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Day 7 Themed soundtracks and live from Africa!

I will be based in my studio for the remainder of the project and am here today. The artists met last week and discussed the role of music in the project, which was very interesting for me and led to some new ideas and approaches for the project. As I will be based at home from now on, the way I interact with the project and explore the role of music will be an interesting challenge, as I will continue to be a remote collaborator. I would like to incorporate as many of the original ideas around the role of music in developing character and story and in performance as possible. Just have to think differently about how to do that but it should be fun!

One of the original ideas was to use soundscapes and music to stimulate characters, stories and performance so I started working on some ideas this morning, based on discussions with Emma Fisher, Sally Maidment, Niamh Lawlor and Siobhn Clancy last week. This morning I created 2 soundscapes, one based on Sallys theme for this week of travelling to South Africa and another on Emmas request to create a piece about multiculturalism, specifically African and Irish culture. The idea is that these pieces can be used by both Sally and Emma as a foundation for creating characters, sets, stories and ultimately performances that possibly use the musical structure to suggest who performs and when. I wanted to make these piece a mixture of sound design and music so that there was some suggestion of the audio from these locations as well as offering the children a sense of music that might be heard there. For Sallys South Africa piece, I used sounds from the jungle and I think the piece is quite evocative there are various animals and birds suggested in the sounds. I found a few nice loops in an African drumbeat-style and they work well in the piece. This piece is influenced by the Ladysmith Black Mambazo arrangements of African music as well as a great album (Pieces of Africa) I have of the Kronos quartet performing arrangements of works by various African composers.

For Emmas piece, I used loops from the same style and also integrated some Irish-sounding loops. Emma had suggested the idea of splitting a group into 2, one that would work on African-themed characters and one that could work on Irish-themed characters. The idea she had was that in performance, the groups could show off each others characters. Sound, music and the structure could assist greatly with how the characters and groups take turns. So, with that in mind, the musical structure of this piece is such that there is a strongly identifiable African section and Irish section, both of which interweave and finally come together. It will be interesting to see how this piece is used in performance. There are a number of cues in it for the children to recognize that either section is about the start so, including counts of 8 with an African shaker and a solo voice for the Irish section. Lets see how it goes! So, all in all, its been an interesting morning and I am enjoying creating pieces that are so evocative and fun to make. The pieces have been sent around to all the artists so perhaps there will be a document of work in the coming weeks that uses these pieces as soundtracks. 

In the afternoon, I did a link-up with Eszther in Hospital E and tried out the soundtrack that I had made for Sally. My trusty puppets from the last session re-emerged, and all the way from Africa, danced along with the music. After that we had a great chat online with the 2 children who were working with Eszther. They had made a number of puppets my particular favourites were the fish and whale. They had a beautiful underwater scene as their set and of course, this allowed us to have good fun talking about the difference in climate and weather in Ireland and Africa. I had covered over the keyboard with a cloth so that my puppets could dance along on the cloth with the soundtrack, but after a while, we decided that a group song might be a good idea. Both children were very excited, which was lovely to see! So, my puppets pulled back the cloth to reveal the keyboard. We had a quick chat about a song that we all knew and the old reliable Twinkle Twinkle was agreed upon. As happened at the last session, I was able to use a drumbeat on the keyboard to keep the piece moving, while my puppets hopped around on the keyboard playing the song. The children joined in on the other side, which was lovely to see.

I do find the performances to be great fun and I really get a kick out of them myself. However, I find managing playing an instrument and interacting as a character a little bit challenging at times. It seems Ive loads to think about: stay in character, dont let your hands be seen, try not to be seen yourself (this often happens as I move closer to the screen to interact with the software), hope that the instrument is close enough to the inbuilt microphone to be heard! So, theres lots to do but its fun and certainly a new aspect to my practice. My role is now as a composer and performer, which is very fulfilling.

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