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Erland scores a silent masterpiece for the Chorus of Opera North

A new score for the elemental 1928 silent film The Wind, written by Scottish composer and artist Erland Cooper for the women of the Chorus of Opera North, receives its world premiere at Sage Gateshead on 24 February 2022.

The latest commission in our FILMusic series tours to RNCM Manchester on 25 February and closes at the Howard Assembly Room on 26 February.

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Born and raised on Orkney, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland’s sensitivity to the relationship between landscape and psychology has been a constant over the course of a diverse and collaborative career. Having covered everything from folk, prog and indie rock to field recordings and ambient music, he is now flourishing as a contemporary classical composer and solo artist.

For this commission, he employs the human voice – a live score performance from the 18 women of the Chorus of Opera North, augmented by textural recordings and live analogue processing by Erland himself – to open up a new imaginative space for a forgotten masterpiece.

The Wind is silent cinema at its most shockingly, primally potent. In her greatest role, a radiant Lillian Gish plays Letty, a young woman cast out from her sheltered Virginia home into the dust bowl of the Texan prairie, where an act of savagery – and the unrelenting northerly wind – push her mind beyond its limits.

In the hands of visionary director Victor Sjöström, the sublime forces of nature tangle with Letty’s frayed psyche in a delirious vortex, with aero engines used to whip up terrifying sandstorms on the film’s blistering Mojave locations, and trick photography summoning phantom horses straight out of a gothic nightmare.

Misunderstood and unloved in the years following its release, The Wind would go on to influence the likes of Ingmar Bergman, who cast his mentor and idol Sjöström in Wild Strawberries. Now, in one of his most ambitious ventures to date, Erland Cooper breathes new life into the film’s empty plains, roiling dust clouds and intensely charged terrain with a soundtrack using the human voice.

Erland Cooper comments:

The Wind is like a requiem to a dying medium or art form. I want to echo that in a simple live score created predominantly from the human voice that touches on its drama and poetry, combining clouds of sound and textures in an almost tone poem score”

“The Mojave Desert could not be further away from the Orkney Islands where I grew up, but an archipelago is surrounded by frequent gale force winds that drive and turn a cycle of shelter and search for safe havens, from both external and internal elements”.

Jo Nockels, Head of Projects, Opera North, comments:

“Erland’s decision to make the score for The Wind almost entirely from the human voice, is a wonderfully powerful response to the combined claustrophobia and loneliness of the film.

“He is able to use the voice not just to represent the wind that always threatens to engulf everything, but the menace the film builds and the psyche of Lillian Gish’s luminous Letty.”

The Wind is the latest in our series of soundtrack commissions, following pianist Matthew Bourne’s live score for another late, great silent film, King Vidor’s The Crowd, which premiered at the Howard Assembly Room this week, and travels to the Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre on Sunday 21 Nov 2021 for the EFG London Jazz Festival 2021. Another large-scale choral commission, Julia Holter’s score for The Passion of Joan of Arc, was postponed due to the pandemic, and will be rescheduled for 2022.

Tickets for are available now for the Sage Gateshead and Howard Assembly Room dates, with RNCM tickets on sale on Wednesday 17 November.

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