Ahead of his final LSO Jerwood Composer+ event, Amir Konjani discusses the compositional techniques used in his concert, from shadowing and spatialisation to his musical Braille code used in the soundtrack for Oscar Award-winning short film The Silent Child.
Kraken Cello Concertante
'I am very taken with the idea of 'performing sculptures' – they invite the audience in to be entertained by the sculpture. This formed the beginning of my compositional process as a situation maker, with my initial plan being to develop ideas related to 'living' and 'performing sculpture' and transfer them to a stage layout and composition. I set about creating a situation for the cello soloist in my concertante who would be both entertained and distracted by the particular installation in the work.
I was inspired by Russollo's idea of activating the creation of 'noise making' as well. His instruments had a handle to turn to make noise, showing the action or the 'doing' of making noise for the audience. When you show your doing, you are performing.
I intended to compare the shadowing effect of performing sculpture with projecting sounds (and the illusion of projecting sounds), so I examined sound waves and how elements could be added which could intervene between the instrument and the ears of the listener. I had to investigate how to create an illusion of the sound moving and being projected from different places at different times from the same performer.'
'I established a performance mechanism, which I call shadowing. Here a single performance act creates two or more related but different sounds separated by timbre and time. The springs and tubes generate one group of sounds and they are intended to re-project through four large plastic tubes with X-ray film membrane glued onto them. These sounds then create air-like ‘shadow’ sounds, which are slightly delayed and distorted. I've used this same technique for piano and harp too.'
Spatialisation & Music Braille Code
'With the Kraken cello, four tubes project shadows in four different directions. Each line in the diagram below represents one spring, which is connected to the cello string. During the composition process, I made dots on the tube lines (springs) to navigate the direction of the sounds through the tubes. This way of navigating each sound’s projection (spatialisation) was important in helping me to develop the themes in the cello parts. The pattern of dots shown here is just one set of many patterns of dots that I used.
During my experimental dotting approach, I discovered that I could use the dots as music Braille codes and that they could be used when harmonising the concertante, a coincidence that allowed me to find some other methods alongside my more usual compositional approach.'
The Silent Child
'I started to use my music Braille idea for the film score for The Silent Child. I tried to assign the name of the characters and lines in the script to the Braille code and transferred the dots to sounds. I needed to deliver the story of Libby, a profoundly deaf four-year-old girl who lives a silent life until a social worker teaches her how to communicate through sign language.'
Libby in Braille
'I've used this [spatialisation] technique for piano, cello and harp. These photos are from a performance at CalArts with the Grammy-nominated pianist Vicki Ray.'
Copyright Salar Salari
Amir Konjani presents his final LSO Jerwood Composer+ curation on Saturday 2 November 5.30pm at LSO St Luke's, featuring a screening of The Silent Child and his compositions for prepared cello and piano. Click here for more information and to book tickets.
About Amir Konjani
Amir Konjani is a composer, performance artist and situation maker. He has written for the BBC, British Museum, Royal Air Force Museum, Ether Festival, Northwest Festival and CalArts, and his works have been performed at London’s Southbank Centre, Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music and Queen Elizabeth Hall. He has collaborated with artists including Clark Rundell, Grammy-nominated pianist Vicki Ray, Ahmad Shamlou, Peter Manning (ROH), Gregory Rose, Anne LeBaron, and Sioned Williams (BBCSO). Amir was also nominated for two Gold medals in composition, has been awarded a full scholarship to study for a PhD at the Royal Northern College of Music, and is a composition lecturer at Trinity Laban. He has been invited to the Harp Congress 2020 to present his Soveida harp and spatialisation method.
On Situation Making
'A situation maker juxtaposes and superimposes different meanings, objects and subjects to recreate meanings. John Berger writes in his book Ways of Seeing that how we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Situation making does exactly the same thing, in my opinion.'
The Silent Child © Slick Showreels. Screened with courtesy of Network Ireland Television.
LSO Jerwood Composer+ is generously supported by Jerwood Arts.