My collaboration with Carolina Herrera began with a Google Alert. With my music appearing in so many different places, including many of which I have no prior knowledge, I have set up a Google Alert on my name to help with discoveries of any new and exciting music uses. This was one such occasion.
Javier Peral, Carolina Herrera's long time music director, had been interviewed in the New York Times about the music he had used for the Herrera show in September 2011 and this included both Paganini Rocks and my remake of Daft Punk's Aerodynamic.
I wrote to Javier to introduce myself and we struck up a dialogue, and he mentioned that that particular show had been one of Herrera's favourites from a musical point-of-view. Then, during one of their regular meetings together, Mrs Herrera proposed that I write a specially commissioned piece.
I came out to New York Fashion Week February 2012 to meet Carolina and her team, attend the show, and discuss the project with everyone. This was extremely helpful in understanding the nature of the project and the vital importance of the music during the runway show. It is an enormous spectacle- 1000 people in the Lincoln Centre, a giant PA system, hundreds of photographers, 40 models and 40 unique Herrera designs.
The 'norm' at fashion shows is to ask a DJ to play and mix four or five tunes, which will be discussed by the fashion house in the month preceding but perhaps decided upon only days or in some cases, the night before.
As I watched the show I found the music's role was quite clearly defined- to help create drama, to propel the models along the catwalk and to help the audience make an immediate emotional connection to the clothes they were seeing.
It was easy to imagine straight away that with only one composer providing the musical content, there would be great potential for creating something much more coherent, seamless and synchronised with a collection than normal. At that time, I had no idea of course that Mrs Herrera would come to acknowledge the music I was going to write as being the actual inspiration for the collection.
It was decided I would write a five-six minute piece for NWFW February 2013, which combined with additional remixing from Javier Peral, would provide the soundtrack to the show. I started work in the summer of 2012 so I was very lucky to have plenty of time to explore ideas.
Certain technical parameters were clear. We needed a strong pulse and a tempo that would suit the catwalk. The musical content needed to be robust enough to cope with a four-on-the-floor remix too. Some kind of minimalist compositional approach seemed the most likely.
The instrumentation also largely took care of itself, and everyone certainly had Paganini Rocks in mind as a reference: piano is a favourite with Carolina for thematic material, strings for a certain cinematic and balletic drama, and an array of mallet instruments to provide a certain magical, sparkling quality. It is palette of instruments that sit beautifully together.
As well as this, the overall brief was to bring passion and drama and crucially to find something that was simultaneously modern yet timeless, and this is where we came to Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for inspiration. Beethoven is a personal favourite of Carolina and I felt that whatever modern direction the composition and remixes took, the music would always retain a certain unmistakable 'Beethoven-ness' due to the weight and robustness of his themes.
So I took a couple of short motifs from the Kreutzer Sonata and began to develop a piece. I then submitted a one-minute sketch of this and various other ideas to Carolina, Javier and the team. I am told the Kreutzer idea jumped out straight away, as being the 'one' and over the course of the next few months, and various bits of feedback via Javier from the New York, the piece slowly grew into Capriccio for Carolina.
With Carolina in attendance, we recorded Capriccio in December at Abbey Road Studio 2 with the LCO providing 22 strings, conducted by Hugh Brunt. I added Marcus Tilt on piano, Rob Farrer on mallets and Tim Fairhall on bass to complete the sound.
I only realised the unique and unprecedented importance that the music had taken on when John Ortved (the same journalist whose NYT article had spawned that Google alert 18 months ago) published a piece a few days before Fashion Week about the project in which Mrs Herrera announced, "The moment I heard the music, I saw the whole thing in my head."
It actually really struck me then also what a brave choice Carolina Herrera had made, commissioning a new work from an 'up-and-coming' such as myself. "Fashion is about finding something new and inspiring," she remarked.
Fashion Week itself was a whirlwind. The collection and the music was extremely well received. And I felt there were moments of connection, synchronisation and flow that really would have been impossible to achieve in any other way than by commissioning an original work. Let's hope for all composers' sakes, this starts a trend!
I was asked many times how I felt writing music that inspired the collection. Overwhelmed, still. I think it is fair to say that in most people's lives, music provides a great source of inspiration. I am delighted and honoured that in this case, it was my music that did the inspiring for such an iconic designer as Carolina Herrera.
Capriccio for Carolina is available on iTunes from the 15th of April here.