Amelia’s Magazine | Emily Hall presents Folie à Deux at Spitalfields Music Festival

Emily Hall  profile
As one of the Spitalfields Festival Associate Artists, award winning composer Emily Hall is curating the Sound Among Sounds event at Rich Mix where she will be debuting her latest work ‘Folie à Deux’. The new production, presented by the Mahogany Opera Group, is a sonic voyage into a shared psychosis and endeavours to explore love and loneliness within a relationship. The weekend (June 6/7) will include installations and performances sparked from her new opera, showcasing some of the most exciting artists working across the classical music field. Emily takes a few minutes out to explain the inspiration behind, and the making of, ‘Folie à Deux’.

Folie a Deux trailer

Folie à Deux’ directly translates to ‘A madness shared by two’. What gave you the inspiration for your new work?
It was a conversation with a good friend who is a psychiatrist. She told me about ‘Folie à Deux‘, the psychosis where a delusion is transmitted from one person to another, normally a partner or family member. It seemed to me like an exaggerated version of many relationships and a gift for an opera. Initially I workshopped the idea using “delusional parasitosis” where the delusion is some kind of insect infestation but it was so deeply uncomfortable even to research! Once Sjón came on board we happened upon the idea of the delusion involving a pylon and the power it might hold. I liked this idea immediately because of the sonic possibilities it held.

Emily Hall
You just mentioned the Icelandic author and lyricist Sjón. Was this the first time you worked together? How did that relationship come about?
Yes – the first time. I knew I wanted Folie à Deux to be simultaneously an opera and a concept album. Sjón has written many lyrics for Björk as well as many strong opera librettos. I had also been blown away by his book, ‘The Blue Fox‘ so I just got in touch and I was very happy when he accepted the challenge.

Interview with Emily Hall

The new piece enjoyed its world premiere in Bergen, Norway last month. What sort of reception did you receive?
It was a real pleasure to premier Folie à Deux at the Borealis Festival in Bergen. The festival audience was very warm and supportive. We got some great reviews and it gave us a really strong start to the tour.

Folie a deux stage
I hear you invented a brand new instrument, specifically for this production and album. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes – Folie à Deux includes a specially invented instrument, the electro-magnetic harp. It is a specially adapted harp basically with multiple ‘ebows’ on metal strings to create drones much like the sound of pylon, all stemming upwards from 50 Hz, the pitch of a UK mains hum. Sound designers David Sheppard and Jonathan Green created the electro-magnetic harp especially for this piece.

Sofia Jernberg
What can people expect from the stage production?
A minimalist tale investigating love and loneliness within a relationship. Performed by Sofia Jernberg, a truly unique vocalist and classical tenor and Finnur Bjarnason, on the acoustic harp and the specially created electro-magnetic harp against an incredible back-drop of responsive lights. The audience isn’t spoon fed the narrative – one of it’s strengths is people have drawn different conclusions about how it ends.

Sofia Jernberg2
You have another new work being performed by Women Sing East during the Spitalfields Music Festival. What’s the concept behind this piece?
Yes – on Monday 8 June Women Sing East, an all female amateur choir based in East London, will premiere my new work in Shoredich Church. It’s called ‘We are Passengers’. I’ve set text-art, old and new, juxtaposing some specially made by the artist Caroline Bergvall with an epic visual poem by Benedictine monk Rabanus Maurus (b.780). I have recorded all 45 members of the choir speaking the letters one by one of the 45 lines of Rabanus Maurus’ Latin poem. I have also woven recordings of material written for the amazing viola de gamba player Liam Byrne and Women Sing East sing quite simple, self-contained lines over the top “We are Passengers” “everything happens all the time”, “keeping still means stopping”… The audience will be able take away limited edition reproductions of the text art I have set. Pop choir Lips are also singing in this gig who are totally inspiring to watch.

Catch Emily Hall: Sound Among Sounds during the Spitalfields Music Festival 2015 at Rich Mix, London on Saturday June 6 and Sunday June 7. Check website for ticket details and performance times.

Categories ,bjork, ,Borealis Festival, ,Caroline Bergvall, ,David Sheppard, ,Emily Hall, ,Finnur Bjarnason, ,Folie a Deux, ,Jonathan Green, ,Liam Byrne, ,Lips, ,Mahogany Opera Group, ,Rabanus Maurus, ,Rich Mix, ,Shoredich Church, ,Sjón, ,Sofia Jernberg, ,Sound Among Sounds, ,Spitalfields Festival Associate Artists, ,Spitalfields Music Festival, ,The Blue Fox, ,We are Passengers, ,Women Sing East

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