I’ve been at a bit of a loss with what to do with myself for the past two Mondays in a row. Since the first week of January, 8 weeks ago, I’ve been travelling up to Aberystwyth (from Cardiff) every week, to work with Hijinx Academy Aberystwyth. Having grown up in the wilds of Aberystwyth myself, I know all too well the disruption that weather can cause for public transport, but I was still disappointed that I couldn’t make the last two sessions due to trains not running from Shrewsbury to Aber.
The last few months of 2019 were filled with a huge amount of composing work for various projects, and early January 2020 saw me exhausted and not quite ready to write more music (if I’m being honest with myself). However, despite the 8-hour round journey to Aberystwyth and back each week, Mondays have become my favourite time of the week. It’s a privilege to be in a rehearsal room where there is such joy and expectation of what we will create together, and it has been a time to get to know all the Hijinx actors in the Aberystwyth Academy.
The first session saw us getting stuck in right away and exploring the theme of cynefin, loosely translated in English as a sense of belonging, of habitat, of a place one knows well. Literally, it translates to mean the sheep trails carved into the hillsides. The steps and shapes we make following journeys well-trodden.
Anna, our choreographer, brought a CD of Owen Shier’s music (titled ‘cynefin’), which was the starting point for the exploration. As an aside, I thoroughly recommend his album - it’s filled with gorgeous interpretations of folk songs local to the Ceredigion area.
We spent time as a group discussing where we felt we belonged; what made us part of the community, what haunts we frequent, the sounds and spaces we inhabit and feel comfortable in, and the spaces where we feel like we’re an outsider.
From this came the first piece, The middle of nowhere, the first movement inspired - and then exaggerated - of the action of pointing to a map. Despite my previous worries about creating music, I surprised myself by creating the music for the piece within a week (you can see part of the piece in the video below), linking in the folk elements of cynefin.
Each week, we’ve been exploring different senses of identity and belonging, according to each actor in the Academy. I’ve loved that it is very much driven by them (they’ve had ideas for music, theme and movement), and Anna and I act as facilitators, aiding the exploration.
So far, the residency has challenged me to write music far quicker than I normally do, as well as encouraging me to write in different mediums than I’ve done previously (first ever electronic dance track written in January 2020, which I’ve included a snippet of below!)
I’d previously worried that perhaps our group was moving too quickly in creating, or realising concepts, but - in light of the storms the last fortnight - it’s actually worked to our advantage, that we’d had time previously to work together on music and movement.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be finessing ideas, piecing the separate works together to form a journey, ready for the Academy’s public showcase at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Thursday 2nd April.