Fresh from the launch of his debut solo album, Entanglement, I speak to veteran TV and film composer Michael Price about stepping into a new musical world.
Odds are if I was to say the word 'Sherlock' to you, it would instantly conjure up images of the London skyline and Benedict Cumberbatch's slightly odd face. However one element of the show that has also burrowed its way into your synapsis (whether you've noticed or not) is the evocative score.
Michael Price, the man behind the aforementioned Sherlock score, is part of a bright new crop of composers. Having started out creating music for contemporary dance pieces, he moved to working in film and TV under the tutorage of the late Michel Kamen and has now taken all he's learned and siphoned it into his first album of solo compositions.
Along with his contemporaries such as Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson, Price is embracing new ideas and technologies to create music that is based in the traditions of chamber orchestras, but is startlingly modern, and bathed in emotion. Currently being championed by the likes of Mary Anne Hobbs, it is likely that fans of modern minimalist music will soon have a new poster boy.
I caught up with Michael shortly after the release of, his debut, Entanglement to get his take on the inspirations behind the album.
Your debut album, Entanglement, is the result of two years work, can you tell me a little about the concept of the album?
Entanglement is the product of many of my obsessions and preoccupations, about how music is recorded, about quantum physics, about love and art. So you could say it's a musical document of everything I care about.
When did you begin composing the music for this album away from your film and television projects?
I've always composed music away from film and TV, but for quite a few years the screen work seemed to have taken up most of my time. I felt it was time to readdress the balance. So after releasing an EP of string quartets, "A Stillness", with Erased Tapes two years ago, I started writing the tracks that became Entanglement.
How does the writing process differ between the music you write for film and your own music?
It's fundamentally different, and so liberating. With film and TV, the structure of the music is defined by the shape of the scene, and the emotional journey of the characters. You're always supporting, and trying to make the film the best it can be, rather than putting the ego of the music, and the composer at the forefront. It's a joy to create stand-alone musical structures that are the way they are because the material goes that way, to let the music flow and grow.
There seems to be a very open mix of technologies on the album. You sampled street sounds using a mobile phone and recorded parts of "The Attachment" on a 1940's magnetic disc. Was there a thought process behind this mix?
We're in an incredibly rich time for recording and making music. We've got a century and a half of recorded music behind us, and so many new ways to capture sound. I don't think that new technologies always replace old ones, they're just different. There is something about the ceremony of putting a record on a turntable that encourages a different state of mind, than scanning down a list of tracks in Spotify.
I think making sense of how technology is transforming how we make, distribute and consume art is fascinating and important right now.
I understand that your love of psychics is part of what inspired this album. Tell me how science has influenced your art?
As the son of a physics teacher and a biology teacher, I've always been fascinated by the natural world, and particularly the metaphors and theories we use to try and understand it. Where quantum physics is at right now is so spectacularly mind-bending, that I can't help finding connections with the emotional world.
The soprano vocals on the album, performed beautifully by Ashley Knight, are actually English translations of Japanese poetry. Who is the poet (poets?) and what made you decide to use them?
Texts are really interesting - I wanted to find something that felt ancient, but simple, and the two poems, one from the 9th century and one from the 18th, are both about ageing and the turning of the seasons. Japanese poetry has such a strong connection with these subjects, it felt like a natural source.
I understand you started out creating music for a contemporary dance troupe. Has that influenced you throughout your career?
Contemporary dance is a great grounding for film and TV, in that you're collaborating right from the word go. And it's also very free and creative. In my early twenties I wrote the music for a dance chamber opera called All the Garden Gold about the Pre-Raphaelite movement, so Entanglement is in lots of ways a return home.
How did you become involved in film and Television work for the first time?
I got a job as assistant to the late Michael Kamen, the fabulous composer of everything from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, to Band of Brothers. The five years I spent working with him was the best apprenticeship anyone could hope for.
What is next for you? Can we expect more solo material?
I'm working out how to play Entanglement live and am already working on ideas for more solo music. It feels like I'm on the right path now.
Entanglement is out April 13 on Erased Tapes www.erasedtapes.com
For more information on Michel Price go to www.michaelpricemusic.com