Monday, 10 November 2014

Glasgow's War goes live November 11th - Part One

Memorial image from Glasgow's War

Glasgow's War is a large scale son et lumiere commission from Glasgow City Council. Ross Ashton of The Projection Studio and myself have created this 27 minute long historical based work to commemorate the city of Glasgow and her citizens involvement in the First World War.

I thought I'd take this first opportunity to talk about the research process and the support we have received in creating the sound for it.

It has been several months in the making. Research has been intense and I spent a great deal of time in a number of archives in the city: the City Life archives at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow University and Strathclyde University archives have been enormously supportive as well as the archives for the Highland Light Infantry, housed at the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum and the archives for The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) held by South Lanarkshire Council at Hamilton.

Women munition workers in Glasgow

It became clear the Glaswegians of the time left so much material that the city should tell its own story. Everything you hear has been taken from documents of the time and read by one of 12 volunteers, all of whom are Glaswegian, to form the sound. 
Each volunteer has their own personal story that has brought them to this project. From being vitally interested in the City's history, through to being blood descendants of men who served in the war itself, their enthusiasm and willingness to dive into this history with me was a moving experience.

From a sound perspective, I have used a number of different pieces of popular music, taken from gramophone transfers. Music hall culture in particular was a lively one. The music here doesn't just supply a background but forms part of the voices telling this story. Lyrics in many songs reveal attitudes of the time and a study of the most famous songs through to lesser known songs reveals a journey of changing attitudes from 1910-1919.

One inclusion I'm delighted to have included a recording of Harry Lauder raising money for injured Scottish soldiers in 1917, a rare spoken recording of probably Scotland's most famous music hall star. 

Where at all possible, I have scoured documents for any descriptions of music and sound of the time. This has heavily informed some parts of the piece, such as the recreation of the march back to the barracks in Maryhill in 1914 on the outbreak of war (I'm enormously grateful to the National Youth Pipe Band's pipe major Ross for playing the Black Bear for me). Other points of interest were descriptions of the sounds of the rent strike protests in the city centre.

Probably the most special of the reconstructions is that of the battle of the Somme. The Digital Design Studio in Glasgow, part of the Glasgow School of Art, have very generously allowed me to use part of their researched historical reconstruction of the first day of that battle as part of the piece. They have my grateful thanks for their generous contribution to this project.

I shall write more about the piece itself later.

Glasgow's War will be shown in George Square every 45 minutes from 7pm on November 11th this week.