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Venn Diagrams and New Realms: Rakhi Singh and Vessel’s Written in Fire

Interview

Before their collaboration inspired by Leoš Janáček’s string quartet Intimate Letters, we caught up with violinist Rakhi Singh and pioneering electronic musician Vessel (Sebastian Gainsborough) to find out more.

How did you and Seb (Vessel) meet?

Rakhi Singh: Seb and I met doing a project with Immix Ensemble in Liverpool in 2014.  Despite coming from different music worlds we connected in the things that excited us musically and we started sharing music and inspirations.

Sebastian Gainsborough: When we first met I had come directly from playing at Unsound festival. Rakhi put my sweaty orange glow down to a sunny holiday. I think she was shocked when I told her it was actually jaundice from too much Polish beer.

‘It was music that I knew would change me from the moment I heard it.’

How did the idea come about to create a work based on Janacek’s quartet, Intimate Letters?  

RS: It’s an incredibly dynamic, progressive and engaging piece and it appealed to us both in different ways. It is radical in form and expression which is fascinating to us both. I also get to play it which is another level of challenge and reward!

SG: I was at Rakhi’s old flat and her housemate, Sarah, was rehearsing the piece with her quartet in the living room. I was heading upstairs when I heard them playing out of the corner of my ear and was transfixed. After earwigging some more I found out what it was and listened for about three hours. It was music that I knew would change me from the moment I heard it.

Tell us about the piece, and how does playing it from memory intensify it for the group?

RS: The work is highly charged, full of a huge mental, emotional and physical states. One minute it is frenetic and the next tender. As performers we are also going through these states and trying to communicate something of ourselves through Janacek’s language and intensely personal story. It’s amazing. Internalising the music helps us embody this and take it to a whole other level.

How did you create Written in Fire, working together?

RS: We discussed a great deal what we wanted our piece to be, how the Janacek made us feel and what we wanted to say as a result. The Janacek is modern and vibrant and our piece nods to the past whilst embracing the present. The idea is to create a space where people can absorb what they have just heard and gradually enter into this new realm with us.

SG: Venn diagrams, frequent breakdowns, superficial love and trust whilst actually freaking out internally…it was very difficult for both of us at times, but as a result of spending so long pursuing something so challenging we’ve definitely enlarged our comfort zones. I think in the end it was the deadline of an actual performance that got the piece done…

How will Pedro Maia’s visuals work with this new presentation?

RS: We worked with Pedro on some visual ideas and he will be essentially playing with us live. Reacting to the music and the different states that it journeys through using footage we filmed last year.

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