“Taking the path of most resistance”: Clark talks composing for Us 50


15 October 2019

British producer Clark (Warp Records) has been at the vanguard of electronic music for nearly twenty years and recently composed the soundtrack to Melanie Lane’s WOOF for Season One in March.

We chatted to him about his latest project with choreographer Gideon Obarzanek as part of Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary year.

Book your tickets now for Us 50, part of Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary double bill Bonachela / Obarzanek from 1 – 9 November in Sydney.

Q. Tell me about what it's like working with Gideon Obarzanek in a creative context. How did it begin?

I’ve known Gideon for years. It felt like we were building towards this collaboration for a while; he’s been great fun to work with. We share quite a few tastes in music. I’m probably more into grime than he is but we both like techno and intense alien noises that you can’t quite pin down, so that’s a really good place to start.

Q. Can you share some of the inspirations behind your music for Us 50?

The track is built from a really simple percussion loop of me drumming in a car. It’s treated really heavily and just grows into this behemoth wall of noise. I love this thing of taking quite a domestic everyday source and bending it out of shape into something quite vast and unfamiliar.

Q. Can you describe how the soundtrack you’ve created for Us 50 will make audiences feel?

Hopefully they will feel most invigorated! It’s quite a hypnotic slab of music, very percussive, both gentle and aggressive in places. There is quite a bit of cello in it but it sounds rather beastly and primal.

Q. How does creating music for dance differ to the music you produce typically for your albums?

Because dance works are one continuous performance it gives you the chance to explore one idea very thoroughly. Generally, I use albums as a vehicle to release songs but in electronic form; hooks and harmonies reign throughout. That doesn’t really work with dance. It can seem a bit over-bearing as the movement is super charged with emotion and identity; you need to be a bit more subtle and complement that. Often a piece can be purely sound design led.

Q. For Us 50, there was the added element of audience volunteers performing to your music. How has this influenced the way you composed this score?

I suppose they need to feel gently coaxed. The score aims to draw people in. They will enjoy getting involved hopefully!

Q. Has thinking through ideas around choreography and dance performance changed the way you work with music?

Absolutely, you realise how much latent energy and potential there is in music. It makes you explore sounds you might otherwise have missed. It’s incredible seeing these dancers bring to life ideas and communicate that to me through movement; it breathes new life into the scope of what I can achieve with my music. It’s also so transient, each performance of a dance work is different, and you can never really capture the energy of it on video. You really have to be there…

Q. What advice would you pass on to young people in our audiences who are looking to pursue an artistic career in music or other creative areas?

I’m not so sure! I guess the path I have navigated makes 100% sense to me but not necessarily to other people. It was less common to make electronic music 20 years ago; the tools were harder to access. I feel like now that it is rather easy and we’ve become used to a homogenous and ordinary palette of sounds, so I try and find ways of making it different. Often doing things the unexpected way and taking the path of most resistance is the way to come up with exciting music that stands out. You need to hear it all in your mind before you even touch the tools. It’s a stand against current technological convenience rather than a submission to it. Music needs friction.

Q. What's your current favourite music?

Clark’s composition appears in Gideon Obarzanek’s Us 50 as part of Season Two from 1 – 9 November. Subscribe now and save 15% on tickets.

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