28/10/2014 12:47 GMT | Updated 28/12/2014 05:59 GMT

Chaos to Order: Setting Song to Film

I'm so exciting about an upcoming commission. The band Everything Everything have been asked to curate a week of performances at Manchester Central Library (10 -15 Nov 2014), and the theme they have chosen is 'Chaos to Order'. Now, the library holds a significant portion of the Northwest Film Archive, and in association with HOME (a multi-screen cinema and arts complex launching next year), my role in 'Chaos to Order' is to write a series of songs inspired by the NWFA footage. These songs will then be performed live on 13 November, against a backdrop of the footage, as edited my Asta Films.


At first, having never created a film score before, I didn't know how to begin. (Although, writing for film has always been a bubbling little dream of mine, now come true.) The first thing I did was to spend numerous hours in the pods inside Manchester Central Library, going through archive footage and trying to tease out a link between the images and the theme: 'Chaos to Order'. Eventually, there seemed to be a recurrent connection. It was like a circle, a sort of catch 22, moving from leisure activities in the early 1900s to the strictures used to restrain that leisure and its participants. Then back around again, to chaotic scenes of people learning to enjoy their new leisure time, yet being restrained and ashamed of being pictured at play(Chaos, Order; Order, Chaos and so on, and so on).

So, I had found a theme, but how to express it? Well, for the last few weeks I have been speed writing ideas on my computer. Lines and lines about society functions and 20s dance halls; families on British seaside holidays; the thrill of going out at night; the new found joy of the weekend. After that, it has been edit, edit, edit. Lastly, an enlivening process of setting the words to melodies and chords - the fundamentals.

The process is so powerful and motivating (and not only because of the time constraints; deadlines can be marvellous things). Such strong imagery can provide direction to writing that you just don't get by sitting down in front of a blank page every morning. The images, from the culture of a by-gone age, are wonderful, and a natural inspiration for song. I don't think I've ever had songs come to life so soon before.

Katie, the producer of the event, suggested a title for my coming performance, 'Chaos to Order: Celluloid History Songs'. It's a fitting title, which I may keep if I come to record the songs as a project. I hope there're many more of these "song and film" projects to come, and I'll certainly be blogging about the results of the event on 13 November. As for the larger project, for Manchester's HOME next year, I'll be writing music for a much larger piece, a challenge that, now, I can't wait to begin.

For more info about this event and the people involved, here some links:

Josephine Celluloid History Songs

Northwest Film Archive

Asta Films

Everything Everything

Manchester Central Library Events

HOME Manchester