We took Adrian Utley, Will Gregory and Carl Theodor Dreyer on tour
Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Mark Cosgrove (Watershed's Cinema Curator) first met in the late 1990s, when Watershed screened the film of Portishead's performance at New York's Roseland Ballroom. Soon after, Mark was instrumental in getting the band’s video for 'Magic Doors' shown in independent cinemas around the UK.
Their collaborations have developed over time, with Adrian providing semi-improvised scores to a series of psychedelic 1960s films by visionary UK filmmaker Jeff Keen for our 'Birdman of Alkijazz' film and music evenings.
In 2010 Mark approached Adrian and Will (composer and one half of electropop aces Goldfrapp) with an idea to develop a new music composition for a silent feature. Knowing that films and film soundtracks had been a huge influence on both Will's and Adrian's musical aesthetic Mark knew they would be an inspiring creative combination to compose music to one of the absolute classics of the silent era.
And so Utley and Gregory created a musical score to the 1928 Expressionist classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by pioneering Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer. The powerful live score was conducted by Charles Hazlewood and included six electric guitars, percussion, synths, harp, a brass section and choir and, when combined with the intensity of Dreyer's cinema and the on-screen performances, it is an incredibly moving experience.
"I can’t really imagine having developed this interest as fully as I have, without Watershed’s facilities, knowledge and enthusiasm" – Adrian Utley
The score premiered in Bristol in May 2010 and has since been performed in Poland, Brighton and London plus Latitude Festival, WhiteLight Festival in New York and at the Portishead-curated I'll Be Your Mirror festival where over 3000 people stood in rapture at Alexandra Palace.
Joan's globetrotting is a real achievement – especially considering Dreyer's 1926 film was, for many years, seen in only a very fragmented form. It was lost for decades, and only rediscovered in 1981 in a Norwegian asylum.
The Passion of Joan of Arc continues to evolve to this day. At Watershed we always seek to involve and reach new, wider international audiences – who knows where she will travel to next?
Adrian says about his collaborations with Watershed…
"It's this enthusiasm and openness to new ideas that makes Watershed such a key enabler in Bristol culture. I simply can’t imagine Bristol's cultural life without it. The Watershed staff put their whole weight behind projects, both large and small. They are completely receptive to whatever ideas you have, without trying to censor them or destroy your enthusiasms."
Want to find out more about this project? You can watch a short film where Adrian, Will and conductor Charles Hazlewood discuss their development of the score below:
Mark has also written about the beginnings of the project, Watershed’s involvement, and how the score has developed a life of its own here.
Our most recent collaboration with Adrian and Will was in October last year as part of the BFI's blockbuster Sci Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder season.
Watershed presented a screening of eco-themed sci-fi classic Silent Running in the magnificent Eden Project, Cornwall, against a backdrop of Biomes that inspired the design of massive greenhouses in the film.
Adrian and Will created a specially commissioned audio soundscape inspired by Sci Fi’s sounds of fear and wonder in the Mediterranean Biome where audiences could listen to a truly out of this world combination of undulating tones, pulses, and electronic sounds.
The pair talk more about Eden being a “living sci-fi” in the video below: