In December 2013, I assembled a small group of musicians to create Vault, an evening of live music for silent gothic treasures from the BFI National Archive. Vault was performed in NFT1 at the BFI, Southbank, for the nationwide BFI season Gothic – The Dark Heart of Film.
Working closely with Stuart Brown, Programmes Director, and Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film, we selected around a dozen, rarely seen treasures from the vaults and accompanied them with new live scores on the BFI stage. The films, all made before 1930, mixed romance with ancient ruins, witchcraft, transfigurations and many other gothic tropes.
I was joined by fellow composers and extemporisers Bela Emerson (‘cello), Stephen Hiscock (percussion) and Paul Snowdon (aka Time Attendant) along with vocalist Jenny Angliss (Stephen, Jenny and I also perform together as Spacedog). A personal highlight was the opportunity to compose an electroacoustic score for Webber and Watson’s 1928 expressionist masterpiece The Fall of the House of Usher (shown here with someone else’s soundtrack!). This was performed live by Spacedog on vocals, theremin, bells, spinet and electronics.
Jon Brooks also joined us in spirit, contributing a pre-recorded electronic score for Segondo du Chomon’s stencil coloured cinematic trip La Légende du Fantôme. The evening was directed by Emma Kilbey.
Thanks to the PRS for Music Foundation for making this project possible via an Individual Award for composition. We’d also like to thank the BFI for taking us on and giving us their considerable support. Vault was one of a series of live music events for Gothic film, produced by the BFI in association with The Wire magazine. Thanks to everyone who turned up, tweeted or otherwise spread the word about this show.
Photographer Gaynor Perry dropped in on rehearsals and took these brilliant photos of us devising, rehearsing and setting up the show.
PRSF for Music Foundation is the UK’s leading funder of new music across all genres, supporting an exceptional range of new music activity–from composer residencies and commissions to festivals and showcases in the UK and overseas.