Friday, 21 February 2014

The merits of a piano


We’ve been writing in two separate rooms all day today. Nathan says it feels a little bit like a scene from Merrily We Roll Along; the number called We’re Opening Doors, where the three lead characters are on the phone to one another. I sit in the kitchen writing music. Nathan lies on a bed with his eyes closed, writing lyrics. He assures me he’s writing and not sleeping. My great friend Sam Becker used to do the same thing when writing music. We lived together for a few years in the late 1990s in a house in Kentish Town with paper thin walls. When I was writing music I’d scream and yell and sing. Sam liked to write in absolute silence, periodically moving across to the piano to lightly touch the odd note, just to check he was on the right lines. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for him with me next door bashing and crashing at the piano.

I always used to see writing music at a piano as a sign of weakness... I still do in a way. I think the practice rather demotes me to the realm of songwriter rather than composer, not that I really have an issue with this. At university there was always a slight snobbishness which wafted from those who could write without a piano in the direction of the mere mortals who couldn’t. I used to pretend to write without, and subsequently never wrote a bar of music whilst I was actually in York because there was never a keyboard in my student digs. I used to go home and write during the holidays... if I could be bothered. I was a lazy bastard in those days.

I watched a girl once orchestrating a piece for flute quartet as quickly as it took her to write the notes. 20 years on, I’m still trying to reach those dizzying heights of musical sophistication! Mind you, she did have perfect pitch, and she was writing for flute quartet, which in my mind rather lessens her genius. To my ears, the flute is probably the ugliest-sounding instrument in the world... There’s something about the regularity of its sound waves, the pitch that it plays at, and, to be frank, the type of person who tends to be drawn to it! Girls. Blond. Vapid. Long-limbed. A hint of the blue stockings...

We’ve just spent the last hour or so looking through the final draft script for the Channel 4 film. It’s beginning to fly, we think... beginning to feel like something which could be very special. I’m getting the same sense about some of the music as well. I think I turned a corner last night and am entering the realm of finessing what I’ve written, which feels like a strong place to be a week before studio sessions start. The opening sequence is as nutty as a fruitcake, which I suspect will be about the most surreal piece of television which has ever been shown. I wish I could give you a little sense of what we’re up to; the sorts of people we’re working with and what the end result might be. I think we’re doing some publicity with Channel 4 in the coming week, so at that stage I’ll be able to share some of the more exciting details.

Right. Back to the grindstone. I have a series of recall auditions to prepare...

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