Sunday 15 January 2017

Composing Saint Julian of Norwich Music Score

For a couple of weeks now I have been avoiding writing the music for 'St. Julian of Norwich: Revelations'.  I decided on Friday that I would at least set up the project so that I could start when I felt ready.  I knew it would be quite an undertaking as this production is different to many of our others; it is largely written by St. Julian herself.

Setting up the project, I was inspired by the amazing scenery of cobwebs that we filmed earlier this year.  This coupled with misty scenery and the footage of St. Julian at Bedham Missionary Church I felt a wave of interest.

Having recently purchased the new Medieval Vocal Codex I remembered that it came with some new soundscapes that were quite eerie so I loaded up one and it set the whole mood that I had looked for.  I had avoided beginning this score because I knew exactly what I wanted but did not know if I could achieve it without a great deal of effort.  As it was, I found what I was looking for right away. 

Vocal Codex Sound Samples

Poised, almost standing to leave and continue later, I found I had written a very mysterious opening theme with 'Deep Dream', 'Voices in the Wind', Strings and Cello.  It was both atmospheric, moving and slightly uneasy.  What I subconsciously wanted to get across was the seriousness of the content of this production - it is largely the Passion of Our Lord - but not as in 'horror' but as in moving.  I found that with no planning, but seemingly being guided, I was drawn and very moved by the emotion of St. Julian's words. 


Julian speaks of Our Lord's bitter Passion and I found myself gripped by the dialogue and spontaneously playing and improvising emotional strings, flowing very easily as I listened and felt moved.  Culminating in 'Love' I found the Love of Our Lord spilling out through the entire narration, despite the very serious nature of the footage, beautiful Spanish statues of Our Lord's Passion, it was Love  overall, so serious and extreme, that came across and I had not really grasped this until now - the lengths Our Lord would go and did go out of Love
I stopped writing to go out to work and then set about writing some more in the evening when I got back and before long I had completed the score!  I think the fastest scores I have written are St. Nicholas of Owen and St. Wilfrid: Apostle of Sussex but this one may have become a record! 

I think what it was was that I pretty much ignored the click counter, bar lines and tempo and just wrote and wrote, taking time to linger on the soundscapes which in themselves create tremendous atmosphere.  There was no time consuming process of editing and quantising individual tunes.  Using layer upon layer of different sounds I was able to move in and out of different moods. 

This production was fantastic in the sense that, because of the weight of the content there are lots of breaks.  In these breaks I found myself very inspired to write moving and emotional themes, bringing the cello to the forefront and using the new Vocal Codex Celtia female voice calling out over the immense visual beauty.  The result was very ancient English, Tenor Viola da Gamba and Celtia phrases in ancient English, with rich cello and layers of atmosphere.


 My sister pointed out that the style and voices brought the atmosphere of Our Lord's culture in Israel combining Israel with England and making Jesus and the revelations of St. Julian of Norwich accessible to the whole world.  This was not intentional but adds another dimension to the film. 

I have always experimented with fusions of sounds and style but I was quite bold with this score.  I used a mix of subtle dissonance as a reminder of the seriousness of the entire theme and went from minor to major and back to minor and created some very interesting moods.  There are some very moving moments which give insight into Our Lord's personal love for each one of us and the profoundness of the Holy Trinity.  I cannot fault the soundscapes from the Vocal Codex, one I used had a lot of subtle wind which went perfectly with the dialogue and again was not intentional but just worked out so well.  I feel this whole piece and the whole film is about atmosphere, a very profound atmosphere indeed.

I spent the weekend tweaking the score and mixing it down and am very pleased with this production.  I think it might be the best score I have written but I was just so inspired by both the visuals and the content of this production.  Very atmospheric, very profound, moving, mysterious and contemplative.  'St Julian of Norwich: Revelations' will be available soon.

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