Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Daniel Padden - Composing For Ciara

When Daniel Padden went to the first read-through of David Harrower's 
play, Ciara, he didn't think it required any music to accompany it. 
Given that the Glasgow-based composer and musician had just been 
commissioned to write a score for the play, this looked like it was 
going to be a problem. As it turned out, while the play was led by 
Blythe Duff's solo turn as a Glaswegian art gallery owner and daughter 
of a recently deceased gangster, Padden framed the play with a 
soundtrack that helped to accentuate the mood of the piece even more.

“Finding music to put into the play was a real challenge,” says Padden 
of Harrower's Herald Angel winning Fringe hit, which returns to the 
Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this week. “In physical terms, it's just 
one woman onstage telling a story, with no action or set-pieces that 
offer a composer the opportunity to do something, so just finding a 
space for music was a challenge. In David Harrower's writing, every 
word matters, and the thing that came out of the script for Ciara is 
that, although on one level it's about Glasgow and the everyday, 
there's something much bigger going on there that's epic. In the way it 
looks at how things are passed down generations, it's almost Greek in 
its construction.

“I was trying to hint at the grandeur of that, but without being 
explicit. I don't like theatre music that tells you what to think. 
Music can represent a character or a location, or it can be a more 
conventional soundtrack, but there's an ambiguity in Ciara I tried to 
reflect. I wanted to create something that on the surface is quite 
conventional, with elements of 'classiness', but is punctuated with 
physical/ugly moments, and has an odd insistency. I still don't know 
what time signature its in.”

As a performer in his own right, both solo and in his bands, Volcano 
The Bear and The One Ensemble over the last couple of decades, Padden's 
sense of theatricality has increased since his move into composing for 
theatre several years ago. This came about following the 
Manchester-born musician's move to Glasgow at the turn of the century. 
Padden provided music for three shows for Visible Fictions -  Jason & 
The Argonauts, The Hunted and Curse Of The Demeter – and worked with 
Nic Green on her show, Motherland. There has also been work with Ankur 
on their Jukebox project, and with the National Youth Theatre.

“Visible Fictions were very important to me,” Padden explains. “I'd 
done a couple of short films, and started sending the music out, and I 
ended up doing my first real score for theatre with them. I'd never 
made action music before - and Jason & The Argonauts still tours around 
the world over 5 years after we made it!  The reason you make music for 
theatre is very different to doing a gig, and you learn very quickly 
that one note might be all that's required rather than doing something 
more. Rather than trying to make the best piece of music you can, you 
are trying to make the best piece of music for that moment, on that 
stage, with these actors doing these things, and that's a very 
different remit.”

Padden first came to music when he bought his first guitar aged sixteen 
before going on to study philosophy and psychology. An interest in 
experimental and non-western music continues to be explored with 
Volcano the Bear, who haver released a multitude of work. There have 
been several albums too with The One Ensemble, who recently performed 
their latest work, Saint Seven, as part of this year's Made in Scotland 
programme.

This year too has seen Padden co-direct The Complaints Choir of 
Edinburgh for Edinburgh Art festival, as well as work with artist Sarah 
Kenchington on her Wind Pipes For Edinburgh project.

Ciara is the second of David Harrower's plays Padden has scored, 
following on from A Slow Air in 2011. The pair met at a bonfire party 
several years ago, where they bonded over their similar tastes in 
music. The commission for A Slow Air followed shortly after, adding to 
an already eclectic back catalogue.

“I suppose I'm never quite satisfied with anything I've done,” Padden 
says. “I've got about eighteen guitars, not because I'm particularly 
interested in playing the guitar, but each one sounds a bit different, 
and I want to explore all those different sounds and what you can do 
with them. There's something mysterious about what you can convey 
through sound and what you might call noise. It has an effect on us 
that you don't quite get from anywhere else.

“I've come to where I am from quite a sideways path, and I wonder if I 
feel I need to keep doing it, to keep making work, different work, so 
that I can justify my impostor status. And people keep asking me, and I 
keep saying Yes. But I try to see them all as chances to learn. I am 
pretty restless though. My life would be a lot simpler if I just stuck 
to one instrument.”

Ciara, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, December 3-21; Citizens Theatre, 
Glasgow, January 21-25 2014
www.traverse.co.uk
www.citz.co.uk

The Herald, December 3rd 2013

ends

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