It’s been almost a year since Kelly first spoke to me about writing a piece for her orchestra, Ruthless Jabiru. The name of the piece, Kick, comes from a short double bass motif occurring throughout that reminds me of an impact or involuntary motion.
In commissioning the work, Kelly really gave me scope to do whatever I wanted but we did discuss initial concepts – we liked the idea of pinching some stylistic ideas taken from the world of record production – in my 2011 album Feather Hammer, I was focusing on timbre, texture and the ambience as much (if not more so) than the notes and harmonies – we talked about using some of the sound world ideas from Feather Hammer to see if any could be translated to score for string orchestra.
Those original concepts provided the starting point for Kick, which quickly took on a character of its own as it grew: after the opening slides into view from a unison D, there is a shimmering tremolo that transforms into a gentle but nervous energy of changing harmonies. Slow, angular melodies cascade between violins and cellos as it grows in momentum, getting ‘itchier’ as it goes. The nervous energy gathers up into a high register tremble, dissipating against a low drone on D. From the stillness, a single viola and violin tease and converse using a pentatonic scale, while the ensemble swells around them. Angular melodies return in the violins. The music climaxes with a loud trembling tutti, ducking against more violent kicks from the basses. The energy loosens and subsides, all voices sliding back into line with a unison D.
In its final version, and especially in the latter half, Kick is a warm and emotive meditation on simple figures relating to major triads and pentatonic scales. Somehow these musical elements feel very human to me; a sense of naïveté and tenderness. It makes me imagine the sound of prayer; the repeated melody of “mi re do” can feel like saying the words “I love you” over and over again and stroking the face of someone you love.
In the context of producing records, I have always enjoyed using technology to manipulate and position notes in unusual spaces – transforming them into ghosts or shadows using reverbs and delays and fancy mic techniques, or making the tiny sounds gigantic through creative EQ filters, compression and distortion. Whilst what Kick became isn’t really about such ‘tricks’, this way of thinking about music and sound has soaked through, inevitably because that’s the way my mind works these days.
Born and educated in Queensland, Leah Kardos is a composer and producer working in Bedford, UK. Leah makes eclectic music that combines live instrumental performance with technology, location recordings and found sounds. She is fascinated by the communicative power of timbre, the manipulations of psychoacoustic phenomena, memory and pattern recognition, and the ways in which music connects to life. www.leahkardos.com