Elysian Quartet are one of the UK’s most innovative young ensembles. They have worked with artists as diverse as virtuoso beat-boxer Killa Kela, jazz pianist Keith Tippett, and experimental electronic composer Simon Fisher-Turner. Next week, on Friday the 28th May at 7.30 they will accompany laugh a minute comedy starring the iconic Mary Pickford, My Best Girl as part of our Sound and Silents Season.
We are very much looking forward to your specially commissioned accompaniment for My Best Girl. Can you tell us a little bit about the process that took place between your first viewing of then film and creating the composition?
It isn’t a finished composition – it’s an improvised film score. We know what’s going to happen and when, but the actual notes that come out are all improvised apart from a few points where we have decided on a chord sequence, or an effect. There is nothing written down. We have been improvising whole gigs for a while now, so it was a natural progression to start improvising to film. When we received the film we watched it a few times, then we started working it out scene by scene, deciding what needed pointing out and what could be left.
You have been named the only British string quartet of your generation dedicated exclusively to contemporary and experimental music – how do you find belonging to such a unique niche rather than slotting into a main stream genre?
It happened by accident but it suits us fine. We are all progressives and enjoy playing all sorts of different kinds of music, but the group as a unit seemed to lend itself to experiment and improvisation. It soon became clear that we enjoyed playing that kind of music in this group more than anything else, and when people began to see that our repertoire was heavily weighted towards the contemporary then we got booked for work in that direction, and less of the traditional stuff. It gives us a recognisable image and people know what to expect from us, so it’s very useful actually in terms of getting booked for exciting work.
If you could remove the dialogue from any film and replace it with music which would it be?
Avatar. Rubbish and unintentionally hilarious script that is mostly entirely unnecessary.
What’s next for you? Any future projects in the pipeline?
We are working with Meredith Monk this summer on a big project that we’ll be taking to the Edinburgh Festival, which should be very interesting. There are more film projects coming up; we are excited about a film about Antarctica which we’ll be improvising to with Simon Fisher-Turner and Melanie Pappenheim in October this year. We are also hoping to do some recordings by the end of this year as we have a bunch of pieces in our repertoire that have never been recorded, but should have been! So watch this space!
For this event, My Best Girl accompaniment will feature two of the Quartet plus a very special appearance by the brilliant Sarah Scutt.