Dave Boyd Q&A- composer of The Burning of the Cork films

Thursday 1st July, 2021

Find out the inspiration behind the powerful soundtrack specially created for the Sma’ Shot Day 2021 Burning of the Cork films in this Q&A with composer Dave Boyd.

What inspired you to become a composer?
As is often the case, it just happened to me in my journey as a musician. Initially I was a performer, but over time I was invited more often to write music for projects in theatre, dance and film which has led to me doing that pretty much full time. I’ve always enjoyed listening to music that tells a story or evokes a sense or place or character.

How do you begin to compose a piece of music
There’s a romantic idea that you just sit and stare out of the window until the music sort of arrives in your head – but it’s not really like that. I use computer software with a vast library of sounds, the potential to record or create any new ones I can imagine, and limitless ways of manipulating and editing them – so it’s often a choice about what NOT to include.

Since I am a percussionist, I often begin with the rhythm and build a skeleton structure around that.  When I am writing for other people, there are usually questions to answer with the music. What is it that the audience need to hear? What does this music have to do? What are the essential elements to include? How might I bring some new ways of thinking about those?

Then there are technical considerations – how much space exists for the music to fill, how much time is there to do the work, and the budget. It’s a balancing act between all those things.

Personally, I enjoy working with a director or client to realise something that exists in our shared imaginations. It can be a challenge since there often aren’t the right words – I’ve been asked to make music ‘a bit more crunchy’ or ‘more watery’. Beginning is relatively easy – finishing is the difficult part.

What can people expect from the tracks you composed for this year’s Sma’ Shot Day Burning of the Cork videos?
I’ve chosen to approach this whole project like a big film score and write full orchestrations with lots of texture and dynamics, and with great care taken with the smallest of details.  Certain things HAD to be included though – there is a big drum!

In the Call to Action film I worked with repeated patterns of doors being knocked, running feet and barking dogs to build a percussive score with lots of tension and excitement – combining elements from the real world with musical ones.

The score in the Weavers Assemble film is more lyrical to begin with – I wrote a theme using the idea of moving up and down, backwards and forwards like the warp and weft of cloth, and then we have a more uplifting middle section with an insistent beat for our weavers to join together which goes back into the main theme to finish.

The final film The Burn was a wonderful challenge. It had to combine the ideas of mass protest against injustice, a midsummer ritual, and a joyous community gathering – with aerial performance, dance and fireworks! It’s a pretty big composition with over 110 tracks combining real orchestral instruments and synthesisers.

How do Paisley’s looms factor into these pieces of work?I listened to a lot of recordings of looms to analyse the rhythms. What’s interesting (from a musical perspective) is that a working loom has a polyrhythm – that is 2 different rhythms happening concurrently. You can hear it as 4 beats, or as 6 beats – it’s a bit like that picture of two faces in profile that is also a candlestick depending on how you look at it. The theme that occurs several times in the films is based around this polyrhythm.

In the Weavers Assemble film there is a sample of a loom (from the museum in Paisley) used in the rhythm track – in fact the whole middle section was written around it – it turns out that looms and reggae work really well together.

What other sources of inspiration did you use to produce this work?
Obviously the ideas of my collaborators in the project – but you can hear how the wonderful rooftop chase scene in the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon might have influenced the Call to Action score, and I think there may well be elements of The Wickerman and maybe even Blade Runner influencing ’The Burn’ score. The idea of fabric moving in the wind, and the strength of woven threads / collaborative action were also big influences.

What three words would you use to describe the tracks?
Dynamic, Dramatic, Epic.

How do the pieces of music help tell the story of Sma’ Shot?
I hope they help illuminate the power of joining together to fight for what is right, of considering your neighbours rights equal to your own, and that it’s always nice to have folk gather round a big fire.