June 2020 Broadway World

platform 4Platform 4's Invisible Music

Looking back at when we previously created Invisible Music as a gig-theatre piece in 2018, I don't think any of us imagined the situation we find ourselves in. What was once a 'live concept album' has now been transformed for this current digital age of theatre consumption, and we are thrilled to be giving it another life, thanks to emergency Arts Council funding, in a more intimate and meditative setting - which seems fitting for those wanting to momentarily escape the chaos.

Live performance is obviously pretty unbeatable, but this is more of a singular, one-on-one headphone experience - very intimate. You need to give yourself time to listen properly and give it the attention it needs. It's been great to have more control over the experience in this new way, with a film format - the levels of the audio samples against the music are great in the film! We've also worked closely with visual artist Barret Hodgson (Fatboy Slim, Motionhouse) to create some stunning projections to accompany the score.

Invisible Music started as an exploration into my mum's personal experience of gradually losing her hearing. I never realised, until I started going to lip-reading classes with her and getting to know the other members, how much she was lip reading us all when we saw her at home. She had been performing this magic trick every day because her hearing had deteriorated so much - and yet I never knew how bad it had become and how masterful she had become at making it look like she was 'hearing'! I was struck by how many of these seemingly 'proper' people were having quite a hallucinogenic experience of the world every day.

Invisible MusicThe band for Invisible Music

The ultimate irony is that my mum can't really hear the film. Headphones help a little and she can still hear the bass lines. At the age of 60 she said she wanted to be famous, but she didn't know what for, and she reckoned she had left it too late. I was trying to do something about this, I guess!

There are roughly 12 million people with hearing loss across the UK, which is around one in six of us. One in eight adults also experience tinnitus. We wanted to help raise awareness for those who have had their life soundtrack altered, and the impact this has on everyday living. It's worth noting that our inspiration was drawn largely from hearing loss, and to an extent the experience of ageing and ageing well. The piece wasn't inspired directly by the deaf community, which has a very distinct experience.

We hope the piece can shine a light on how it feels to experience hearing loss and illuminate the issues for friends and families of those living with the condition. From a routine trip to Sainsbury's turning into something surreal, to having your life spiral out of your control, the film describes the isolation that hearing loss can bring, but also the unexpected comforts. For 45 minutes, people can plug in and get swept along on a visual and aural journey to witness life behind the impairment.

Ideally, I hope listeners are touched by and enlightened about how the world can seem for people who don't hear as well. As one of our audience members said after seeing the live piece: "I will go home with renewed patience for my mother-in-law!". That's a bit of a flippant answer - I just hope the curious, questing spirit of the people who helped us create the piece comes through

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