Making the visual audible

Composer Robert Laidlow looks to puzzles and film editing for inspiration on his collaborative piece with the Southampton Concert Wind Band (SCWB) as part of our Adopt a Composer project.

In the past couple of months, the piece I have been working on with SWCB has taken me to exciting new places in my compositional language. In this blog I’d like to speak about the structure and overall vision behind the work, and how this has manifested itself. Next time I’ll be talking about the collaborative process the band and I went through in order to come up with the ideas used throughout the piece.

My first ideas were of a puzzle, slowly assembling itself as the piece went along.

In describing this to the band, however, I found myself using similes rooted in film: narrative order, cuts between scenes, story arcs of different characters meeting at different points and so on. I soon realised that this was actually a very interesting direction to go in, and as I went on with the piece became more and more interested in cinematographic editing techniques: particularly those of the jump cut, match cut, long shot and long take.

  • The jump cut is a cut that removes small amounts of space in an edit to create a weird and wacky flow to the narrative.
  • The long shot is when the camera zooms out to show the entire set, cast or crew.
  • The match cut is when two or more unrelated ideas –the entire set, cast, crew and perhaps part of the backstage too– are juxtaposed without context.
  • The long take is when an entire scene or sequence of events is shot in one go, with no edits or different takes.

It’s usually used as a way to build up subconscious tension, as the mind is used to edits, and as a test of acting and directing skill. This one is harder to represent in a blog, so I haven’t tried. An amazing example of this is a simply enormous long take in the film Children of Men which is the crowning glory of this film. There are also famous ones all over, such as in Pulp Fiction and Gravity. Confusingly, it’s also frequently referred to as a long shot.

I really wanted to use these ideas in the piece, as they interested me and really resonated with the band as something less abstract that the piece could aspire to.

The piece, “Jumpcut/Longshot”, is in the process of its final composition and edits at the moment, ahead of our next meeting at the end of March for our May concert. Musical ideas are starkly juxtaposed in the first half, especially those using free notation and other ideas that came from the band and have since been workshopped and developed. These become more and more disjointed before the environment breaks down altogether. These ideas are then stitched back together, like a patchwork, over one extended development, without cuts, that brings together for the first time the entire ensemble.


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The Adopt a Composer project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising composers to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a première performance and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. If you’re a music group or composer and you’d like to take part, find out more.