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Music and spoken word collaborative working - Mark Fisher

This has been a fascinating collaboration with Keisha and Ros. I have only worked indirectly before with another poet with my composer’s hat on but plenty of times with singers/lyricists in which the music would almost always happen before the words were conceived. It was very interesting to respond to the words as recordings – it was important to me that the natural rhythms and cadences used by the writer were retained in the pieces uninfluenced by any of our musical input. I was really impressed with the quantity of work but also how insightful and rich and varied these works were considering how little time was available to Keisha in the hospital. Creating music which I hope complements the poems was something I was determined to take my time on, trying not to overthink but allow the emotions evoked in me by the writing to evolve. When the pieces were recorded in the studio Ros and I agreed that I would take the lead in responding and composing the music for the poems that I thought required it.


In Conductor and Guiro Frog I felt it was important to reflect the immediacy and excitement created in sessions with children and families at the bedside on wards. Guiro Frog features some pretty random percussion on guiros (of course) and other small percussion instruments we use every day. I really like that it is written from the frog’s perspective.


Conductor features a tune that was inspired by the writing and reflects the spontaneity that is sometimes inspired by very enthusiastic patients. Both the guitar and clarinet are double tracked which works particularly well for the clarinet – the second clarinet was recorded independently of the first but by happy accident blended perfectly.


Mouth Music is based on a klezmer style tune which gives scope for the clarinet to shine. We were doing our work on a long term ward for many patients who were unable to speak either because of tracheotomies or acquired brain injury so patients communicating by forming different sounds with their mouths was a very common occurrence. The compulsion to communicate produces a wide spectrum of sounds!


Mutual Benefits has a repetitive ambient soundtrack which is meant to echo the clever repetition of the voice and also an attempt to create a dreamlike impression of a slow motion film of frenetic ward activity.


Weepy is influenced by my love for Rembetika music a kind of Greek ‘blues’ from the early 20th Century. The music is meant to reflect the hopeful/happy and at the same time sad/fearful feelings of people who wait by the bedsides and in corridors.


Pure uses a tune that Ros and I always used to announce our presence on the ward and to say goodbye at the end. The simple AB structure gives Ros plenty of scope to improvise on the clarinet and it is also very adaptable to change into a more lively or delicate piece of music depending on the context.


Lullaby is my favourite piece and one where I chose to use great restraint on the guitar! The main track responds directly to the lyrics and the flute-like second track harmonises the sung melody by Keisha.


Open Mind is the newest addition where Keisha responds to my soundtrack. This beautifully refers to the mental processes Keisha adopted when visiting the wards and shadowing our work. It reflects how sensitively she approached this project.

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