Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unaffected terror, Thom Fletcher and ruling themes

Towards the end of recording a poetry score - a long poem scored as one scores a film - it seems like we always end up with one scrap of the poem with some music dedicated to it for a spoken word treatment, but no reader in mind (for whatever reason, the poet's own voice already having been passed over as not quite right for the part), and we make a last mad scramble to find the right voice.

With our score to Les Murray's The Sydney Highrise Variations, our Grammy-nominated house engineer Adam Long and I had recorded a mockup of my voice on a stretch of the poem that will be entitled "Employment and Neckties and Ruling Themes" once it is fitted into the score, with a voice delivering the poem over an old improvisation by Middle Sleep.

As I posted up earlier, it was felt that we needed a sad old Australian voice to deliver the lines. The poet Les Murray's voice is certainly Australian, but it's tone is not quite right for the music we had toggled out for this part of the score, and when I recorded Les reading in Long Island City years ago he just blazes through these stanzas, whereas I wanted a more thoughtful, halting pace.

Not finding anyone Australian, I would have settled for just sad and old and longed for Pops Farrar, our go-to guy for such assignments before he died. Then I decided I would settle for just sad, and that was when I thought about the character of my friend Thom Fletcher's voice, which has a halting sadness to it, among other registers.

Thom is married to Stefene Russell, who came through as the last-minute reader in the clutch when Adam and I were stranded at just this point on scoring Blind Cat Black, when she came in at the zero hour to double my own reading of the very end of the poem. That case was similar to where we were on "Employment and Neckties and Ruling Themes" - I liked the pacing, phrasing and mood of my reading, but my voice was weak.

So I asked Thom and Stef to come in and both double my reading, attempting to match it phrase for phrase, which they did really well; and then Adam and I sifted through all of the takes, including mine and Les Murray's, and assembled a composite.

We decided to keep Thom's as the lead voice. It does have that sad, halting character I remembered and desired. Also, this was the first time Thom had done anything of this sort, and (as he said) our recording of his voice captured "real terror - unaffected terror".

Real terror, unaffected terror: I hadn't known it, but that was just what was needed. Then we dropped in Stef, Les and me, here and there, as accents. I think it really works.


"Employment and neckties and ruling themes"
(Middle Sleep, Les Murray)
Music by Middle Sleep
Poetry by Les Murray
Reading by Thom Fletcher, Stefene Russell and Les Murray
Produced by Chris King
Engineered by Adam Long


That's my photo of Thom holding up the poem for Stef to read it from Thom's Flickr. Hey, if he can make a came on my poetry score as reader, I can make a cameo on his Flickr as shooter.

No comments: