I’m in Glasgow working as composer and musician for a new show called Guide Gods. I worked with Claire (Cunningham) some years back in two aerial dance shows she performed in with Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company, directed by Jess Curtis. Featuring prominently in the soundtracks for both those shows were voices – speaking, not singing, but woven into the musical fabric of the sound scores.
You will hear voices in this show too – the voices of people Claire has interviewed over recent weeks and months, as they described to her their relationship to disability and their relationship to, well, God, or gods, or indeed no god. It was a journey of enquiry that began for Claire in Cambodia, chatting to a Buddhist monk – but she’ll tell you about that, in her voice.
You’ll also hear her sing, and me play a harmonium – Ivor Cutler fans will be familiar with the model, a “missionary” instrument, used to take musical worship to places ordinary organs could not reach… I’m reliably informed they were deployed on the beaches not far from Glasgow. When they reached the Indian sub-continent, Indian musicians appropriated them, put the bellows on the back, to be played sitting on the floor, and in this form they are used to accompany prayer and song in both Sikh and Hindu temples. I like the way instruments and musical styles evolve like this, crossing borders and cultures, without going through Passport Control.
Several other voices have joined us in the rehearsal room so far – Tom, voice of the audience, helping unlock the humour and visual counterpoint to the words and music, Karen, Designer, Chris, Audio Describer, who is cast, not entirely frivolously, as the Voice of God, and Captioner, Louisa, who will give a simultaneous transcription for deaf and hearing-impaired audience members. Making the show accessible to anyone who wants to experience it is a central part of Claire’s vision – and involving these voices from an early stage ensures that the access solutions, far from being a bolt-on, will be integral and will become a beneficial part of every audience member’s experience.
So, back to work on the show – Guide Gods is part of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 cultural programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival. Hope you can join us on its journey.