Excerpt from Contemporary Gallipoli Exhibition Catalogue
What is your fundamental response to creating the music for this exhibition? This is the question posed to me by Meredith Brice curator of this exhibition.
To answer I really have to start where my intrigue of war and it’s effects started. I grew up in England in a house surrounded by fields, our home had (allegedly) once been home to German spies duringSecond World War. Whilst reading comics (such as War,Commando as well as the Beano!) I would hear the controlled explosions of mines off Havergate Island. Down the road was the great Keep of Orford Castle where as a child I’d watch and on occasion take part in Medieval reenactments. The Brave Heroes where always victorious, occasionally a brave but maybe 10% less heroic character would falter yet the good guys were always victorious.
When I was 17 I went on a History field trip to the trenches and Battlefields of the First World War in France and Belgium. On the First day we lined up in a field which had the faint marking of where trenches had been dug, myself and 18 of my friends and colleagues were each assigned a number and told to spread out along a trench line. Roughly 100 metres ahead was our goal, our teacher said, ‘you each represent 1000 men’ (truth be told it could have been 100 or 10’000 the exact number is not what stuck with me that day), ‘on my first command you will walk, when you hear your number called out you will stop where you are, Go.’ Within 30 seconds we had all stopped the furthest anyone had made it was about 60 metres. ‘You’re all Dead ….or Wounded.’ I remember looking around in this unfamiliar landscape and thinking ‘they’re all dead….. what were they thinking?’ Not the soldiers who had died many years before but my friends. The experience very much humanized my thoughts of war, not all my friends should have been on the battlefield that day, they weren’t all brave, heroic, trained soldiers, some were girls and vegetarian for goodness sake!
In writing the music for [name of Exhibition] (which I feel very fortunate to be a part of), I have interpreted the Artworks through my ‘Musical’ eyes. Some musical works are ‘inspired’ from many artworks, some interwoven with a common thread or theme. Others are strongly influenced by an individual piece.
‘Letters’ for example was written with ’25 mothers’ in mind but it is equally applicable to ‘The Broken Years’. Letters is a conversation, in my mind in the form of letters going to and fro, the writer and the recipient reading between the lines to what is actually there, trying to find the hidden mean, the real emotion or thought. The performance is ‘clumsy’ in places but so is a conversation, when we converse we rarely perform a speech, we pause, we think, we stutter, we gather our thoughts, and so it is as I initially wrote and performed, one thought melding into many at the single touch of the record button.
All the pieces are written from myself as an empathiser to the different moods or emotions the Artworks/Artists have sent me in. To explain to much would taint the direction in which the art can take you so I will speak no more on that.
My heart felt thanks to all the artists who have contributed to the exhibition and you for attending.
This project has taken me in many directions both emotionally and physically, I sincerely hope you enjoy the music and in the least I hope it makes you think. What would I have done, what would I have felt, would I have cowered or conquered?
100 years on, I cannot help myself pondering over this race we call human – I do fear we shall finish last.