Pippa Murphy / Karine Polwart – A Pocket of Wind Resistance

How would you describe this project?

A poetic musical essay crafted from traditional and original song, spoken word narrative, layered vocal textures, and immersive environmental soundscape. 

This project takes traditional music into a new space…what was the process that took you there?

The recorded work A Pocket of Wind Resistance emerged from a 2016 theatre piece called Wind Resistance, produced in collaboration with The Royal Lyceum Theatre, in conjunction with EIF 2016. Karine wrote, performed and musically directed the show, with Pippa as sound designer and co-composer.  The process of reworking a live theatre show of 1 hour 30 minutes into a 50 minute through-composed audio piece took around 6 months of regular small studio-based co-writing and co-production. We used Ableton Live, Logic and ProTools to sketch, build and edit each piece in a hands on collaborative fashion. Some pieces are grounded in trad song and simple acoustic instrumentation (e.g. Track 1 All on A Summer’s Evening), whilst others are constructed from instrumental or vocal loops and layers (e.g. Track 4 Labouring and Resting and Track 10 Sphagnum Mass). Other pieces (especially those based around the harp) were engineered from live audio samples and then re-recorded in real time at the end of the writing process. The album has a narrative arc and is intended to build incrementally, as a single piece. The audio production of the work is fundamental to its compositional structure, as tracks have been stacked, panned and processed to create a sense of space, movement or weight. 

What other projects do you have on the go at the moment?

As a collaborative duo, we’re in discussion with Radio 3 about an orchestra/chorus project rooted in the Border ballad of Tam Lin. We’re also at early stages of discussion regarding a possible song cycle for one of Scotland’s national orchestras. (could put in something here about developing ongoing collaborative process independent of commissioned projects?) Individually, Karine is writing a new album of songs for her trio, for release later in 2018. She will be involved later in the year in a multi-artist project rooted in language and ecology, and inspired by The Lost Words (by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris). Individually, Pippa is writing a new track for the award winning ‘POP-UP Duets’ dance piece with Janis Claxton Dance which is about to go on an extensive International tour to USA, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand.

What other pieces have you seen or heard in the last year that you think will stand the test of time?

In the field of Scottish trad music, the Grit Orchestra’s Nae Regrets is the landmark expansive work of the past two years.  In the wider UK trad music field, Karine admires Lisa Knapp’s Til April Is Dead - an ambitious conceptual album that combines (English) trad music and lore with spoken word and vocal textures. And they're looking forward to hearing Ailie Robertson’s newly commissioned Seven Sorrows at Celtic Connections 2018. Pippa was particularly inspired by James McMillan’s Stabat Mater -  a sublime masterpiece.


In an ideal world, what is the piece or project that you would most like to write or create? 

To write a thematic, narrative work for a palette of orchestra, chorus, spoken word and soundscape in collaboration with (not under direction from) a film-maker, so that the piece has life as a live, recorded and cinematic/broadcast work. 



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