn it to your advantage. Just because there’s less work along the conventional routes doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and create your own, which is what has happened with Parallax Orchestra. We planted an idea in people’s heads and suggested that we do something, and they responded, saying ‘let’s do it’. We’ve created our own opportunities and our own demand.

 

Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate Intern – Press & PR