When I was asked to produce a performance with musicians in response to an exhibition about Leicester’s industry, it was an easy choice. Peter Wyeth of course. I’d seen him perform years ago and was blown away with his loop pedal skills a long time before we even met properly, and he’d recently taken a field recording of mine and ‘Wyethed’ it with his wonderful, delicate loops, guitar riffs and vocals. We were both in agreement that the performance needed something else special and were both big fans of drumming girl duo Rattle– who turned out to be available (after their tour of Barcelona!) and the perfect choice for the show on Thursday 27 July at Attenborough Arts Centre.
The Workforce Symphony, a soundtrack I produced for the Leicester: Memories of Industry exhibition at AAC was split up into single sound files, including sounds of machinery, people working in factories and interviews with retired industrialists, and then shared with Peter and Rattle to re-hash and interpret for the performance.
After several meetings and lots of emails sharing ideas and music samples, we got together at lunchtime on the day of the performance to set the stage and rehearse. With the support of g8 artists (who exhibited new work as part of the LMOI exhibition) we decided on the seating arrangements, staging, artwork and collections. We knew we wanted the space to be intimate so that the audience could see as much as possible, especially the artwork on the screens and on stage and Peter working on the floor with Rattle, using all sorts of gadgets, sculptures and objects as unconventional instruments.
The performance had a changing tempo, which matched the idea of factory life and working long hours by mimicking the rhythmic sounds of machinery using a variety of percussive instruments, guitar (with violin bow), drums, field recordings, loop pedal and a pair of iron cobbler’s shoes and hammer. Peter’s melancholic vocals accompanied the sounds to describe a routine walk through the city of Leicester on his way to work, describing the buildings, shops and factories that he once saw, which have now gone.
All of this was part improvised-part rehearsed to create a collaborative response full of touching harmonies and melodies combined with lots of booming drums to produce crescendos of thunderous experimental but playful music. It was the first time Peter and Rattle had performed it as a special one-off performance and I’m proud to have been a part of it. Thanks to everyone that made it happen and came to see the show.