Title: Invisible jukebox
Author: Louise Gray
Source: The Wire
Publish date: May 1995
Every month we play a musician a series of records which they’re asked to identify and comment on with no prior knowledge of what they’re about to hear. This month it’s the turn of…
Tested by Louise Gray
A former star pupil at London’s Royal College Of Music, Anne Dudley is one of the most prolific arrangers, composers and producers in British music. Her name is linked to some of the more notorious moments in the last 15 years of British pop music. Working with producer Trevor Horn, she had a major involvement in recordings by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC, Malcolm McLaren and The Pet Shop Boys. Her 80s group The Art Of Noise, whose early use of digital sampling and editing has proved massively influential and prophetic, notched up hits like “Close (To The Edit)”, “Moments In Love” and a version of Prince’s “Kiss”, which featured Tom Jones on vocals. Since then she has recorded Songs From The Victorious City (1990) with Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, which sought ways to combine Eastern and Western tonalities. She has over 12 feature film soundtracks (including The Crying Game and Buster) to her credit, as well as numerous pieces of music for TV. Earlier this year, Dudley released her debut classical album of hymn settings, Ancient And Modern (Echo), to great acclaim. Now in her mid-thirties lives in the countryside outside London with her family.
“Common Tones In Simple Time” from The Chairman Dances (Elektra Nonesuch)
[Immediately] It’s John Adams… not Harmonielehre? No, it’s “Common Tones”. I haven’t heard this for ages. It’s lovely. He’s regained this wonderful passion for tonality, this ecstasy. He’s so slick with his rhythms I think it’s amazing how performance has developed in the 20th century. I went to a series of Boulez concerts, and heard things like Webern’s Opus 6, which I remember from college as a difficult and ugly thing. I think now that perhaps the recordings I’d previously heard weren’t good enough. Boulez coaxed such a smooth, sensuous performance out of the musicians, who had no difficulty with the piece. It’s interesting to see how something that’s innovative is difficult for the musicians to understand, and then it becomes part of their everyday experience. I think this has happened with Adams. In his early days, musicians found these pulsing rhythms and the idea of a continuous beat quite alien. Now they’re used to playing with click tracks, doing rock music, film music, it’s second nature. It’s easy. I’m sure that’s what Adams wanted.
The title of your piece on Ancient And Modern, “Three Chorales In Common Time”, suggested an association with Adams.
Not many people noticed that; you did, but not many others. I remember hearing “Christian Zeal And Activity” from this album, years ago, when we were doing the last Art Of Noise album. This was the track with the preacher on. I thought, ‘This is such a brilliant idea!’ I felt tremendously jealous that someone had got there first. Well, [Steve] Reich had really got there first, but this is less repetitive than “It’s Gonna Rain”, a little more musical, much as I like Reich. Adams’s idea of using hymn tunes - which are common to us all - started germinating in my mind at that time. I got myself a lot of Adams’s music at this time. The Wound Dresser was wonderful, although I heard his Violin Concerto recently and was a bit disappointed. Fiendish violin part. There’s a ghastly piece he did for synthesizer. What was it? Hoodoo Zephyr. But at his best, there’s a sense of wonder in Adams which I really love. It’s filmic in a way. It conjures up big landscapes.
HUSSEIN EL MASRY
“Sydy Ya” from Danses Orientales: Belly Dance In Cairo (Playasound)
I recognise the style. This reminds me of Jaz Coleman sitting here, about four years ago, playing Egyptian dance music. I don’t know the artist here. This is commercial Egyptian music and I think it’s this violin style that got Jaz going. The accordion player sounds like the chap we used on Songs From The Victorious City.
On that album, was it hard to work out a method in which you could combine Eastern and Western tonalities?
We didn’t have such a purist approach. We approached it as Westerners taking on some of the exotic elements of Eastern music. The whole idea of the album was one of fusion with these melodies and decorations. It was difficult to get the balance right. The more you listen to this sort of music, the more normal it sounds. If you’d never heard it, it would sound extraordinarily exotic. Perhaps we lost the plot a bit; we made it too Eastern, I think. A bit too unapproachable. That doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t great fun to do. As we speak, this album is Number One in Lebanon. In the Middle East, this record is big news.
How many copies have you sold?
Oh, we don’t sell any copies. It’s all bootlegged on cassettes and there are no royalties off the radio either. But a friend told me that every second track on Turkish radio came from Jaz and mine’s album, so we have made some impression, I suppose.
“Nightporter” from Best Of Synth Volume Two (Old Gold)
Satie? No, it’s a very conscious copy. I recognise this voice. David Sylvian, Japan. I haven’t heard it before.
In the 80s, Japan seemed to be one of those very knowing bands who played about with various styles.
Japan were around at the time I was working with ABC and Spandau Ballet. I’m not sure that this music has aged very well. People say to me, ‘What was it like being involved in such a classic album as ABC’s Lexicon Of Love?’ And I think, classic? Distance has lent some enchantment to that view. Fashion was tremendously important to New Romanticism, and one way that The Art Of Noise avoided being any part of that was by never having any photos circulated. We were very aloof. We used to release pictures of spanners in lieu of publicity shots. And those enigmatic press releases from Paul Morley that nobody understood. It wouldn’t have done to appear on Top Of The Pops with eyeliner… Actually, we did do “Close (To The Edit)” on TOTP once. We were heavily disguised in masks, huge coats and hidden behind banks of synthesizers.
“I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me” from The Complete Anthems And Services Volume Seven (Hyperion)
Is it Parry? Oh, Purcell? Well, Parry wrote “I Was Glad” as well. If it had not got to this stage, I’d have known that it wasn’t 20th century, but there was an extraordinary chord change at the beginning that really got me.
There’s something enduring about the English hymnal music…
That it’s sometimes difficult to spot which century it is? This choral tradition is so pervasive and the 20th century guys took it on wholeheartedly. This hasn’t got the same smoothness of The Sixteen Choir
What prompted your choral album?
Partially, it was hearing the sound of The Sixteen on one of those free CDs you get with classical magazines. I found it so beautiful. I felt that if I could just combine that sound with some of the ideas I had, everything would fall into place… I never had much involvement with this sort of music as I grew up. I wasn’t a very good singer, and I never played the organ. It’s always been there for me, but I come to it as an outsider. This is lovely. I’d rather listen to this than David Sylvian.
“Psycho” from Bernard Herrmann Film Scores (BMG)
[Immediately] Bernard Herrmann. Psycho I love it to death. Is this playing when Janet Leigh is driving? It is. If you see the sequence without music, it’s just this woman driving. With music, it’s tormenting. He’s very economical in his score: he only uses string and there are a lot of repeated figures. He’s been so influential in the development of film music. He realised that it’s not symphonic, it’s something else. You’re writing about emotion. It’s a very different way to approach structure.
Do you think film composers have suffered in comparison with ‘proper’ composers? Is there an attitude that writing for commercial gain is less worthy than starving and writing concertos?
Yes, I think there is. Elizabeth Lutyens, who wrote a lot of music for Hammer films, once said, ‘I write two types of music. My own, and film music.’ She obviously felt that her film music was not her real music and she disowned it. I think that’s terrible.
She wrote a lot of her film music under a pseudonym.
There you have it. But to return to musicians playing avant garde music; if they do film scores, they have to play a lot of weird stuff. So when they come to play avant garde things, it is less alien to them. Also, audiences, without realising it, hear the most atonal and challenging stuff on soundtracks, which acclimatises them to avant garde sounds. Herrmann has been a major influence for me in my film writing. Also, John Williams at his best. Jerry Goldsmith - excellent. Morricone. Rota I like, but he’s a lot more individual. Herrmann wanted to be taken seriously. He wrote some concert music. I haven’t heard it; it goes to show you how he wasn’t taken seriously. Maybe there won’t be such a division in the future.
“Lux Aeterna” cond by Helmut Franz (Deutsche Grammophon)
Ligeti. This was used on 2001 and I can’t remember what it’s called. Eternal Light. You know that story about that film’s score? They booked a composer to write it, and while he was writing, the editor started beavering away in his record collection. He pulled out a Strauss waltz, a bit of that, Also Sprach [Zarathustra], the Ligeti. It seemed to be so right that they went with what we call a temp score, which is the music they put on just for screenings, before the dub’s finished. So the poor old composer never got a look in. It was a bit like being the fifth Beatle.
When you’re trying to score a film scene in which nothing much is happening, except, perhaps, mental processes or intense emotions or even just a pendulous atmosphere, how do you put that into sound?
It’s so difficult to describe. Often you have to decide what it is that’s going on inside that character. Whatever you write has to fit in with the style of the rest of the music; there has to be a unity. Each cue can’t be different. It also depends on what stage of the film you’re at. At the beginning you can’t use the same intensity of expression that you can at the end. By the end, you’ve hopefully drawn the audience with you; at the start, the story is about to be revealed. There are so many factors involved. In the end, it has to be a direct response from yourself to what’s going on.
“Morning Prayers” from Abii Ne Viderem (ECM)
It’s lovely. Who is it?
A modern Georgian composer.
Not Pärt, then, or Szymanowski or Schnittke. This one’s a holy minimalist, isn’t he? It’s very filmic. I can see it, can’t you? It’s a big shot, very misty, a bit mysterious.
What do you make of the holiness of some minimalists and their popularity? Is it a fin de siècle phenomenon, with people trying to find something transcendental in a secular age?
Yes, but… I could happily listen to this without knowing what the text was. I could feel a sort of spirituality creeping across. But having said that, the texts are important. Anyone who thought that Górecki’s Third was a dirge would have to revise their views once they realised how intense the words were. The more you know of it, the more spiritual it becomes.
“Valley” from Orbvs Terrarvm (Island)
Is it The Orb, or something like that? One review of Ancient And Modern said that it made everything The Orb had ever done redundant. We went out and bought two albums - I blame my husband for that - put them on and waited for something to happen. It’s a bit like The Art Of Noise, it’s that kind of genre, but we would have made one four minute track out of material that they extend for an hour I guess I’m just not the sort of person who gets stoned. I want more stimulation than this. What this is lacking is wit. The Art Of Noise had a sense of humour. We used to throw in things that were a complete joke. But the idea of this lot doing anything funny - you’d tell them a joke and they’d laugh when they got home.
“Kiss” from Parade (Paisley Park)
Well, yes, I think I know what this is. I love it. Prince writes great pop songs and then deconstructs them. We took “Kiss” and did a very direct, rock ‘n’ roll version of it. Nothing subtle. This is the opposite; so small sounding, a little bit introverted and he’s singing in this ridiculously high voice. It’s very explicit; he’s singing about sex and yet the voice is tiny. On ours, Tom Jones sings it in full voice at about a fifth lower. Clare Fischer does some great arrangements on this album. The rumour is that Prince never meets Fischer, just sends him the tracks and lets him do his own thing. When Prince gets them back, he does odd things, like move the strings a bar behind the rhythm track or change the song… These string arrangements are, I think, tremendously influenced by The Beatles and George Martin. Their work was wonderful.
“What’s Goin’ On” from What’s Goin’ On (Motown)
Oh, “What’s Goin’ On”. Gaye. Keep this on. I still love this. There’s a wonderful arrangement of this by Quincy Jones and nobody seems to know it, which is a pity because it anticipates all sorts of developments in funk and jazz funk. But this original is monstrous. What makes a great pop song? Voice, arrangements, songs. Great congas. This has got everything. Much more overtly sexy than Prince. I never saw Gaye perform. The closest I got was seeing Teddy Prendergast some place in Victoria. It was over the top enough to seem like a Lenny Henry piss take. You know, “This is for all the ladies… yeah.” We sat there laughing. But this was the stuff I listened to most when I first got into pop music. The nice thing about Gaye is his extravagance. There are some nice ninths and elevenths. And the changes are really good, too: jazzy. It’s a tragedy that he died. A real waste.