Sam Din­ley: In Motion

Illuminated River have commissioned new music inspired by London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium bridges from composers at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Here, Sam Dinley outlines his vision for Cannon Street Bridge

The lighting of a match, the flicker of a candle; Cannon Street comes alive with the rich sights and sounds of 19th Century London. History is embedded in the Thames and its bridges, and Candelwrichstrete is remembered once again.

I was drawn to Cannon Street, inspired by the rich history and diversity surrounding the bridge itself. I wanted to create a piece of music that would encapsulate Leo Villareal’s vision of a Thames brought to life by light and colour; the hub of London, Illuminated from dusk to dawn, breathing life into an area that would otherwise dim into insignificance as day turns to night.

As a student of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, studying in the Electronic Music department, I use electronic technology to channel my musical creativity. Using this technology, I wanted to capture sounds that provided subtle nods to the rich history of the bridge - its location, purpose and interaction with pedestrians, transport, technology, business and leisure.

In the early stages of the project I would travel to the Thames next to Cannon Street Station where I would sit, observe, listen and absorb.

Armed with a field-recorder, I began to capture the sounds of the river. At first, I was overwhelmed by the array of noise that surrounded me, but the more time I spent at the river’s edge, the more I started to pick out individual sounds. River traffic, the clatter of pedestrians’ feet, the ebb and flow of the tide, the cooing of resident pigeons, local joggers flowing along the bankside.

This is where I found my inspiration.

Back at the Guildhall, in the silence of the recording studio, I could unpick my recordings, imagining how I could incorporate them into my piece. My intention was to blend these sounds with a live orchestra to create my final piece.

I wanted to use the orchestral forces in such a way that they would mimic and interact with the traffic of the bridge. I returned to the Thames once more, this time with my laptop and MIDI keyboard to see how I could achieve this.

I realised I could simulate the sound of trains with the constant motion of the string section, imitating the chugging sound of a steam train. The Thames flowing underneath is mimicked with gradually intensifying brass section crescendos, creating waves of sound that dynamically rise and fall.

The sound of a ringing telephone, a busy hotel lobby that once stood on the north side of the bridge. The sound of ticking clocks, the importance of time. The role of the bridge in the modern working day. I dotted these recordings throughout my piece to take the listener on a musical journey through time.

Everything came together at the Guildhall Session Orchestra recording session, where I conducted my piece. The development of the Session Orchestra as a professional resource to record my work was an incredible opportunity and invaluable in bringing my piece to life. Later, I mixed the session with my field recordings and electronics. I had finally realised my vision and ‘In Motion’ was complete.

I strongly believe that taking the compositional process outside of the studio, and on to the bank of the Thames, was essential in creating an authentic piece of music that stays true to the vision of Leo Villareal and the overall aim of Illuminated River.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama original compositions will be available to listen and download on our website soon.

Sign up to receive updates about Illuminated River.