I don’t see any boundaries between any of the art forms – I think they all inter-relate completely
Whether you’re a music artist or a trapeze artist, you will probably join me in agreeing with Bowie that all art is interconnected. I often find inspiration and a fresh perspective when writing music by looking to other art forms like art, fashion and dance.
Ask me to draw you a picture and I’ll probably draw you a cartoon pony. I’m no Hockney, but it’s never stopped me from approaching composition in terms of how an artist might approach their work. I always make messy sketches of a piece before writing it, and I identify certain instruments with colours. I think of melodies as lines and shapes, and I orchestrate with a sense that I’m ‘colouring in’ and ‘texturing’ the strong monochrome groundings of harmony, melody, and rhythm. I was also encouraged during my studies to think of composition not only as an artistic expression, but also as a ‘craft’: to have an almost tactile approach to working with musical material by honing compositional skills and making pieces mechanically ‘work’. Thinking about music as a physical entity in space also relates to the concept of ‘sculpting sound’, pioneered by composers like Varèse. I’ve always found this concept particularly helpful when mixing. For example, I ‘sculpt’ with EQ by both enhancing and subtracting frequencies to make a sound more defined.
I’ve recently become slightly addicted to following fashion brands on Instagram. As well as seeing a lot of nice shoes(!), so much of what I see, to me, relates back to music. Materials are chosen to complement or contrast, much like choosing instrumental forces to either blend or distort. The endless creativity of re-imagining the design of a pair of heels, is like the creativity to be found within the set parameters of composing say, in a sonata form. Likewise, designers making a bold fashion statement can relate to the search I think every composer has to carve an individual voice and say something with it. In the documentary ‘Dior and I‘, former Creative Director Raf Simons takes the relationship between different art forms a step further. After seeing a piece of Sterling Ruby’s work in a gallery, he then asks for the artwork to be printed on to material so he can re-design it into dresses and coats. Suddenly the energy of the artwork is amplified by the movement and momentum of the wearer. It represented to me an uninterrupted flow of creativity, where the boundaries of art forms were ignored. I always try to think about this particularly when writing music to picture. How can the music I am writing be seamlessly integrated with what’s happening on screen, as opposed to being a separate entity running parallel?
Something I’ve always found challenging, is how to create structures for larger works. Last year I went to the Kaws exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and saw his larger than life sculptures. It always amazes me how sculptors of big pieces can work on the intricate details whilst still maintaining a sense of proportion in the overall shape. When writing music, I always try to bear this in mind, pausing every so often to listen through to ideas and keep a sense of perspective. Also, seeing the ‘OriginalFake’ structures so at ease in the natural environment, made me think again how art can be perceived in different spaces, challenging conventions and an audience’s expectations. Much like the Street Orchestra of London performing Beethoven in a tube station.
This summer I’m creating a new work with the dance company BalletBoyz. It will be my first experience of writing music for dance and I’m really excited to explore how music can relate to, and juxtapose with physical movement. I’m also intrigued to see how dancers respond to music; how they hear and interpret the different elements of it, and what functional scaffolding they need it to provide. I wonder, can you choreograph music …?