Following an exciting week of work at Arnolfini, Ferment Fortnight continues its work-in-progress mini-fest in our theatre from 18-20 July. Here, composer, director and performer Verity Standen gives an inside look at her upcoming show Undersong, on-stage Tue 18 July.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
Howdy. My name is Verity – I’m a composer based in Bristol. I very much enjoy experimenting with the human voice. I’ve been creating unusual vocal performances for around 10 years: sometimes with choirs, sometimes as part of theatre productions, occasionally in surprising places like castles and hospitals, often with people who have never received any formal training. And when I’m not working on big participatory projects, I like to challenge myself with new musical ideas.
What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
Undersong – at the moment – is a series of experiments. I have written some new musical material and this week I have gathered some brilliant singers to play with those ideas. We’re trying to explore different ways that an audience might experience the music – with singers filtering through them, surrounding them, singing across them – I want to discover how that feels for people listening.
I hope that Undersong will become a large-scale piece of work, with a big ensemble of performers. As part of Ferment we are challenging ourselves to create these effects with just 6 singers. My work doesn’t tend to use words or narrative ideas, so these early stages are really important for starting to sense what people make of the sound worlds.
What inspired/influenced your piece?
I’m always inspired by human behaviour: how fickle and complex we are as creatures. I write music by improvising, and it’s often quite a while later that I realise what I was actually drawing from. Musically, I’m interested in gathering together my love of eastern European sounds (Bulgarian and Georgian folk songs, for instance) with contemporary composers like Philip Glass.
What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
I’m often working on something that feels utterly ridiculous and I need people outside that process to help me work out what it is. But it’s important that those people come with a spirit of experiment and support – and that’s why Ferment is so important, because audiences arrive with a desire to discuss and to consider rather than to judge.
What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Intricacy. Discombobulation. And hopefully a little bit of beauty.
Ferment Fortnight returns to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre stage 18-20 July. For more info and to book tickets, click here.