The challenge of bringing traditional instruments into a modern setting is something which Sebastian Gainsborough, aka Vessel, has been inspired by for some time. 2016’s ‘Queen of Golden Dogs’ album, given a four star rating in the Guardian, chose to fuse chamber music together with deep electronica; a combination that shouldn’t have necessarily worked, but absolutely did.
Commissioned to work on a new piece by The Manchester Collective, itself an organisation looking to disrupt the live music experience by creating ‘radical human experiences’, Vessel’s next project is ‘Paradise lost’, a music palate combining a number of sounds including 15th century viol, violin and electronics. “It’s certainly an interesting challenge” laughs Vessel when asked to contextualise his decision to work on the project “my background was in working with electronic tools and for a long time they were my main source of writing. I started to work with traditional instruments when I saw their potential to allow a real expression of feelings that you can’t always achieve with electronics. For me, the key element in how I work is often by not thinking about genre at all but instead by putting different flavours together and creating new, distinct, identities”.
Teaming up with The Manchester Collective, including violinist and Collective Music Director Rakhi Singh, Paradise Lost looks to push the modern and historic fusion even further than it’s been in the past; “we’re using the themes from John Milton’s book but trying to move away from merely setting the words to music” confirms Singh “this is about trying to turn ideas inside out and instead focusing on two of the characters in Milton’s work; Eve and Satan. From this reference point we’ll try to blur the lines between electronic and classical instruments”.
Promising to create a large-scale original piece of work which draws together fractured music from the classical and electronic worlds, Paradise Lost may be the greatest challenge The Manchester Collective have set themselves to date. “My commitment” continues Vessel “is to create music which moves people. For me this can often be determined by the performance itself, and whilst the staging of a show like this can be important, I tend to believe that how music is played in a live setting is often the principle element of its impact.”
Designed as a fully immersive experience, with no interval scheduled, Paradise Lost, and it’s staging, has set itself considerable goals “we want to bring real innovation into our work” continues Singh “both with this piece and all that The Manchester Collective undertake, and sometimes it’s only by setting high challenges that the work gets pushed into new, interesting areas. We’re confident that this could be our best piece yet”.
With Paradise Lost promised to be recorded and released “at some stage in the future”, Vessel and The Manchester Collective are already setting themselves high challenges for the future. “I’ve got a back log of material ready to be released” continues Vessel “and that’s exciting, but for the moment what’s important is ensuring that this piece is innovative and interesting and brings new audiences to instrumentation that isn’t always mainstream. That’s what I think good art should do”.