While the girls are focused on developing the movement and story behind River, I have been inland working on the instrumental side of things in the stunning surroundings of Badenoch and Strathspey.
This is my go-to place when things in the city get too noisy and too stressful. It is also where I go when I need DIY help as my parents live there.
While here, I have been determined to study the aural and physical attributes of the scenery, working rhythms, melodies and sound-shapes of nature into a musical-esque sound design.
Aware that Imogene and Angela are planning some very interesting water drumming, I take advantage of the silence of this landscape and contemplate rhythm. It comes from everywhere: butterflies fluttering; a chorus of croaking frogs; the creaking trees in the lonely wind.
My aim is to appreciate what rhythms are common in natures’ music but you realise very soon that nature can be hard to pin down. Of course, that is what makes the use of drones in performance art so effective; the hypnotic waves of the torre (or bass torre) can integrate and bend with nature’s irrefutable indeterminacy.
It can also assist you in appreciating how much nature immerses you in a special sound world of its own. When the wind stops, you find yourself in a dome of silence, quietly waiting for the next bird to chirp or the next whistle of wind.
You can also find hidden gems in the countryside: one hike took us past a selection of fungi on a snaking, tree-laden path; another took us to a hilltop to the source of a stream with a pool that looked like it was the home of imps, fairies and other supernatural races.
The source of the stream also got me thinking about the element of creation in nature. There was no more stream after this point, which means that upwards of it, the water was collecting together and forming into a flow of water. I thought it was an incredible example of birth; symbolic of water’s power to heal, grow and sustain life.
Conversely, when we look at what kind of damage and danger can arise from the forces of the Dee or any other river, we get a fearful feeling of death, analogous with the destructive power of the wind, lightning or any other of nature’s destructive deeds.
The question at hand now is: how can I reinforce these ideas into the musical-esque performance for River?
Now that I have some basic rhythms that could be included, I now have to communicate with Imogene and Angela so we can collectively decide how to integrate these rhythms with their choreography. Then we will need to decide on which drums will suit which rhythms especially since many sets of drumming techniques have with them a set rhythmic procedure.
I will also need to wait and see if the finished instruments we are using will have any kind of rhythm in the way the drone waves.
While I continue developing the torre and enjoying a natural aural space, I want to make the most of this time: learning what I can from nature; developing material with direct communication with my colleagues to ensure the dance and sound are analogous; and contemplating what nature means to us and how it can frame a performance project that relies so heavily on an outdoor space.
Until next time.
Bryce Hope is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen where he has achieved his Bachelor and Master Degrees. In 2016, he was awarded the Carlaw | Ogston Composition Prize for his solo piano piece tEn; his output includes works for piano, small ensemble, narrator and performances artists.