SOLO is super excited to be presenting the world première of Outshifts at our next gig with violinist Rakhi Singh. It’s a new work from composer Emily Hall which we commissioned late last year and, ahead of the gig, we caught up with her to chat about formative experiences, composing with vocoders and the tracks she’s currently got on repeat.
First up, could you tell us a bit about how you came to be a composer and what it is that inspires or guides your work?
I’ve always been all about doing things my own way. I guess that was probably quite annoying for many of my teachers, but I think ultimately it led me to a career in making up my own version of things. I was pretty hopeless at Bach chorales, but I was jotting down my own ideas on manuscript paper from a really young age. My parents were close friends with Jonathan Harvey so it didn’t seem like an absurd career to me – just a good, solid option (which is quite funny to think of now!). I’m always led by what I want to hear – I just write music that I know I will want to listen to again and again.
Your new piece, Outshifts, is written for a pretty unusual combination of violin and vocoder. What drew you to working with electronics in this way and what’s the inspiration behind the piece?
I work quite a lot with vocoder – my concept album Folie à Deux and recent songs I’ve written for Jodie Landau (to be released on Bedroom Community soon) both use them. I wanted to discover what I could do with violin and vocoder and those experiments resulted in this piece.
Outshifts is taken from Robert Macfarlane’s list of forgotten words meaning the fringes and boundaries of a town. I spend quite a lot of time in outshifts near my house and that strong sense of nature but within the glow of the town. I guess crudely speaking the vocoder kind of represents that man made ‘city glow’ and the violin represents nature. It’s in three movements and each movement has a slightly different balance of the two.
You’ve known Rakhi for many years but never had the chance to collaborate before. What was it like working with her on the piece?
I’ve always admired and coveted Rakhi’s playing so when I was asked to write for her I was thrilled. We talked a little about how Rakhi is writing music now and how I have returned to playing a little (with my band Mandel) – it felt important to acknowledge this somehow. I think as a result we have been more collaborative perhaps and the day we spent in my studio together shaped the piece quite considerably.
Finally, what tracks do you currently have on repeat and what’s got you hooked on them?
A Different Place by Claire M Singer – I love Clare’s music and her playing (if you don’t know, she’s an amazing organist). Listening to her albums is just the best head-clearing, deep listening experience.
Inhale Exhale by Anna Meredith – One of my oldest friends and early composition buddies. Every time she releases something I burst with pride and I do have this one on repeat.
Dragonfly by Olivia Chaney – Olivia was at school with Rakhi and is my link to her really. Olivia sings on my song Eternity and I am not only a great fan of her voice but also her songwriting.
Catch the world première of Outshifts as part of SOLO 08 with violinist Rakhi Singh at CLF Art Café on Thursday 26 March – more info & tickets are available at thisissolo.co.uk
Outshifts was commissioned with the generous support of the Marchus Trust.