Showing another side of the acclaimed songwriter...
Robin Richards x Clara Caslan

The Chernobyl disaster decimated a huge area of Ukraine, leaving great swathes to be abandoned.

An amusement park in the nearby city of Pripyat was due to open only a few days after the accident occurred, and - with the evacuation under way - authorities decided to open the doors and let people in anyway.

In the 30 years that have since passed, few have entered the empty, ghostly amusement park. Clara Caslan took a documentary team out to the Ukraine to film a documentary about the area, it's history, and devastated presence.

The resulting film Birdsong: Stories From Pripyat received a classical score from Dutch Uncles' creative lynchpin Robin Richards.

The songwriter will take the project out on the road, playing a handful of concerts to air the material. Clash invited Robin to pen a few words on the composers who prompted the project.

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Igor Stravinsky - 'Augurs Of Spring'

The premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet ‘The Rite of Spring’ in Paris in 1913 famously caused riots. A majority of the audience found the complex harmonies and wild dynamics insulting. It has since however, been hailed as one of the most groundbreaking pieces of music of the 20th century. I remember when I first heard this movement from the piece and instantly loved the dramatic rhythmic pulsing pattern that carries it through. Dense and delightful.

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Jeff Beal - 'Melancholia'

The soundtrack for Netflix original ‘House of Cards’ really caught my ear as I power-watched all four seasons in a couple of days earlier this year. I really enjoyed the way composer Jeff Beal has certain recurring motifs that reflect certain characteristics of main protagonists Frank and Claire. For example, the piece ‘Claire’s Dream House’ often appears during her more deceptive moments in the series. The section ‘Melancholia’ reveals Beal’s skills in suddenly shifting mood through subtle key changes and sporadic atonality, which again reflect Frank’s shifting persona.

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Steve Reich - 'Different Trains'

An absolute classic by Dutch Uncles’ hero Steve Reich. Reich's inspiration for the piece came from train journeys he made between New York and LA to visit family during World War II. He considered that being Jewish could mean that had he been in Europe at the time, he may have been travelling on Holocaust trains. I love the way Reich has sampled train announcements, worked out the melodic movement of the spoken phrase and then transcribed the music for orchestral instruments to accompany the chugging, train-like ensemble. A really powerful piece.

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Jonny Greenwood - 'Proven Lands'

I think that Jonny Greenwood’s score for ‘There Will Be Blood’ is one of the most interesting soundtracks of the last ten years or so. Unlike a lot of contemporary film compositions which have the tendency to be predictable and generic, almost to the point of giving the context of next scene away, Greenwood’s pieces that make up the score for this film are all intricate and interesting, enhancing the scenes they are in. He uses the string ensemble as a rhythm section in 'Proven Lands’.

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Kate Bush - 'Houdini'

Taken from Kate Bush’s often underrated fourth album ‘The Dreaming’, ‘Houdini’ is a very interesting piece written from the perspective of Harry Houdini’s wife, Bess. The lyrics descirbe her struggles with her husband’s constant life-threatening tricks. Bush composed a piece that goes through several dynamically shifting movements reflecting these struggles.

In the beautiful final section of Houdini, the string quartet bounces off a chorus-laden fretless bass, and these arrangements have been an inspiration on the way I have tried to use bass guitar as a lead instrument alongside classical instruments in my work.

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Catch Birdsong: Stories From Pripyat being performed live:

September
30 Manchester HOME

October
6 Stockport Stockport Plaza
7 Salford Peel Hall, University of Salford

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