Composing the Walk-in Music for The Flower Maker's Tale

The Flower Maker's Walk is the title we've given to a piece of original music written and recorded to accompany the walk-in (when the audience comes into the auditorium and takes their seats) for our upcoming show The Flower Maker's Tale. It's a one-woman play, which will be performed by my daughter, Louise Bloor. The first performance will be at the From The Forest Festival, in Waltham Forest, London, on 30th June 2018. The whole production is something of a family affair. The music is played and arranged by my sister, the oboe player Jennifer Murray. She plays both oboe and cor anglais on this piece. Here's how we went about composing and recording it.

Jennifer Murray recording The Flower Maker's Walk

I wanted to use the sounds of some original flower maker's tools as a starting point for the music. I began by taking the audio recording of a flower maker's veining press from the soundtrack to my documentary film The Last of the Flower Makers. I put this audio on a loop. The veiner can be heard grinding and clinking in the background throughout the piece. I added some percussive beats next, made by tapping veining moulds and other flower making hand-tools together. The effect has a kind of mechanical, clockwork feel to it, which suits the content of the play, in which the ticking away the minutes as the main character waits out a police siege and tries to talk her way free from a gun-toting anarchist, is central to the story.

I then added some sparse instrumentation, ukulele arpegios, muted guitar, brushed snare drum, based on a very simple repeating chord pattern in C minor, the key suggested by Jennifer as being conducive to her ideas for the piece. We wanted something that hinted at the period (the play is set in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War One), and at the setting (London's East End), but which would also work well as our walk-in music, which needs to have something of an ambient quality to it since it is essentially background music.

Jennifer composed the oboe and cor anglais lines and we recorded them over two sessions. We wanted a raw, spontaneous feel to the recordings, something that would chime with the idea of the streets of the old East End. When we had everything we needed down on tape, Jen devised a structure for the piece. I did some post-production, and Jen tried some variations on the structure until we finally agreed on a finished mix. It might seem like a lot of trouble to go to just for some walk-in music, but these are the sort of details that I enjoy working on when putting a live show together.

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