As above, so below, contemporary classical work

As above, so below is a composition for 20 piece string orchestra, recorded sound and image, in two parts entitled “Adagio” and "Memory Realised". The second part is a collaboration with the film maker Tom Kelly. The work is about my Father, Mark Ryan, and Kenya, where he was born, spent much of his life and was tragically killed in an accident on a tea plantation on the 30th December 1974 (the year I was born). My father is buried at sea off the coast of Kenya.

"Adagio" was commissioned by Plymouth University to commemorate it's 150th Anniversary in 2012.  I was so inspired by the process of writing music about my father that I decided to visit Kenya for the first time since my birth and discover, for myself, a father and a life I might have had and, on my return, compose a second, contrasting, piece. For this I added film and recorded sound to the 20 string ensemble.

Plymouth University and the Peninsular Arts organisation continued to support the project, as it expanded, performing the first piece twice in 2012 and eventually premiering the complete work at the 2013 Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival - 'Sensing Memory'. It was performed by The Ten Tors Orchestra, Conducted by Simon Ible.

The first piece depicts the hybrid images I have in my mind of landscape, light, texture and personality from photographs and paintings of people and places in Kenya that have been shared with me throughout my life. Given I've no first-hand experience of these things, the piece is knowingly and intentionally romantic, even filmic, as it is based on the memories I've inherited, so often infused with longing and loss.

The second piece sets out not to convey narrative nor my emotions but instead the tangible, sensory ‘reality’ of being in Kenya whilst I created a new story of my own. The piece therefore comprises sound recordings and moving images (by Tom Kelly) captured during the trip to Kenya which are blended with the orchestra to express 'real things'. It is perhaps a ‘tone poem’, rather than a piece of music, consisting of a sequence of audiovisual ‘stills’ or ‘snapshots’.

'As above, so below - Adagio' was premiered by The Ten Tors Orchestra, conducted by Simon Ible at St Andrew's Minster, Plymouth, on Saturday 22 Sept 2012 and again 22rd October 2012 at the Plymouth University 150th Anniversary concert.

'As above, so below - Memory realised' was premiered 23rd February 2013  by The Ten Tors Orchestra, conducted by Simon Ible at  Plymouth University as part of the Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival - 'Sensing Memory'.

The film was shot and edited by Tom Kelly.

The complete work 'As above, so below' was created with the generous support of Plymouth University, Peninsular Arts and The Ten Tors Orchestra. With special thanks to Simon Ible, the players of The Ten Tors Orchestra and Vice Chancellor Wendy Purcell.

All works © Nick Ryan 2013. All rights reserved.