15 November 2011

Graininess and Sheen

Graininess and Sheen by Kerry Andrew Composer

I have completed my first commission for Handel House Museum! I wanted to bring together some of my recent musical interests - electronica, spoken word, improvisation in composition - and push myself into a slightly new creative direction, but also write something that suited Handel House. I was introduced to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger's Radio Ballads by the artist Ruth Ewan on a previous project this year for Art on the Underground (which you can hear here!); their bare-bones presentation of recorded interviews with people about their lives in Britain in the '50s and '60s had a real impact on me.

I decided to interview some of the volunteers who humbly staff the Museum during its opening hours, and asked them to talk about their personal responses to the House. I then spent some time on a quieter day (well, as quiet as it can be with 3 lanes of traffic outside...) and recorded myself improvising on the three keyboard instruments, which live in different rooms. This included lots of percussion sounds and string-playing on the two harpsichords and the cutely out-of-tune spinet. I also had to record the famous creaking floorboards. Taking all this raw material home, I chopped, sifted, and arranged this into a 9-minute track, adding only a few layers of my voice in addition.

I see this piece, called Graininess and Sheen after a quote from one of the volunteers, as a portrait of the House by the House, with the three keyboard instruments in a trio with each other from the different rooms of the building... Hope you like it!

The volunteers interviewed were:
Steve Murray
Roger Sydenham
Annette Viner
Jenny Atkinson
Jane Whitworth
Guilherme Feistauer
Reiko Fujiike-Stilling
Fabrizio Bignlino
John Gordingly