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Iconic British Artworks Inspire New Label and EP by String and Tins

Trends and Insight 66 Add to collection
String and Tins composers share how they drew inspiration from Paul Nash, Mary Martin and Arthur Hacker works hanging in the Tate Britain for a unique new EP release
Iconic British Artworks Inspire New Label and EP by String and Tins

This week, sound design and music production company String and Tins are inaugurating a new label with a debut release Stills 01 - the first in a new artist series. 

The ‘Stills’ project asked composers to create a piece of music in response to a self-selected work of art exhibited in London’s Tate Britain Gallery, presenting each of them with a premise; if each respective artwork represented a still from a scene, what would the score sound like?

Responding to the work of three British artists, with paintings which traverse high classicism, haunting surrealism and architectural abstraction - Paul Nash (Totes Meer / Dead Sea, 1940-1), Mary Martin (Inversions, 1966) & Arthur Hacker (Annunciation1892) - composers Jim Stewart, Simon Whiteside and Joe Wilkinson have produced a rich, inventive, and affecting collection of interpretations, unlocking singular new dimensions within these artworks. 

The Jim Stewart composition, ‘Dead Sea’, takes the same name as Nash's painting. Jim’s recordings have been digitally extended and processed, creating a sustained, unsettling fabric of sound; an expansive backdrop to a simple piano progression and remotely staged horns, reflecting the fallen grandeur of Nash’s painting.

Composer Simon Whiteside chose ‘Inversions’ by Mary Martin a huge sequential artwork comprising of 96 aluminium panels which reflect the viewer and surrounding gallery. An abstract piece which aims to make the viewer consider the space in which they view the work. Whiteside's correlating track ‘Inversions’ creates a canvas for a wide range of elements, using an ensemble of ten violins which cycle through clusters of canonically arranged notes. The other sections of the orchestra undulate in volume and rhythm, creating a hypnotic, meditative mood analogous to Martin’s sequential style.

Last but not least, Joe Wilkinson's interpretation of Hacker's ‘Annunciation’, takes a more linear approach, directly interpreting the events of the painting, with Hacker depicting Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary, prophesying Jesus’ incarnation. A choir is combined with noise loops, synths and orchestral verve to create a multi-faceted piece that brings the release to a quiet, contemplative resolution.

Looking to find out more about this fascinating project and the inspirations behind it and the new label, we caught up with Joe Wilkinson, Mike Bamford and Will Cohen to find out how the team went about the project.

 

Tell us a bit about the idea.

The ‘Stills’ project asked composers to create a piece of music in response to a self-selected work of art exhibited in London’s Tate Britain Gallery, presenting each of them with a premise; if each respective artwork represented a still from a scene, what would the score sound like?


How did the project come about?

Joe: As sound designer / composers, we are well accustomed to having a brief, and writing music within set parameters. We wanted to initiate a project where we give ourselves the brief! I had seen artists' projects previously reacting to other art forms and liked the idea, and strangely Will had been thinking along the same lines. Interpreting the paintings was a way of focusing our music on a story of our choosing that resonated with each of us personally, whilst also keeping a thread throughout all the music.

Mike: Every person at String and Tins is musical. From our Drum and Bass runner, through classically trained producers, to our production manager who’s an expert in graphical scores. This felt like a fun way of tapping into our diverse set of skills and to write some music for ourselves, without the usual time or creative constraints.

Will: We have wanted to produce some music just for the sake of it for a while now, no strings attached if you will… anyway Joe and I started chatting about a concept album based on inspiration from images and thought it would be good to look in some galleries as food for thought. I mentioned this idea to a composer we collaborate with a lot who features on the first release, Simon Whiteside - he thought it would be useful to focus our energies on one gallery in particular and suggested Tate Britain would be a good idea… and so it began!


So did you visit the gallery or just choose independently?

Joe: We all visited the gallery together in person (before the pandemic) and spent as long as we needed to choose the work.

Mike: It was interesting that no-one chose the same paintings. We all found different art that appealed to us.

Will: It was quite a while ago now but it was a special morning actually! It was a boiling hot summer’s day in August 2019 and felt a bit like a family trip. Other than musing on the work, Simon and I enjoyed tea and biscuits in the members cafe which is a beautifully atmospheric space at the top of the gallery - definitely worth a visit.

Totes Meer (Dead Sea), 1940–1. Paul Nash © Tate 

Tell us a little about the composition and production process.

Joe: We each wrote a music ‘treatment’ similar to that of a director to explain how we would musically realise the work.  We then went off to come up with initial sketches, had feedback, revised, and kept improving them. We had the pleasure of working with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra for an afternoon to record parts. Live instruments really lifted the pieces to the next level. After more tweaking and refining, we gave them to regular collaborator and mix engineer Emre Ramanzanoglu (Noel Gallagher, Killing Eve OST) to give them some final polish.


The music all has a similar tone and feel, was that intentional?

Joe: Short answer is yes… Early on we discussed some reference material and influences, so everyone was composing with this in mind. However we have grouped tracks for each release based on them sitting well next to each other and feeling musically coherent. Some of the next EP’s material is quite different to this one.

Mike: We’ve all been keen to listen to each other’s tracks and make creative suggestions throughout the process. This definitely makes them feel like they’re coming from a similar place. Also, getting Emre to mix all the tracks, without being so emotionally attached as the composer, was the final glue to bring them into the same space.


What’s the plan for the project going forward?

Joe: We have another two EPs in the works for Stills, which will culminate in a vinyl album release to finish off the project.

Mike: We’re already making plans for the next musical project. It’s been awesome making music together as a group and I hope people have as much fun listening to the recordings, as we did making them!

Will: I’m extremely proud of the work Jim, Simon & Joe have written for this release and excited to share the next two EPs in the coming months. I also think there’s something to be said for studying the relevant artwork while listening to these tracks; they are strong pieces of music in their own right, but if you gain an understanding of the art and the artist behind each piece, there’s an amount of depth to be enjoyed that might be missed otherwise :-)

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String and Tins, Wed, 21 Apr 2021 10:40:00 GMT