In Part 3 of this post on the television series Requiem, created by Kris Mrska and first broadcast in the UK by the BBC, I wander back towards the soundtrack.
As I mention in Part 1 this was created by Dominik Scherrer with Natasha Khan, who is known for her work as Bat For Lashes and could be filed alongside The Living and the Dead’s soundtrack in that it explores/accompanies a sense of otherly pastoralism (and in The Living and the Dead’s case folk music and culture) and the super or preternatural in a rural within a mainstream television setting.
Natasha Khan’s wordless vocals accompany the instrumentation and the resulting work is rather fine and lovely, entrancing even and while the music at times contains a subtly unsettling, darker tinged and sometimes dread filled or ominous atmosphere, it has a sense of warmth or even intimacy to it.
Accompanying the themes in the series, the music soundtracks a sense of visitations by spectres, spirits and possibly demons that are near by, whispering in your ear or just at the edge of vision in a room you have stumbled into. Otherworldly or conjurings are words that also come to mind.
Reference points for the soundtrack?
Well, they may include the likes of Cat’s Eyes pastoral fantasia soundtrack for The Duke of Burgundy or the also fantasia like soundtrack to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, the melodic conjurings of Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows and maybe the soundtrack for some semi-forgotten supernatural tinged Italian giallo (along which lines, I could also mention Kelli Ali’s The Kiss, which has not dissimilar semi-forgotten soundtrack qualities).
Other possible references points?
The also pastoral wanderings and wordless vocalisations of Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, which connects back to Part 1 of this post as in that I mentioned how Peter Anderson Studio created the intro sequence for Requiem and also designed the artwork for this particular Sharron Kraus album.
In Part 1 of this post I also mention how the Peter Anderson Studio work for requiem has:
“…a certain classy texturality, the lineage of which could be traced back to the likes of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson’s work for 4AD in the 1980s”.
Which for myself brings me to some other possible reference points for The Requiem soundtrack: it puts me in mind of something pleasingly leftfield that you might have found on say 4AD or Mute in the 1980s.
Possibly in some way the accessible, melodic experimentalism of Holger Hiller on the album Obem im Eck/the track Waltz or the more experimentally arthouse, atmospheric side of gothic tinged (but not actually goth) work such as some of Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard’s work, in particular The Host of Seraphim from 1988’s The Serpent’s Egg.
As with some of Dead Can Dance’s work, the soundtrack for Requiem also here and there brings to mind a sense of reimagined medieval aesthetics – although less overtly and with a more contemporary edge than Dead Can Dance’s work, which also often has a more epic, almost glacial quality or distance to it, in contrast to the Requiem soundtrack which as mentioned earlier has a warmer more intimate character.
The title’s to Requiem’s soundtrack’s tracks are composed of generally short non-words including Aigra, Naaa, Rgoan, Lsraph and Omsia. I can’t bring a particular album to mind but these titles also seem to remind me of some similarly titled left-of-centre work that travels in not too dissimilar terrain from the 1980s.
Or moving slightly further along in time on 4AD, His Name is Alive’s Livonia album from 1990 could also be a reference point for the Requiem soundtrack, particularly the opening track As We Could Ever, which shares with Requiem’s soundtrack a sense of otherworldly, female vocaled conjuring.
(As an aside, although all possessing their own character, a number of the track’s/music mentioned in this post – Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows, Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, Dead Can Dance’s Host of Seraphim and the Requiem Soundtrack itself – share a similarity in featuring female wordless vocals.)
And talking of otherworldy, as with the Peter Andersen Studio work for Requiem, the album cover art for Livonia and the insert for The Serpent’s Egg contain otherworldly, almost spectral aesthetics and a certain texturality in regards to pastoral inflected work – all of which reflects the rural setting and super or preternatural themes of the episodes of Requiem.
As a further reference point, in some way the soundtrack to Requiem also put me in mind of the loose cultural/musical grouping that David Keenan has called England’s Hidden Reverse – the post-industrial likes of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.
In Requiem the music is a soundtrack to, rather than a hidden reverse, more a layered, super or preternatural world and related conspiracies/machinations.
As with Requiem, sections of Coil’s work and the neo-folk aspects of Current 93 also bring to mind and/or explore a flipside or unsettled undercurrents of rurality/the pastoral.
With regards to Current 93, that aspect is also highlighted due to founder David Tibet’s championing and releasing of Shirley Collins’ music, who in recent years appears to have been situated/to have come to situate herself amongst and work alongside a sense of “wyrd” Albion and has been called “The High Queene of English Folk” in promotional material for the documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins.
Her connection to England’s Hidden reverse is also made more implicit due to her recording with Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown of Cyclobe, who have also worked with Coil.
Anyways, returning more directly to Requiem:
Music is also an inherent part of the plot of Requiem as the main character is a famous, stylish young cellist and her partner in her attempts to uncover the truth behind the machinations she discovers is her onstage musical partner and accompanying pianist.
As part of their investigations they discover in a hidden basement recordings of haunting music, which appears to have been created and used for ritualistic purposes – something that, albeit for somewhat different reasons than those presented in Reqiuem, sections of England’s Hidden Reverse and Coil in particular have been known to do or state that their music is intended for.
Partly because of the time in which they were created these recordings which are discovered in Requiem were made on reel-to-reel cassettes.
In the supernatural context of the series, the media on which they are recorded seems to have an inherently more spooked or spectral nature to it than say a digital recording might have, although my view of such things is possibly partly influenced by the hauntological inflections which have come to be attached to physical and period analogue media and also their use and intrinsic presence in the likes of The Stone Tape and Berberian Sound Studio.
As an aside, returning to listen to sections of the soundtrack to Berberian Sound Studio, the melodic, spectral, entrancing, female vocaled otherworldly nature of some of Requiem’s Soundtrack shares some similar territory with Broadcast’s soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s film.
While in a further intertwined manner Andrew Liles who has worked with both Current 93 and Nurse With Wound reworked the sound design of Berberian Sound Studio for a record release titled The Equestrian Vortex, which is the name of the film-within-a-film in Berberian Sound Studio.
And talking of physical and digital releases of music and other culture, as mentioned in Part 1 of this post, the Requiem soundtrack is only available digitally to download or stream but I chose to purchase the album as a download.
(The series itself is also only available in high-definition online/as a download, something which I discuss further in Part 1 of this post. Also, as far as I know, it is only available as a 192 kbps download, which is essentially a compressed, lossy file format and so although consciously I can’t hear the parts that have been trimmed away, semi-consciously I wander what parts of the music is missing – see “The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss” below.)
Despite the convenience and instant access to millions upon millions of songs that streaming can offer, in terms of just sitting down to appreciate and experience an album, in an almost modern-day sacramental manner, downloads possibly offer a more distilled and undisturbed experience in the way that a physical CD or record can – there isn’t the hurried, slightly harried sense of “What’s next? What else can I listen to?” that the almost unlimited nature of streaming offers.
(Not too dissimilar could also be said of the streaming of films and television and the sometimes overwhelming selection of available titles, in contrast to say just downloading one particular title and that being the one which you focus on and watch.)
Having just one album to listen to, in a self-curated manner, seems to offer a moment of repose in a rather busy contemporary cultural and digital landscape.
Aigra – Requiem’s main title theme
The Requiem trailer
The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
More on Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan’s score
The Stone Tape and the Capturing of Resonances
Berberian Sound Studio / Requiem musical intertwining
Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows
Kelli Ali’s The Kiss
Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Day #23/365: Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape – a study of future haunted media
2) Day #153/365: Stepping through into… Berberian Sound Studio
3) Day #327/365: A fever dream of Haunted Air…
4) Day #349/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #2; the semi-random placing of England’s hidden reverse…
5) Week #12/52: The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss
6) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #19/52a: The Ballad Of Shirley Collins Trailer and Wandering Amongst Shadowed Furrows/The Hidden Reverse
7) Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Kraus
8) Day #150/365: Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows
9) Week #1/52: The Duke Of Burgundy and Mesmerisation…
10) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #28/52a: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders – Unreleased Variations Away From Bricks And Mortar
11) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #48/52a: Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Cinematic Conjurings
12) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations
13) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations
14) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations