Rain Falling Up - Mixed media work for orchestra, children’s chorus, community chorus, live animator and narrator.

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Mar 2010

Bibliographical note

Commissioned by Ulster Orchestra. Premiered Waterfront Hall, Belfast, March, 2010, by the Ulster Orchestra, massed primary school chorus (400 singers), Matthew Robbins (animator), Star Singers Community Choir, residents of the Loughview residential care home and Sharon Thompson (narrator).

“Rain Falling Up” integrates specially developed visual techniques with orchestral, choral, sampled and narrated elements. It reflects on, and develops, current aesthetics and practices of compositional layering and collaboration. In particular, it explores the expanded narrative possibilities of combined musical and visual experience when unfamiliar improvisatory elements are introduced. Building on previous works by the composer (e.g. “Montana Strange” in RAE2008) that combine multiple improvisers, conductors and orchestras, “Rain Falling Up” is a choral/orchestral landscape over which free improvisers perform – but in this case those improvisers are visual animators. The landscape in this case was created as part of a process of collaboration between principal animator and composer: ‘blocks’ of music were composed in response to visual sketches, and the overall character and storytelling possibilities of the piece were in turn shaped through response to these musical blocks, as well as by the text. Thus the particular nature of the creative collaboration is composed into the score as well as uniquely instantiated in performance.

Designed to engage and connect with both young audiences and young performers, and to complement John McIlduff’s zany text, the visuals were inspired by Chinese lantern/shadow puppetry and performed via a specially developed technique that involved an overhead projector, light box and screen. Each movement of the piece has its own folio of image cuttings as well as other, ‘uncut’ figures. These form the basis of improvisation in real time by a small team of animators.

“Rain Falling Up” was nominated for a British Composers Award in 2012 and has been performed in Italy, France and Ireland (RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with over 1000 children). Future performances are scheduled in China, Chicago (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Russia.

The work has led to further visual/musical commissions: from RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Wide Open Opera (Dublin), Music Network, NI Opera.
Composition type: Orchestral, choral

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