Composer Nick Wales on creating the electronica-meets-cello score for ab [intra]


6 June 2018

Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra] is as much a musical collaboration as it is one between the choreographer and the dancers. For ab [intra], composer Nick Wales once again reunites with choreographer and Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela to create a sumptuous and varied musical score, fusing lush electronica with string textures.

We spoke to him about his creative process and the movement progression of his soundscape:

In the early stages of ab [intra], Rafael and I began searching for additional music to accompany my compositions. The second cello concerto Klatbutne / Presence by Peteris Vasks featuring cellist Sol Gabetta stood out to us as possessing great passion, immediacy and drive and we decided to incorporate the first and second movements into ab [intra].

Our decision to use Vasks’ concerto informed my initial musical choices. My gut reaction was to work with Australian cellist Julian Thompson. Together, we recorded fragments of cello material for me to build the opening two movements of the work. The opening bars of Vasks’ concerto with its almost lonely col legno and pizzicato motifs informed some of these initial recordings.

ab [intra] begins with the textual pulsations and lamentation of a solitary cello building to an expansive almost landscape-like symphonic wall of sound. Pizzicato cello samples feature, driving the work forward with the introduction of darker electronic and percussive passages, counterbalanced with visceral string textures. The electronica gradually recedes into Vasks’ first movement Cadenza – Andante with its beautiful and passionate builds and rich sonority.

The forth movement of ab [intra] features piano, intricate percussion and organic electronica. I was interested in exploring ideas around soft anticipation, building ecstatic states and the inward sources of strength one can achieve through quietly looking within. Vasks’ second movement Allegro Moderato boldly bounds forward with its neoclassical rhythm and solo climax by cellist Sol Gabetta. The final coda of ab [intra] again features Julian Thompson with a small string orchestra.

Listen to the inspirations behind Nick’s ab [intra] soundscape in his Spotify playlist:

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