In the spring of 2012, I collaborated with the choreographer David Greenall on a piece entitled 'Elements'. It was a challenging dance project for 1st year students from Arts Ed, London, one of the UK's leading musical theatre/acting institutions.
I gave David various instrumental versions of my songs to choose from and the five we ended up using were:
Waiting For Green / Sleeping Beauty / Weight / Headlonging (stretched out) / Paradise By Numbers
The first three pieces are taken from Ascendant; Waiting For Green and Sleeping Beauty are full length renditions, whilst Weight is a shortened version focusing on the piano/cello section of the piece. The remaining two are taken from Alterations; Headlonging (stretched out) is actually an extended version available from The Death Of Copyright EP on Bandcamp while Paradise By Numbers is a slightly shortened version of the album version (missing verse 2 and the first chorus).
The majority of the music was performed live by me (piano), Charlie Brown (violin) and Tony Woollard (cello). Only for Headlonging did we use the recording, and this was because it needed the electronic aspects to make it work.
I was also keen for Paradise By Numbers to be sung live, partly because it would have been difficult to render effectively as an instrumental with the small ensemble we had, but also because it's a song about human evolution and so very much ties in with the themes of the piece. I saw the progression through the elements from Water to Air to Fire to Earth as an encapsulation of how we've come to be where we are (from life venturing out of the water into the air, to the discovery of fire, self-awareness and knowledge, to our growing influence - for better or worse - on the earth around us).
For further info about the final song, see the 'alterations revealed' page on this website. It contains a track by track guide to Alterations and Paradise By Numbers is number 8.
Whilst dance is a language in itself (just as much as music is) and defies easy explanation, I asked David to try to summarise his thoughts and inspiration for the piece. He gave me the following:
The dance was influenced by the composition of Mark Northfield and is about the four elements and four temperaments.
The first section began with Water. The movements were fluid, linear and classical in style, reflecting rushing movement, calmness and dynamic energy
The second section, Air, requires the movement to be light with elements of strength and space
The third section reflects a hidden element. Performed as a pas de deux, this section could easily relate to all four elements and has a spiritual influence. Are the dancers Gods? Creation?
The fourth section, Fire, is about energy, quickness and danger. The dancers are required to execute challenging technical steps and risky pas de deux work. The energy never stops and the movement is relentless
The fifth section Earth suddenly finds peace and stillness. The movement is weighty and full. The dancers have a sense of completing their journey and finding purity and a knowledge of their environment and their place within this environment.
The piece as a whole reflects evolution, both environmental and personal, and tries to portray a sense of the individual becoming enlightened.
The performance was filmed and edited by Rosaleen Donnan, who has been of assistance now on a number of occasions for my video projects. Her attention to detail is second to none and greatly appreciated.
A final note: the piano trio set-up used for 'Elements' is one I intend to
explore further, as many of the songs I have written are musically quite complex and take on different emotive qualities without their vocals. I'm currently working on rearranging pieces for this purpose, with a view to further recordings and live performances with Tony and Charlie.