Suffolk composer returns home for Bury Festival concert
PUBLISHED: 15:35 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:43 12 May 2015
She's provided music for Stanley Kubrick movies, Al Pacino Shakespeare extravaganzas as well as British and European independent films.
Last year she wrote the score for the Olivier-winning play King Charles III, recorded CDs of her own music as well as touring with The Jocelyn Pook Ensemble, but for award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook performing at the Bury Festival is just like coming home – in fact it is home.
Her performance at this year’s festival will be the first time she has performed in her home town since she was a pupil at King Edward VI School.
Jocelyn is hoping that some of her teachers who supported her early career will be at the concert at The Apex to see her perform.
To commemorate her homecoming she is planning to perform live a piece of music she created for an album several years ago which weaves answer-phone messages into an orchestra score.
“It’ll be something special – if it works,” she adds with a laugh. “I am digging out the old tapes just to see what sort of shape they are in.
“Coming back to it is strange because answer-phone messages in this age of text and emails now looks rather quaint and old fashioned. I wrote this piece about ten years ago and always wanted to perform it live but never really had an opportunity. I always thought that it was more of a piece for radio.”
She said that the original inspiration came when a friend left an answer-phone message which sounded as if she was singing. “She had such a melodic voice. People do adopt a kind of sing-song style when signing in and out of an answer-phone message. I also had a kind of fascination with the kind of messages being left.
“I work with an Iranian singer who literally left me a message in song and I guess it was a way of putting a narrative together, a narrative which reflected my life.
“It was something that everybody could relate to. It’s about wanting to hear news from friends and family. It’s hearing a message from my mother. Some friends of mine were travelling around the world and leaving me messages from different places.
“It was a piece I really enjoyed working on and I loved exploring the musicality of our spoken voices.”
Jocelyn has enjoyed a varied career first as a viola player, then as a composer, and has worked in the classical world as well as with dance companies, like Akram Kahn and Wayne McGregor, as well as theatre companies and television work.
“There’s a lot of chance for creative collaboration these days. I enjoy putting unexpected elements in my work.
“Composers like Stockhausen and John Cage have done a lot of work opening up the world of music and harnessing different sounds to make music and that really interests me. They are like sonic tapestries. Laurie Anderson was someone else that I admire. So there are many predecessors that have opened things up allowing people like me to follow.”
Jocelyn was catapulted into the spotlight when Stanley Kubrick heard her second album Flood and invited her to compose the music for his film Eyes Wide Shut starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Other films scores have followed include Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
Although, Jocelyn enjoys film work she also treasures the opportunity to write and record her own work for the concert stage and for CD.
“To be honest I really enjoy the variety. I have been really lucky, right from the very beginning when I first left Guildhall (School of Music) to work with a wide variety of really good people from pop acts like The Communards and Massive Attack to musicians specialising in world music to some of the finest classical musicians in the UK.
“My work isn’t random. To a certain degree you have to take what comes along but you do have a choice and I am drawn to certain areas and subjects.
“I am very taken with the voice, different aspects of voice and I love working with different languages, different sounds, different ways of singing.”
She said that she enjoys working with traditional Persian music and working with Iranian singers – blending the sounds with western music to create something new.
It was one of these vocal compositions that captured the imagination of director Stanley Kubrick who was looking something distinctive for the soundtrack for his film about sexual compulsion Eyes Wide Shut.
“Stanley gave me a lot of freedom. He hadn’t got a proscribed idea. He was grabbling to get the right thing and it was my job to deliver what he could hear in his head.
“He used one of my pieces from my album Flood as a placement track for the masked ball. He told me: ‘Something like that,’ so there was a lot of opportunity to explore different ideas. It was a lovely experience but funnily enough for that masked ball scene he couldn’t get away from that original piece from Flood, so I re-worked it for the film but we still used that original composition.”
Jocelyn said that her career as a composer has rather taken her by surprise. She attended Guildhall as a viola player and expected to make her living as a jobbing musician.
“I did dabble, composing things when I was still at school in Bury, but I didn’t think that composing was for the likes of me. I thought that was reserved for virtuoso pianist/conductor types.
“When I left college I did the usual orchestral/chamber work but I found myself being drawn to doing different kind of things. I welcomed being invited to play with more unusual ensembles. I loved playing with The Three Mustaphas Three – they were amazing and introduced me to Middle Eastern music and new music styles.”
She said that her performance at the Bury Festival, with her ensemble, will be a mixture of her film work and pieces she has written for albums and the stage. “Along with the suite for answer-phone messages, which could well be the oldest piece, we will have some very recent work including something I wrote for Akram Khan’s dance company along with some extracts from Eyes Wide Shut and The Merchant of Venice – which I hope will please my English teacher.”
Jocelyn Pook will be performing at The Apex on May 17.
For an extensive overview of this year’s Bury Festival please see our special supplement in today’s paper.