After the success of our ‘The Best Of The Iris Prize Festival’ event last week, it’s all go for both us and the Iris Prize Festival in preparation for this year’s competition. The films are being chosen and the preparations made. But one of the developments upon last year’s successes has been musical rather than filmic. For the Iris Prize Festival’s reel of clips from the 30 competing shorts, they have commissioned Welsh violist and composer Bernard Kane to score a bespoke piece. We managed to chat to Kane after the piece had just been recorded.
His enthusiasm for the project, especially upon completion, knows no bounds, especially as the day we spoke to him was the first time he’d heard the final result. ‘Oh, it’s great. Absolutely brilliant’ he gleams, ‘it’s funny, you never really feel what its like until it’s actually performed for the first time. But I’m over the moon.’
Kane’s involvement with the prize came through a slightly unusual avenue, he first heard of the prize by teaching violin to one of the organising members. From then, he was curious about how he could get involved. ‘I’d made a video of a journey between Pen-Y-Fan in South Wales to the estuary of the river Taff, along with a piece of music I wrote,’ he explains. ‘I asked the question if the Iris Prize can use any film, be it any sort of documentary, short piece, or whatever.’ But even though his film never entered the competition, he was instead asked to write the music for the clip reel, something which he relished. ‘It feels tremendous. I’ve always considered what I write are quite cinematic. When I go and see films it’s the music that grabs me, and it always has done from a very young age. Who can sit through Psycho without noticing Bernard Herman’s music? So I was excited just to be part of this. I’ve always wanted to be involved in films anyway, whether being in them, or part of the scenery.’ He pauses and blushes a little. ‘Actually, I’ve always had a dream of being a star in a film’ Kane admits, ‘but writing the music instead is just brilliant and it’s certainly something I would like to do a lot more of.’
Film scores are something that Kane is very passionate about, and his glee about them is evident in how he talks about them. ‘I adore Gone with the Wind’ Kane gushes, ‘I think that is a phenomenal score and a phenomenal film. I can never forget seeing that for the first time on television and just as it starts off, the music is just the most uplifting.’ But it’s Wagner that first captured his musical imagination at a young age. ‘I was in St. Ives in Cornwall. My dad played the overture to The Flying Dutchman – I was hooked, completely hooked on Wagner at the age of about 7!’ But his influences go far beyond classical. ‘My influences go from anywhere between Wagner, to David Bowie, to The Beatles. Vaughan Williams is a big influence on me as well, and he wrote lots of film music.’
But perhaps the biggest influence on his work is not a composer or artist in particular, but the sea. ‘I’ve actually lived on several cruise ships for two and a half years of my life,’ regales Kane. ‘There was a great moment when we were sailing across the Bering Sea from Alaska to Russia. It was dead calm and there was fog. I went out on the bow of the ship, the fog horn was going off and you could cut the fog with a knife.’ In fact, this particular memory is something he’ll admit is indicative to the piece he’s written. ‘I was trying to use it as a metaphor to start the piece off with. It starts off quiet, very dark, very sombre. Then all of a sudden it just opens up and it’s clear – that beautiful blue sea, that gorgeous expanse in front of you.’
For something so short, and also working to a specific commission, you’d think the process of tailoring inspiration to fit an order to be difficult, but not for Kane. ‘Sometimes I find my favourite things happen so easily. You’re starting off with a blank page, so I always have to try to get a bit of inspiration. But I find once I’ve got something, as soon as I start with an image in my head, then I can’t stop. I can’t stop writing until it’s done, even if it takes me all through the night.’
Being a Cardiff boy himself, Kane is unsurprisingly proud of his city. But with his piece now all sorted, and the festival fast approaching, his affections regarding the city’s cultural scene is unbound. To him, it’s almost no surprise that the Iris Prize Festival is nestled comfortably in this culturally vibrant capital. ’For a city that’s not that big, it’s nowhere near the size of London or any other major city, what we have is brilliant’, he boasts. ‘What we have in the museum is phenomenal, and the Millennium Centre is a fantastic as well. It’s all piecing together and is getting better. Regarding the arts, it’s a great place.’ It’s no surprise that the Iris Prize Festival is nestled comfortably in this culturally vibrant Welsh city.
As a composer and a performer, we left him to his prolific amount of work, from his upcoming performance at Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion, to working on new pieces such as setting some of Dylan Thomas’ poems to music for soprano and piano, and writing another piece inspired by Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Welsh rivers. But we’re certainly excited to hear the final result of his music for the montage when it’s released soon.
To find out more about Bernard Kane and his work please visit his website. For more information about the Iris Prize Festival, which will take place between 10-14 October 2012, please visit www.irisprize.org.