Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Saved is a multi-layered, retro-mechanical music show built around rescued 70s home organs. Turned inside out, their internal spinning speakers are exposed for us to see as well as hear. Along with cassettes, a turntable, AM radios and a modified whisk, Saved celebrates an analogue era where A-B-C Fun Block and One Finger Chord buttons captivated our imagination.
Hi Graeme thank you for talking with The New Current.
Thank you - my pleasure. Thank you for the interesting questions.
You’re welcome. How have you been keeping?
I am keeping very well and enjoying this prep period before my Edinburgh run.
How does it feel to be bringing Saved to ZOO Southside this summer?
Too good to be true! I’ve waited such a long time to play a live season of SAVED. I can’t wait to be performing for an audience.
SAVED was part of the 2021 Made in Scotland Showcase, what was that experience like for you?
We decided to present the show digitally and concentrated on making a beautiful film version which would still capture the intricacies of the performance. Playing to camera was new for me and I found it hard at first. It was an exciting opportunity to share the work with audiences when we couldn’t all be together in the theatre.
Has there been any changes between the digital and live versions of Saved?
The digital version was essentially filmed in one take, with a few additional cutaways and closeups, so there are no changes! A big difference is the lighting design by Dave Shea that was not part of our filmed version. This will add a whole new dimension for the live performances this year.
The reviews for Saved have been incredible, what has it meant to you to know that you show has really connected with audiences in such a profound way?
I have always tried to make work that is accessible to a broad age range and does not require any prior musical understanding in order to appreciate it. At the same time, I would like the composition lecturer or the professional musician to also find the work engaging. I am heartened to learn that, at 61, I might have finally worked out how to do this!
What does Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?
A golden opportunity! A hugely competitive and over-crowded space that truly tests whether a show works or not. Of course I am hoping for explosive word-of-mouth and sold-out houses, but I am eyes-wide-open and know that there will be days when I am playing to two-and-a-dog. Having played the film to an empty room I’m confident I can pull out a good show for any audience of one or more…
Can you tell me a little bit about how Saved came about, what was it about the magic of sound that inspired you to create this show?
The organs themselves were the inspiration. In a 2018 small town project in Australia we called for donations of junk. We transformed these items into an orchestra - well, a ‘Junkestra’ - and quite a few organs arrived at the depot. I fell in love with these instruments. They are beautifully built and have a lovely, warm analogue sound with great low end. They sold new in the 70s for around £1600 - the equivalent of a new car in today’s money. Why have they lost value? I paid £2 and £10 for the organs in my show.
"Accept the things that you are interested in as your possible pathways to the future."
How best would/could you describe the joy and happiness you get from the everyday sounds around you?
I am not sure if it is a blessing or a curse! Apparently as a wee child I would ask my Mum if she could hear the music in the cars. It’s not so much joy and happiness for me as an infinite wellspring of inspiration, ever changing and always surprising. If you need a musical idea you just need to stop and listen.
Did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that unapologetically celebrates the analogue era?
Not at all. I’m fascinated by the idea of Music Technology, and consider anything you use to make music as such - a computer, a cassette tape, a violin, a microphone, a clarinet. Lately, the march of technology is very rapid and there can be a debilitating belief that you need to invest in all the latest kit before you can start to make anything. Nonsense. There’s plenty of music still to be made with ‘old’ technology. Look at the violin. Use what you’ve got! Use what is freely available! AND - will you still be making music with that £3000 computer in 50 years?
Where did your passion for music come from?
Well, my Mum was a beautiful piano player and my first teacher. My parents had regular singalongs with their friends and Mum played for those. My Dad, a Postmaster, sang around the house all the time. He did a great Mario Lanza impersonation. My sister was a very fine classical pianist - her long hours of practice were the soundtrack to my life at home. Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mozart. And my brother was a brilliant improviser who could sit and make up stuff for hours at the piano.
There were musicians and artists on both sides of my family. I had a great uncle who was a one-man band, and there were some circus performers, tap dancers and a jockey in there too. Another great uncle was a brilliant trumpeter, sadly killed in World War 1 in his early 20s.
How much has your approach to your music creation changed since you started out?
I started composing while still at high school, and started making my own performance pieces in my late 20s. The big change for me was in my 30s - I realised that my practice included making instruments, playing with electronics and music tech, photography and video processing, and embracing a humorous, theatrical character. Once I accepted these things, instead of beating myself up because I wasn’t doing my 8 hours a day marimba training, I was away.
Do you have any advice or suggestions you would offer anyone wanting to get into music?
Find an inspiring artist and copy their aesthetic - try it for yourself and make it your own. Find an inspiring teacher. If your lessons are not inspiring, if you are not looking forward to your next lesson - change teacher! Accept the things that you are interested in as your possible pathways to the future.
And finally, do you have any tips you could offer your fringe audience about how they might begin to appreciate the sounds around them?
Try just sitting still and listening. Stop talking. Try to dissociate the sound from the object making the sound and hear it for the beautiful music that it is. Listen.