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Music and film combine in Dark Water

Dark Water is a ground breaking, cross-media project combining opera and film, the stunning result of a collaboration between writer/director Oscar Van Heek and composer Malcolm Lindsay. We spoke to Malcolm to find out more.

Dark Water still

Tell us a bit about the project?

The Dark Water project, which comprises a 25 minute film release and an operatic album release, was ambitious and complex.

A film score was created prior to filming, and then used to influence the script, film shoot and edit, which is not the norm. Also opera as a music genre is not commonly used for film sound tracks.

The chance to experiment in this way was invaluable- Malcolm Lindsay, Composer

The process was to create the score using seven themes in the film script as inspiration, and then on completion, the score was used to inspire changes to the script and to influence how the photography, story and pacing of the film was developed.

Dark Water - Orchestra recording

What was the inspiration behind it?

Oscar Van Heek (the film maker) and I went to see one of Scottish Opera's 5x15 productions, where five 15-minute operas were premiered over an evening. We were hooked. The following week we talked to Alex Reedijk who was very encouraging and after many creative chats, Dark Water emerged.

Oscar then came up with the script which at its core is about the impact of a young swimmer going blind and Alex gave the thumbs up which meant we could record with The Orchestra of Scottish Opera.

Dark Water Main Characters

How did you approach composing the pieces?

I used a simple approach choosing seven moments in the film script that I thought captured the emotional essence of the story – I then orchestrated the musical themes from these and finally created the vocal part. I subsequently passed the orchestra and vocal parts to PJ Moore (formerly of The Blue Nile) who in each case created the libretto inspired by the music and the themes from the script.

Dark Water - Orchestra briefing

It's truly a cross-media project – how did the music influence the film and vice versa?

It’s difficult for me to say since I was in the middle of the activity - but certainly the process was nothing like I had experienced before. I usually compose to picture – with the music being changed endlessly in order to serve the film. This, however, was the reverse. In terms of the film shoot I think it offered the director (Oscar) freedom, knowing the nature of the score (lush and widescreen).

Gourock’s iconic outdoor pool provides a stunning location – how did that come about?

Oscar found the location at the same time he was creating the script so it really is an essential part of the story and film – there is no doubt it has a starring role and is a treasure!

Dark Water Poolside Shoot

Can people see and hear the work?

Yes the album is now released and a trailer of the film is online at www.darkwater.zone. The film was accepted into this year’s Palm Springs Festival and hopefully will have other festival screenings before general release online.

What’s next?

I think the film and album have an unusual and evocative quality - a direct result of the project process. For me, the chance to experiment in this way was invaluable and would not have been possible without support from Creative Scotland and Scottish Opera. Oscar and I continue to collaborate with Scottish Opera and a new project is currently in development. In addition, I have another orchestral album planned for 2018, as well as scoring for cinema and TV.

This article was published on 21 Dec 2017