As Mayfest kicks off, bringing Glasgow an intensive three weeks of theatre, art, music and clubbing, ﬁle list previews the best events. For full coverage of events in the festival’s ﬁrst fortnight, check our Mayfest day-by-day diary, and see next issue for the best of the rest.
l' the crossroads is traditionally the place where musicians sell their soul to the Devil. then (ilasgow composer (‘raig .Armstrong must have made a multitude of satanic pacts by now. such is the number
of musical paths which meet in his work. liven the most l'leeting ol’ glances at his ('V reveals that Armstrong has had his linger in a number ol’ pies since his graduation trom London's Royal Academy ol Music in NM.
That same year he was named Ja/z. Musician ol'
there the obvious
the Year. So from
course was into and rock territory. Despite a desire to remain a shadowy presence in the background. Armstrong enjoyed stints in llipsway' and Tevas belore his arranging talents began to dictate the bulk oli his work.
In recent years he has received gold stars for his work on various Tron Theatre productions. penning atmospheric accompaniment tor Ham/er. ('nm' and The 'li‘it'ls Is '1}; Keep Brett/lime. and with the RSV. lie has scored l’eter Mullan‘s short lilms and arranged strings for Massive Attack. [3. .\'e||ee llooper. Madonna and liuture Sound ()l‘ London. (‘learly the nest step was to study Indian classical music using a composer‘s bursary t'rom the Scottish Arts (‘ouncik
‘l‘ve liked Indian music because it‘s a combination ol‘ the improvised and the classical.‘ he says. ‘That‘s probably why it pulls me in because that‘s what I try to do as well.
‘liveryone chooses their own language to e\press themselves whether it‘s two-tone music or Tolls niusie ot‘jan. A lot oli people have said whatever I do they can spot it‘s me. so I think I have got a style now and it does pull from a lot ol‘dit'l'erent things. The inl‘luences in my music are subliminal. They’re just there in your bones.‘
With this. Armstrong shrugs ol'l’ any attempt to describe this style oli his. bill there are some
clues to the consistent elements in his work. Accessibility is one l'aetoi'.
‘ll‘ you don‘t read any programme notes or know anything about my music. it doesn‘t really matter. It’s there for hearing. In the Fits and (ills you got screeds ol explanations ot how you should enjoy a piece of music. Then you‘d hear it and you didn‘t. Then the programme told you why you should have liked it. but it should just work as a piece ot music.‘
When Armstrong talks more ciuhusiastically ot working with liuture Sound ()t London than
From Pavarotti to Massive Attack. Glasgow composer (‘raig Armstrong is gaining an international reputation for knowing the score. As his latest work is premiered at Mayl‘est. l-“iona Shepherd speaks to a man with a colourful musical history.
‘The way I work is quite improvisatory. Working with Massive Attack over the last couple of years I got into the way of letting things grow as opposed to having a rigid torm. Each piece seems to have its own soil.’
Madonna. and reserves particular praise tor
.\lassi\e -\ttacl.. he betrays another ﬁeld ol
interest the use or samples and technology which he employs seamlessly in the classical realm.
His latest work. the May l'esl—conunissioned 3/! .l/(rt‘r’lltr'ijls for Urc/n's‘lru. is a happy marriage o1~ much that tires Armstrong's tastes. Starting like .is a collaborative cl'l'ort between
Armstrong. the lions Michael Boyd. designer
(iraham .lohnston. programmer Maritis [)c \ililtW Lllltl c‘tititltlc'ltit' ( it‘t'lllll \\t‘\liitl. lltL‘ l‘l'lllt‘c'l has taken of! a laid-back lil‘e til~ its own.
Boyd interv iewcd ten (ilaswegians ot‘all ages
Mover and shaker
on the subject ol‘ l'avourite times of day. Samples ol‘ these conversations l'orm ten of the twenty movements. the other ten being a sung interpretation ol’ each sampled segment.
‘We thought time would be a good structure l'or what the piece is about.‘ says Armstrong. ‘because in every'body's life there are times that are very special to them. Time is such a classic musical subject because music is so much based on time. There‘s also the idea that time is getting shorter. timescales are becoming tighter
‘ and people's concentration isn‘t what it used to be.’
Almost paradoxically. Armstrong tound the original concept of twenty one- minute movements too constraining.
‘The way I work is quite improvisatory. Working with Massive Attack over the last couple of years I got into the way ol‘ letting things grow as opposed to having a rigid torm. Iiach piece seems to have its own soil. For this piece I gave everything its natural liliespan. Without that much rehearsal time there's an element of chance. but you either do that or remain totally sal‘e.‘
A sneak preview of the piece. to be performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. reveals a mournl‘ul but captivating tone throughout. conveyed by everything from lone piano backing a child's monologue. to staccato jazzy arrangements. to the full .Vlahleresque orchestral monty.
Armstrong anticipates that a version of 21) .llut'enients will appear on his planned solo album for Attack‘s Wild Bunch Records alongside his work with respected producer Howie Bernstein and The Blue Nile‘s l’aul Buchanan. And. he reasons. why shouldn‘t such varied bedl‘ellows make for a rounded album‘.’
As though to illustrate the breadth of his musical interests. when asked what pipe dreams he’d like to fulﬁl. the man who accompanied Pavarotti at the War (‘hild concert last year replies: 'I wouldn't mind getting in contact with The Aphex Twin because he sull‘ers from asthma and so do I and I think with my orchestral string thing and his techno we could do a really good charity record for asthma sul'l'crers.‘
Yet another potential meeting of the ways for
Old .\'ick to capitalise on. 30 .llm'emeuls for ()rc/u'slru. /)(’)_'/i)l‘lll(’(l by [he Biol/[sh ('lium/ier ()rc/Iesrru, is (1! [/H’ Kings 'l'ln'um'. (i/usgun: I’rirluy‘ /()/.S'ulurdu_v // .llav. .S't'e .lluv/i’sl listings;
The List .i- l(i May l‘)‘)(i