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Sarah Lianne Lewis
Apr 09, 2020
In BLOGS
… First disrupted by the storms in February and March, and now, postponed until further notice due to Covid-19. It has been hard to finish this residency with my Hijinx Academy team in Aberystwyth without any warning, and with little opportunity to wish the actors and all involved well. The final performance of Cynefin by the Aberystwyth Academy was due to take place in Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 2nd April 2020, but has been postponed due Covid-19. It will hopefully be re-scheduled for the Autumn. Creatively, the CoDI Move residency with Hijinx quickly pushed me outside of my normal composing routine; I usually ruminate for a while on musical motifs before putting pen to paper, and the nature of the rehearsals and the residency necessitated a faster musical response to movement. It gave me the opportunity to quickly explore and refine my knowledge of the GarageBand software, which I used to create many of the music tracks and soundscapes for the work, and even pushed me to write a piece of electronic dance music - my first foray into that genre! Already I’ve been using that musical knowledge elsewhere, beginning a small side project writing more electronic music, and utilising those same skills to quickly put together intro / outro music tracks for my local church who had to quickly turn to online services on YouTube & Facebook in light of Covid-19! In spite of the lack of final showcase at the moment, the residency feels like it has shaped and pushed me forward as a composer; in this case it feels like the process was more important than the performance.
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Sarah Lianne Lewis
Feb 20, 2020
In BLOGS
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!) Heart in the City 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.
CoDI Move: Hijinx Academy Aberystwyth [Reflections prior to Week 9] content media
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Sarah Lianne Lewis
Oct 19, 2018
In BLOGS
I approached the initial workshop with a not-insignificant amount of trepidation; in part, because I’d written substantial amounts of vocalisations (whistling / humming) into my sketches, and I was a little nervous about a) whether the musicians would be down to do that kind of thing at the same time as playing their instrument, b) whether the material would even stand as a solid idea, and c) because whilst I wrote whistling into my music, I cannot, for the life of me, whistle myself, so any thought of demonstrating to the musicians by example was out of the question! The other (much smaller) anxiety lay in the structure of the material I had put together. I’ve been finding, though previous workshop situations, that I get far more out of working with the musicians when I provide very fluid, open musical ideas, which we can spend the workshop time as composer and musicians together deciphering into something that works for them. Sometimes it takes the form of a number of very detailed, very clearly notated bars of music, lasting only 30 seconds, that can be explored in different forms or repetitions to create an altogether different creature by the end from what it was at the beginning. This time however, I had less ‘pitch’ material solidified in my mind, but a more comprehensible idea of the sound world that this music might inhabit. This gave rise to my drafting a ‘score’ that consisted of two separate pages; one for the stringed instruments, one for the woodwind / brass instruments. On each of these pages, there were a number of very small phrases, which each of the players could explore and interpret. Due to the nature of the instruments, the woodwind/brass page meant that there would inevitably be three different options to the pitches supplied (all transposing instruments were to play the written pitch), and often there was the option of interpreting the pitch as being written in the treble or bass clef. With the time that we had, we were able to explore the sketches enough that I was able to discern an inkling of the structure of the piece I’ll carry forward; it’s currently still rumbling round my mind, but I’ll be exploring how to marry a linear structure with the very unstructured improvisatory elements of the material in Workshop 1. It also turns out that everyone in the room could whistle apart from me. And the musicians were more than happy to do so whilst playing. Maybe I need to practice a bit more...
Everyone can whistle apart from me! (Workshop 1 reflections) content media
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