Incidental music — 1995
My friend Eric Schneider directed his own Luxembourgish translation of Howard Barker’s play The Europeans in 1995, and asked me to provide the incidental music and sound effects. The music was recorded using fairly low-budget synthesized sounds (albeit sample-based: a Korg 03R/W and a Roland SC-7) — all I had at my disposal in those days. Barker was present at the first night and commented that it was a shame the music had to be synthesized, with which I heartily agreed, but sadly there was no budget for any live musicians. The number of musicians would increase by one for the next production.
The starting point for the music was to write a quasi-national anthem which we called the EuroAnthem. This was a fairly typical Victorian-type hymn tune, but with slightly ‘wrong’ harmonies. Some of the other pieces were variations on this tune in the form of a series of pastiches, including a quasi-Turkish dance and a little neo-classical number. The Dies Irae plainchant found its way in there too. The origin of some of the other pieces is now a mystery to me.
In April 2016 Eric contacted me to say he’d been invited to take part in a Howard Barker symposium at Aberystwyth University at the end of the following month. He would be doing a presentation on The Europeans and did I still have the music? Unfortunately the music (in audio form) was nowhere to be found — not even on a cassette — but for some reason I still had the sound effects (which were in any case taken from various FX collections). I had, however, back in 1995, had the presence of mind to save MIDI files from the music sequences, and I still had those. The obvious thing to do, therefore, was to recreate the music from those files. Given that I now have sound libraries that are vastly superior to anything available to me in 1995, the results (even allowing for the rather ‘quick and dirty’ mixing I had to do in the time available) are much better than the originals — if only we could have had sounds of this quality then!
I’ve put seven of the twelve pieces below for your delectation:
- The EuroAnthem
- Two-part Canon on the EuroAnthem
- Stately Introduction and Silly Waltz: some pompous harpsichord noodling followed by a very brief waltz variation on the anthem.
- Spring in the Park: a gentle little neo-classical chamber piece based on the anthem.
- What Europe Needs: a truly ludicrous piece to end Act I which, as Eric has reminded me, was triggered by the line ‘What Europe needs now is some rococo and a little jazz’.
- The Turks Are Coming: the anthem tune is inverted and pressed into 7/8 and a pseudo-mode involving plenty of minor and augmented seconds.
- The EuroAnthem Returns: the grand finale, complete with fireworks and bells.
Performances / broadcasts / recordings
- Première: Théâtre d’Esch, Luxembourg, 1995 as part of theatre production by Eric Schneider of The Europeans
The Europeans: The EuroAnthem (0:57)
The Europeans: Two-part Canon on the EuroAnthem (1:03)
The Europeans: Stately Introduction and Silly Waltz (0:39)
The Europeans: Spring in the Park (1:03)
The Europeans: What Europe Needs (1:00)
The Europeans: The Turks Are Coming (2:01)
The Europeans: The EuroAnthem Returns (1:02)
- Sequencer: MOTU Digital Performer (Mac)
- Mixing procedure varied between pieces, depending on complexity. Some had gentle application of MOTU MasterWorks Limiter; reverb is MOTU ProVerb.
- Woodwinds and Brass: Sample Modeling instruments (host: Native Instruments Kontakt 5)
- Tuned percussion, harpsichord, harp: Modartt Pianoteq 5
- Other percussion: Native Instruments Battery 3 and Kontakt 5 factory library
- Strings: Spitfire Sable Strings and some from Kontakt 5 factory library (host: Kontakt 5)
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