Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dancing across the Atlantic

Sometimes one just seems to have a stroke of luck - I suppose it’s partly to do with being very open to suggestion when one is inspired (if that doesn’t sound hideously affected). You know, those times when you walk past a billboard with some crappy advert on it that nevertheless triggers off something that gives you an idea, or when you turn on the radio to catch something totally fascinating that ends up becoming a new piece twelve months later. I was very glad to have used Desert Island Discs as my procrastinatary tool of choice that morning.

When David told us about his third disc, it became obvious: a waltz was like the perfect way to set the Atlantic crossing! I think I actually said “aha!” in an embarrassingly declamatory fashion whilst throwing my arms up in the air at this point (another reason why I’m probably best off living alone at the moment).

Both Amy and Jim were the epitome of 1930’s glamour. The idea of a plane as a bird somehow tied in - the grace of a bird and grace of a dancer. The fact that they were working as a couple, swopping places in the cockpit (like whirling round on a dance floor). The outward elegance alongside the hidden sweat and muscle ache of top class dancing paralleled the elegance of the long distance flight, Amy touching up her makeup and hair before she touched down having not slept for several days straight and on the verge of collapse. The ability of the waltz to be both slightly twee, naive and comic at the same time as passionate and expansive (something that I really went for during Jim’s second statement of “Just you and me and the sky and the sea”). The ability to ‘off-kilter-ise’ a waltz by occasionally inserting a 5/8 or 7/8 bar (lengthening or shortening the 3/4 bar by a quaver so that the second “cha” of the “umm-cha-cha” rhythm is either slightly too short or too long, so as to represent the plane being buffeted by the winds, being thrown off course etc, etc.

I got very excited about this and wrote almost all of Jim’s material for this scene that day. The waltz pattern also allowed me to clearly present sometimes quite complex harmony - I had in my ear harmony for both England (the start point) and the New York (the intended end point) and wanted to play about with gradually moving from one type of harmony to the other (very simplified, England equated to pastoral e minors and F majors in my mind, whilst New York was full of sharp-9 chords and F sharp minor/major).

So, that was a great day, and I felt all re-inspired, just as I had to stop everything and start rehearsals for the workshops. Typical.

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