Our perception of societal reality should have undergone a dramatic change in the past 24 months. Through the exposed inner mechanisms of political campaigns, obvious influence of national sentiment through biased media coverage, or blatant infringements of laws by those who created them, we, as a society of human beings, have been exposed to many realities that challenge our preconceptions of how the world works. Yet where is the rebel spirit? As asked by Adam Curtis’ HyperNormalisation, have we avoided dealing with the realities we face by retreating into culture?

100 Demons is a new composition of music and theatre; of irony and societal introspection; it is a work that explores our retreatment into culture to avoid the ramifications of our entropic acceptance of a rewritten past and the manipulation of the present; it is a work that asks the question: how would our acceptance of society change if our culture — our safe space — turned on us?

Commissioned by Manchester Collective, 100 Demons explores a concert hall manipulated by myth and fear-mongering. Traditional Japanese music and folklore influence a string quartet and tape machine, through which sonic manifestations of our fears demonise the stage — avatars of societal control — straddling the line between music and theatre; between reality and mythology. By introducing abstractions of the spectacular ideas, events and characters from Japanese folklore — a lore so different from the West’s — we in the West can see, in stark contrast, the barrier between the real world and the “other”.

From the outset, 100 Demons contained many practical concerns that I had to address during its composition, such as how to introduce elements of Kyogen (comic theatre) into the work, how to take influence from exponents of traditional musical performance, such as Kodo; the means by which to manipulate traditional Japanese music, or elements of it, into my own musical language; how to fulfil the commission criteria of a work for string quartet and pre-recorded material; and how to do all of this in a way that preserved the integrity and beauty of Japanese mythology, while ensuring my compositional voice and the message of the composition was heard.

This three-part blog will document my creation of 100 Demons ahead of its premiere in March 2018. I will share some of my processes and trains of thought during its composition. Tickets for the first three performances of the work are available from the Manchester Collective website.

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