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Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge

David Long

 
Best Soundtrack - 2014 Film & Television Music Awards
 
 

"One of my favourite pieces of music of this year even; certainly one I’ve played the most."
Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks

 

personnel

David Long (viola campara, quattro, feedback, bowed banjo, balalaika, percussion)
Riki Gooch (percussion)
Natalia Mann (harp)
Richard Nunns (taonga puoro)

strings:
Emma Barron
Matt Cave
Megan Molina
Rowan Prior
Alexander Gunchenko
Rebecca Struthers
Sally Isaac
Andrew Thomson
Andrew Joyce
Belinda Veitch
Anna van der Zee
Vesa-Matti Leppänen
Haihong Lui
Kristina Zelenska
Alan Molina

woodwinds:
Bridget Douglas 
Peter Dykes 
Phil Green 
Robert Weeks 

horns:
Dave Bremner 
Mark Carter 
Andrew Jarviz 
Sam Jacobs 


 

 

notes

Comments on BEYOND THE EDGE by David Long

This album is comprised of a selection of pieces originally composed for Leanne Pooley's film, Beyond the Edge, a documentary about Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's momentous expedition to reach the summit of Mt Everest in 1953.

Before I started working on the music, producer Matthew Metcalfe said something like, ‘When you think of Ed Hillary and Everest, an obvious type of score comes to mind. Don’t do that’. This comment set the tone for the project. I’ve worked with the director Leanne Pooley and editor Tim Woodhouse on a number of occasions, and the experience has always been great. They are amazingly supportive, and often push me further. Our working method is very fluid: I send demos while the edit is in progress; they adjust the cut to the score and suggest changes.

I experimented with many sounds. I often use feedback in my work, and for this project I was able to play with approaches developed for more experimental pieces, such as the score for Douglas Wright’s show, Rapt. I have some very cheap little microphones that I plug into a bunch of distortion pedals and then into an amp. They feedback easily, but when carefully controlled they create very atmospheric sounds. Spinning the mics in time with the music creates beautiful swooping sounds that add rhythmic tension to the music. Sometimes I tune these sounds to the piece, other times I leave them raw and bare. This technique was used extensively throughout the score.

Gongs were used throughout the score, too. They were, I think, the only sound that referenced traditional Nepalese music (apart from a small amount of jaws harp). I have a few Indonesian gongs, so these combined with samples are an important part of the sound, as are stringed instruments such as electric guitar, viola campara, Quattro, balalaika and bowed banjo. Bowed banjo is a sound I used a lot in the score. I recorded it in my little studio late at night when there is less outside noise, and played it with a cello bow. It works well, both atmospherically and rhythmically.

For the orchestral component of the score, Hamish McKeich assembled and conducted a group of players from the NZSO. I owe a lot to Hamish. He was very open and added so much to the performances from these wonderful orchestral musicians. Ewan Clark prepared my scores with great precision, and made excellent suggestions for doubling lines and making more of certain parts. Graham Kennedy recorded the orchestra and mixed the whole score, and Mike Gibson recorded all of the other instruments. Both engineers do beautiful work. Riki Gooch (percussion), Richard Nunns (taonga Puoro) and Natalia Mann (harp) each brought their special magic to the score. I’ve worked with Riki many times, and he’s one of my favourite musicians. Richard added an eerie, atmospheric layer to some tracks that made them feel very human, and after hearing Natalia perform I knew she would be perfect for this score.

I'm privileged to work with such wonderful musicians and engineers, and to mix in such a great facility as Park Road, but it makes all the difference when one is working on a great project, and for that I thank Leanne Pooley.

I hope you enjoy it.
David Long

 

credits

IA-1006 (October, 2013)

Production: David Long
Orchestration: Ewan Clarke
Orchestra conductor: Hamish McKeich
Orchestral recording & mixing: Graham Kennedy
All other recording & mastering: Mike Gibson
Design: UnkleFranc

01 A Beekeeper from Tuakau  (3:47)
02 Kathmandu  (1:56)
03 Seventeen Days of Marches  (3:20)
04 Khumbu Icefall  (5:16)
05 The Plan  (2:45)
06 The Lhotse Face  (4:25)
07 High Emotions  (1:32)
08 First Attempt  (2:42)
09 A Strange Place  (1:46)
10 A Fine Day  (5:19)
11 The Hillary Step  (2:57)
12 Summiting  (3:59)

All compositions, arrangements and recordings © David Long, 2013 (Native Tongue Music Publishing Ltd)

 

The music on this album was composed for the motion picture Beyond The Edge.
The film was directed by Leanne Pooley, edited by Tim Woodhouse, and produced by Matthew Metcalf.

 

reviews

David Long is one of New Zealand’s finest soundtrack composers/session players. Need a job done – this guy will do it. And do it (so) well. We know him for his work too with The Mutton Birds and his appearances with various improv/free combos, an album as Slim Volume also. So many strings to his bow.

And speaking of strings – the sweep, the grandeur, the majesty, the power of his soundtrack to the Ed Hilary doco/dramatisation Beyond The Edge might be the thing that will have a few more New Zealanders singing his praises, recognising him as one of our finest musicians and composers.

I was tempted to review this album before I saw the film; I was meaning to. I have had this album for a month or so now and it’s been on (near-constant) high rotate and I’ve loved it of course. But beyond that I felt that it was one of just a small handful of film scores in the grand scheme that happily stood on its own away from the film. But then, I was saying that as someone who had not seen the film.

The music meant enough to me on its own – and anyway, knowing that the film was about Ed Hilary’s Everest climb I could spot the obvious references within the music, cues that stirred to evoke something of the Himalayas, of the Tibetan region (Seventeen Days of Marches). And then, almost by accident, I found myself at the film – not that I wasn’t going to see it anyway (eventually) and so I found myself reviewing the film; a great documentary, so worth seeing. But it’s not just lip-service to tell you that the music is a crucial aspect of this reimagining/recreation of the famous ascent. Long’s score is scene-setting without ever being scene-stealing, the perfect supporting score. In passages such as Khumbu Icefall I find the depth of Cliff Martinez’ film work.

And then again – now – away from the film, having seen it, I’m still so sure this work stands up on its own; the best thing a film composer could hope for I’m sure: to have their music serve the work and then sneak out on its own, mean something aside from when matched to the images.

One of my favourite pieces of music of this year even; certainly one I’ve played the most.

 
Off the Tracks

 


 

Proud Kiwis should know, Beyond The Edge is an album of new music composed by former Muttonbirds guitarist David Long for the film of the same name, which traces Sir Edmund Hilary’s expedition to the top of Mt Everest in 1953. While the score utilises strong orchestral passages conducted by Hamish McKeich, Long’s guitar playing and clever use of feedback, gongs, loops, bowed banjo, balalaika, harp, percussion and toanga puoro (courtesy of the inimitable and legendary Richard Nunns) are the primary feature. Certainly the more one plays this disc, the moreone can empathise with how it must have felt for Hilary and his party to undertake their remarkable journey.

With repetitive pulsing and gently soaring strings followed by a sudden rush of percussion from Riki Gooch, The Beekeeper from Tuakau is awakened and inspired to begin his quest. Kathmandu may be serene, but Seventeen Days of Marches incorporates a military stomping rhythm combined with strident strings, feedback and viola campara. As with any quest, there are imminent dangers, and Khumba Icefall illuminates dark apprehension, but with Richard Nunns on taonga puaro combined with flute, vocals and strings, rays of hope are beautifully announced.

Time for a plan to climb the mountain and this is underlined with strings, percussion and a plucked balalaika. Its increasing rhythms reveal the tension and indeed excitement of the plan coming together. The sun is definitely shining on Lhotse Face and one can sense the task to conquer it, evoked by Natalie Mann’s emotive and sparkling harp lines. And with viola shadowing the surging strings, confidence is obviously increasing in the quest. Adopting a more guarded delivery on First Attempt thanks to the unified strings and balalaika, increasing percussion rhythms enhance the sense of mystery during A Strange Place. The mood is changing for the better on A Fine Day, heralded by fiery flutes. At last we reach The Hillary Step. With its lilting intro, one is at one (in thought) with Hilary as he hears the top of Everest. With the repetitive violin melody, Hilary’s steps are gaining. Finally on Summiting, one has a sense of wondrous achievement as a string melody builds and surrounds with a most celebratory feel.

David Long has totally engaged himself on this soundtrack of Leanne Pooley's film. It is indeed one of Long’s finest works, and richly rewarding.