press & interviews
Interview for the BFI website
An article on the British Film Institute (BFI) website by Samuel Wigley about writing music for silent film is available online here. It included an interview with Marcus on the subject:
"Because I'd had a lot of experience with ballet music, I pretty much guessed the actual music they were dancing to in 'Ballet des Sylphides' (1902) and 'Valse excentrique' (1903). So I had to block that from my mind so I could approach it with a clean palate as it were. I found I could relate to the film with my music very quickly.
"The first decision I made was not to simply replace the original music with a close approximation, but that I had to find a way to engage with it on a deeper level. So I decided to read about the world in which these films were made.
"The world in the early 20th century was different in many ways as we know. In France it was the Belle Époque, in Britain it was the Edwardian era. Both were characterised by a sense of optimism, peace and new technology, both oblivious to the approaching horrors of the Great War.
"For 'Valse excentrique', it dawned on me that this was Boldoni and Solinski's [residents at the famous Eldorado cabaret in Paris] last dance, frozen in time in perpetuum. It really took on a haunting quality for me, like the dance lasts for ever in another dimension, hence the dreamlike feel of the music.
"For 'Ballet des Sylphides', I ended up with music which was more balletic in style, but with a darker undertone, reflecting the darkness over the horizon of this seemingly innocent period.
"As these are dance films, and due to the fact Iíve accompanied dancers for many years, I could not but match the movements on screen to music. This is obvious in 'Ballet des Sylphides'. As the dancers had such terrific energy, I tried to make the music match the energy and timing, so they could have also performed the same dance to my score! I used quite conventional sampled instruments and played them in real time on a keyboard to match the dancing.
"In 'Valse excentrique', I used more synthesised sounds and some string samples. Although itís more subtle, the music still fits all the major hit points in the dancing."
Interview by Katya Seltman about Sea Polyphonies
Bygdanytt, 22nd May 2012
"Fela Liv" releases CD at Logen
Lars Sveinung Lid
- It was a great night, and the piece was performed with energy and conviction. Composer Marcus Davidson was pleased with what he heard Sunday night, when the folk music group "Fela Liv" from Osterøy performed his work Huldreslått. The piece is originally made for the festival Hardingtonar in 2008, but has now been given a new coat of varnish in the new recording from Osterøy Spel- og Dansarlag. Huldresong is a challenging piece for the group with five part harmony in three movements, inspired by the legend of the troll's daughter, the hulder.
- I am a fan of the hardingfele sound. It gives the music a unique and powerful expression, says the English composer, who has now moved to Bergen.
But the CD doesn't only feature contemporary music. Many traditional tunes have been given new arrangements, some with parts for Harpsichord and piano, while other pieces are left untouched. The group "Fela Liv" include Håkon Høgemo, Monika Antun, Hogne Midtbø Vevle, Brage Hatløy, Johanna Lohne Rongved, Solveig Lohne Rongved, Tuva Thomassen Bolstad, Una Anine Okeefe and Silje Solberg, Silje Midtbø Vevle and Helga Revheim. Support musiciants Liv Skoglund (direction and harpsichord) and Trent Bruner (piano) joined the group at the release.
- Osterøy Spel- og Dansarlag are probably the first fiddler's group in Norway to include contemporary music on their CD, says the group's leader Hilde Midtbø.
The Guardian, 3rd September 2009
For the choir parts, Watson commissioned composer Marcus Davidson. First, Davidson spent time listening intensely to Watson's bee recordings - and got a shock: "The bees are full of music. They 'sing' diatonic notes. It's astonishing. In the daytime they are all at A below middle C. Then, in the evening, the general pitch slips down to G sharp." But around those central pitches, says Davidson, the bees are also tuneful: "For each mood they have a different set of what I call tune clusters - different songs and little chords."
Bees have also been shown to indicate awareness of toxins and other hazards by subtle changes in pitch. Mike Harding, co-founder of Touch (who release Watson's CDs), was commissioned to make the hive recordings for the piece. While Harding was manfully dealing with repeated stings in the service of art, Davidson noticed something. "About 10 seconds before Mike got stung, they'd all be singing different notes, but then it's as if they've taken a decision: 'Right, we've been invaded enough.' And then they go back to a unison A. You hear a distinct change."
For the human singing parts, Davidson has avoided any "buzzing" cliches, finding mouth shapes that create a natural sound. They branch out, eventually, into more "human" musical territory, but all the shapes, he says, have come from the bees.
Listen to Marcus talking about Awakenings, a dance theatre production based on the mystical experience of Donald Pass.
Radio 3's Mixing It
Marcus was one of the Spire participants interviewed on Radio 3's Mixing It, 19th May 2006.