Grey Area (2018)
Instrumentation: Ensemble and Skateboarding Film
Duration: 20 min
Commissioned by: Engage Arts Festival / Crash Ensemble
Funded by: The Arts Council of Ireland
Programme Note: As a composer and skateboarder, it has taken me many years to finally blend the two together. Grey Area is the fruit of a collaboration between friends, an exploration of the crossroads linking contemporary music and the essence of street skateboarding.
A project like this difficult, there are many traps that could make it feel like skateboarding is being cheapened or on show. My friends repeatedly questioned me as to whether this type of proposition was a good idea, if it was possible, or even if there was a reason for it. In the end, they trusted me as I am a skateboarder. I think that type of piece could only be created by a skateboarder, who, as a composer, has been listening to the sounds, rhythms and colours of skateboarding for their entire life.
The idea with this piece is to give an insight into what it is about street skateboarding that makes it special. For this, it had to be genuine and not staged. This was key. So over the course of a few months, we shot night footage in Dublin City and Cork City. This was thanks to my friends: Niall O’Byrne and Sam Curtin who are also great cinematographers. Paddy Walsh and Charles Neilson are the skateboarders in the film. The great challenge for me was to direct and not direct at the same time, the main idea being to shoot slow-motion in Dublin and normal speed in Cork. So we collected a lot of material on the streets, side-streets, back alleys, tunnels, sidewalks, rails, roads, ledges, walls, stairs and curbs of Dublin and Cork. The key to the functioning of the work would be down to the editing together of the footage.
The two things about skateboarding that I wanted to express are the unique feeling of liberation that only street skateboarding gives, and the different ways that skateboarders look at architecture, perceive their landscape, and the excitement that it brings. I edited these two different worlds in relief, each one complementing the other, hopefully giving the viewer a sense of what skateboarding feels like. To this I orchestrated the sounds, rhythms and colours of skateboarding and "The City". This would only be possible with Crash Ensemble!
For the music, I have to say that this piece would not exist without the idea of a Random Walk. The journey we follow takes us to places that we would simply not see if we don’t bother to look, and to be open to them.