It’s six weeks into my residency here, so much music has been written already and I’ve much to share since my last post but I’ll try to condense it as best I can. I'm writing this on a late train back from London to Stratford. After a working weekend and many days of writing, recording and listening, it’s an interesting challenge to be playing with words.

So much of my work depends on hours in ‘musical confinement’, inventing, experimenting, playing, writing the ‘dots on the washing line’, orchestrating, preparing scores, parts, editing. So constructing a sentence can be an unusual event in my day! I guess it’s part and parcel of the job with the RSC... to keep striving to express through language. Thanks to the RSC website folk for encouraging me to write this blog; it’s a great refresher and away from the rhythms, chords and melodies that keep me company day and night! I‘m in the stage of a project where the music literally wakes me in the night, is my morning alarm call and the lullaby which sends me to sleep.

However there rarely goes a day when I don’t work and engage with other people. I absolutely love working in theatre because collaboration is at the heart of it. You are always communicating with your fellow creatives, exploring what connects us, what approach may be right for the work and how can music and sound support the emotional integrity, the drama, the pace. Whether you are communicating with the director, the stage manager, the actors, the other musicians you work with, together we grapple with text and narrative and aspire to serve the piece to the best of our abilities.

Recording the percussion for Myth and The Earthworks.
Photo by Sarah Llewellyn © The artist Browse and license our images

This brings me to one of my favourite parts of this process which I’m right in the middle of. For the two new plays, The Earthworks and Myth I’m currently writing for there is not a live band or any actor/ musicians performing the music. Instead the RSC music department has set up recording sessions for these productions. I’ve had the privilege of working with one of the in house players at the RSC Jim Jones (pictured) who has played percussion with the company for over 35 years. He completely committed to the music, practised in advance and performed beautifully on the day of recording playing marimba, vibraphone, bowed crotales (antique cymbals), drum and various shakers. He even brought instruments to session I’d not even thought of one of which was a waterphone, you can see that in the photo and if you listen carefully to the music for Earthworks you will be able to hear it too!

The music team engaged a brilliant recording engineer Tom Ford and an exceptional cellist, Matthew Forbes (pictured below) who has also brought something really special to the music. I’m now incorporating this crucial live sound into the scores and very much looking forward to the next stage which is collaborating with Steve Atkinson, RSC’s in house sound designer. His talent, ideas and guidance have already infused my work and together we will hopefully serve these productions well. 

Cellist Matthew Forbes recording for The Earthworks and Myth.
Photo by Sarah Llewellyn © The artist Browse and license our images

The environment, the people, the history, the shows and work spaces I’ve had chance to experience here at the RSC continues to blow my mind. I do get back to my studio in London now and then and run ideas past my colleagues there. I’m still feeling very lucky, I know I would not be doing what I’m doing now without my close friends, family and musicians I’m blessed to have in my life. However I’m starting to feel more ‘at home’ in beautiful Stratford-upon Avon and already feel like I’m making new and meaningful connections here... I can’t wait to see what music and friendship they’ll inspire.

Sarah Llewellyn

Sarah Llewellyn

Sarah Llewellyn is a composer, sound designer and music director who writes for theatre, film and circus throughout the UK and internationally. She is currently the RSC’s composer in residence, from April to October 2017. Throughout this time Sarah will share her experiences, challenges and inspirations.

You are in: Blogs

You may also like