Discovering the Voices of the Amazon

We talked to Ella Spira, Composer and Producer with Sisters Grimm, about new show Voices of the Amazon which comes to Sadler’s Wells’ stage in July.

1. How have you approached creating the score for Voices of the Amazon?
When approaching the creation of the score for Voices of the Amazon, it was very important to think about the story of the show and how I could represent the different cultures, storyline and themes. I was fortunate enough to visit Brazil and the Amazon Rainforest to gain inspiration and where I could get a feel of the spirit of the forest as well as learn about the devastation of deforestation. I felt I wanted to give a voice to the nature that was being destroyed and this features as an important part throughout the score.

Click here to listen to Sem Voce

2. What was it like to collaborate with Olodum on this?
The foundations of Olodum are both morally and artistically very much in line with our approach and this was very appealing to me as a composer. It was a great experience to collaborate with them and work with them to create percussion lines for the Voices of the Amazon score.

3. Can you introduce a little background on the music in VOTA, what can the audience expect to hear?
The music in Voices of the Amazon can be described as merging the cultures of Brazilian influences and rhythms with the haunting classical choral music associated with the Western world. We think this is particularly shown in the choir vocals at the end of the first act as they represent the trees crying as they are destroyed and burned by the fire over the raging and furious percussion and strings that build throughout the scene. Expect to hear a lot of percussion, strong melody lines and themes that re-appear to represent different characters throughout the story.

Click here to listen to Cracoao Selvagem

The thought and placement of the sound world and narration was thought through thoroughly, Jeremy Irons was top of our list and our dream voice for this part, the pace and timbre of his voice means he weaved through the music becoming another element of the score, similarly the sound effects created by Adrian Rhodes that were recorded in the Amazon Rainforest are also an integral part of the whole sound world of Voices Of The Amazon.

4. VOTA tells the story of a water spirit’s journey from the Amazon river to the rainforest, how do you create the sense of those two very different environments through music?
We thought carefully about getting the distinction between the two different worlds, Beleza the water spirit has hew own theme especially when she tells of her quest to find a cure for her sister. Her theme is full of movement that ebbs and flows with the whole score to show the water world in which she lives. The sound of the forest is much more Rooty with fast rhythms using the percussion to represent the natural rhythms of the forest. These interweave when there are scenes that incorporate Beleza surrounded by the forest and the animals that live there.

Click here to listen to Beleza’s theme music

5. Voices of the Amazon features a live onstage band, what do you think this adds to the performance for the audience?
As an audience member I think that with a live onstage band, it makes you listen to the music more as you can physically see the music being created in front of you. Usually when you see a performance, the music is in the background as you are focusing on what you are visually seeing on stage. Seeing the band brings the music to life in a different way, especially when you can see how the music is tied to the characters/dancers movements.

6. What song are you most looking forward to seeing performed live onstage?
It’s so hard to say, they are all important to us and I’m so proud how all aspects of the music have come together with the live band and the dancers singing live as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the audience’s reactions to some of the bigger numbers, Gaia, Um Novo Dia and Bem Vinda as they are sounding particularly stunning.

Click here to listen to Bem Vinda
Listen to more tracks from Voices of the Amazon here

Voices of the Amazon comes to Sadler’s Wells 4 – 8 July, click here to discover more.