Behind the scenes with Ben

17 November 2019

Ben Chatwin is Composer for our new production, The Shadow.  Ben writes most of his music from his studio in Queensferry, Scotland.

As part of creating the composition for The Shadow, Ben has been visiting Chameleon and working with Anthony, our Co-Artistic Director, as the choreography has developed. 

In this Q&A, we find out how Ben began his career in music and how he approached writing the composition for The Shadow.

1 | Great to have you as part of the team here at Chameleon! Tell us how you got into composing?

Thanks for having me! As for my background – I picked up a guitar in my teens and a few years later found myself studying music at University in Brighton. After playing guitar in various bands for a few years I decided to start making my own music initially in the corner of my bedroom on some cheap equipment and a slow, archaic computer. I was doing it for myself and the results were quite experimental – mostly trying out different ideas and techniques. I never expected anyone to hear these first attempts but in 2009 I released my debut album as a limited CD and have kept up releasing albums ever since. It’s strange to me that a some of those first tracks have had a life beyond that album being picked up for use in TV and commercials.

2 | What is your creative process and how did it begin when creating for The Shadow?

These days I am fascinated with improvisation and try to find ways to incorporate it into my compositional process. I find it can lead me down some exciting and unexpected paths, although I do spend some time editing and arranging the ideas into something more focused.

There were a few scenes in The Shadow where improvisation gave me great results, for example after Reece is humiliated and is comforted by Lee (his older self). I had a video of that scene on a loop in the studio and was just playing along at the piano whilst watching it. After a few times around I really got into the zone and what came out suited the atmosphere of the scene perfectly. In fact a bit of reverb and it was good to go…if only every scene came out like that!

3 | What are you most excited about with this production?

I think its seeing it all come together for the premiere at HOME – it’s been a fascinating process working with Anthony and understanding his vision for The Shadow. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge to try and make something that encompasses the differing emotions and relationships as the story unfolds. Seeing it all finished in costume with the lighting etc.. will be a very exciting moment for me.

4 | How do you hope your composition adds to The Shadow audience experience?

Anthony has created an ambitious production with complex narratives and timelines so I hope it all comes across for maximum impact. I hope that the music I’ve made will help guide the audience through the story and also that at times it hits hard and has some emotional heft. Its a powerful piece and I am very grateful to be able to contribute to it.

A taster of Ben’s musician can be heard in the trailer for The Shadow below.  Find out more about Ben and his projects on his web-site here.

The Shadow tours this Autumn. Tour dates include Fri 22 & Sat 23 Nov, 8pm, at HOME, Manchester; Tue 26 Nov, 7:30pm at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University; Sat 30 Nov, 8pm, at University Theatre, Bath Spa University. More info.

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