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Vivaldi Sleep Project

Earlier this year we gave eleven diverse musicians from the world of Jazz, folk and rock, a recording of the string parts of the second movement ‘Autumn’, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  The musicians were Jim Moray, Trish Clowes, Paul Sartin, Philip Sheppard, Susi Evans, Shahbaz Hussain, Eduardo Garcia, Aidan O’Rourke, Yumi Kurosawa and David Le Page.

Originally recorded by Orchestra of the Swan players and conducted by Bruce O’Neil. at the Birmingham Conservatoire, in January 2020, all eleven musicians used this recording as the base of their inspiration, for their own unique interpretations.

Furthermore, all tracks were then given to a group of video artists to use for inspiration. One group of professional filmmakers and a second group of students from Birmingham School of Media. Over the next few months, we will be sharing with you the fantastic results of the Vivaldi Sleep Project.

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The Making of Morpheus

Susi Evans’ track Morpheus is the first single from the Vivaldi Sleep album, which features all eleven performers and out 25 February 2021. Here Susi chats to us about her inspiration behind this hypnotic track. To buy Morpheus click here . To listen see below. Scroll down to watch and listen to all tracks on the Vivaldi Sleep album.

Below you can watch and listen to all of the improvisations from our artists and filmmakers – all filmed and recorded during the first lockdown in 2020.

Week 1:

Trish Clowes: Robert Titu


Trish Clowes Saxophonist and composer has been described as “an improviser to be reckoned with” (Downbeat Magazine) and “one of the most agile and original jugglers of improv and adventurous composition to have appeared in the UK in recent times” (John Fordham, the Guardian). A BASCA British Composer Award winner and former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, Clowes works in a variety of settings, and has received critical acclaim for all of her album releases.Clowes’s band MY IRIS – with Chris Montague, Ross Stanley and James Maddren – has toured worldwide and been hailed as “the jazz of the future” (Augsburger Allgemeine).

Her performances (either with her band or as a soloist) include the Barbican, Toronto Jazz Festival, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Celtic Connections (with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra), Women in (e)motion Festival (Germany), National Opera House (Ireland), and making broadcasts for BBC 2 Proms Extra, BBC Radio 3 and Radio Bremen. In 2019, Clowes premiered Joe Cutler’s saxophone concerto ‘Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii’ with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Also in 2019, Clowes collaborated with film director Rose Hendry to create a music video ‘Abbott & Costello’ – inspired by characters in Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction film ‘Arrival’ – that has recently been screened at the Cannes Lions Festival and shortlisted for The Voice Of A Woman Awards 2019. Recent commissions include writing for the London Sinfonietta (a Sinfonietta Short for solo bass, and their Sound Out projects), BBC Radio 3 (BBC Postcards from Composers, and BBC Concert Orchestra) and Onyx Brass. Alongside her work as a performer and composer Clowes has been curating her own new music project Emulsion since 2012, through which she has commissioned seventeen new works. Recording took place during the first lockdown earlier this year, from Trish’s home.

Week 2:

Susi Evans: Walter Bird

Susi Evans is a classically trained musician, performing and teaching Klezmer, Balkan and other folk music styles, on the clarinet, accordion, bagpipes and whistles. For the Vivaldi Sleep Project Susi took inspiration from Jewish wedding folk music, where the tradition sees musicians tasked with making brides cry with emotional and atmospheric music.

Susi revisited a number of historical recordings from the 1940s, for her inspiration and uses Yiddish phrases including repetition and trills to produce such a unique sound.

Walter Bird said of the film “We wanted to create something that championed our great city of Birmingham; it’s brutalist architecture, it’s diversity and it’s creativity. Our film tells the story of an assistant in an art gallery (filmed at IKON) who through sleep discovers a place between reality and dreams, where static art is filled with dance and movement, and rich colour contrasts against the grey of the city”.

Week 3:

Philip Sheppard: Lopes & Luis

Philip Sheppard is an award winning composer, producer, virtuoso cellist, inventor, public speaker, philanthropist, professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and a creative innovator, who has worked with some of the biggest names in music, tech, sport and film. ‘Adrift in a sea of sleep’ is Philip’s fantasti contribution to the Vivaldi Sleep Project. Philip has composed more than 60 film, gaming, television and theatrical scores including Sony PS4’s highly acclaimed video game, DETROIT: Become Human, and the Star Wars Force Awakens behind the scenes Comic Con trailer which has over 11 million YouTube plays. Philip was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a member of the Music Class of 2017.

Student filmmakers Carolina Riberio Lopes and Telma Luis were the winners of the project. They said of the film “The main character is having beautiful lucid dreams and is in control of the dreams. She uses her polaroid to represent a photographic memory of each stage of the dream. Happiness is all over her face when she wakes and at the end, she is represented in one of the polaroids, which reflects on her not knowing if it was all actually a dream or not.”

Week 4:

Shahbaz Hussain: Oli Clark

Shahbaz Hussain is regarded as one of the leading tabla virtuosos of his generation. He has received numerous accolades for his captivating performances, including receiving the prestigious “Son of Lahore” Award from the Government of Pakistan in 2008. Shahbaz is an extremely versatile tabla player. He has mastered all the imperative traditional skills, as well as the ability to project those skills to more contemporary styles. His solo performances have gained great recognition all over the world.

OOTS brought in award-winning filmmaker Oli Clark to work his magic. Oli took inspiration from a quote by Shahbaz himself, about how he used to steal the pots and pans from his Mum’s kitchen, leading to his Dad eventually buying him his first tabla to practice with instead. Recorded during the first lockdown in the spring, Oli said “I thought it would be really nice, in this time of social isolation, to encourage parents to film their children re-enacting this scene, miming along to the recording from Shahbaz, hitting whatever ‘pots and pans’ came to hand.” The film shows a group of children doing just this to their hearts’ content.

Week 4:

Shahbaz Hussain: Rosie Mulhern

Shahbaz Hussain said of his experience with the project “When I received the track, Sleep, I was instantly inspired. I knew that I had enough “space” to play as I felt. It gave me ample opportunity to improvise around the music, using spaced out sounds slowly building into a crescendo and slowing back down again finishing just after the violins. I very much enjoyed playing to the track”

This film version is the work of Rosie Mulhern, a Birmingham School of Media student. Rosie, who resorted to filming in her bedroom due to the Covid lockdown regulations.She explains her inspiration behind the video “I wanted to try and explore the theme of ‘down the rabbit hole’, looking into what the protagonist may have seen or experienced in the daytime before their sleep. I manipulated this so they appeared exaggerated and unconventional. I manipulated lighting and edited to create the ‘drunken’ and ‘deep sleep’ effect, paying particular attention to my colour palette to depict ‘beautiful dreams’ and autumn.”

Week 5:

Aidan O’Rourke: Chris Sanger

Aidan O’Rourke is a fiddler, composer, producer, and curator. With his trio Lau, in multiple solo projects and in collaborations, Aidan O’Rourke has pioneered a new sound in folk music and redefined traditional form,  though his roots are in Scottish and Irish folk music. He grew up in an Irish family in Argyll and studied fiddle in the West Highland tradition. By 14 he was touring with The Caledonia Ramblers; in 1998 he joined Blazin’ Fiddles; in 2010 he formed the quartet Kan with whistle player Brian Finnegan.

In 2016 he formed a duo with the jazz pianist Kit Downes; in 2017 he joined the legendary Donal Lunny’s new collective The Atlantic Arc Orchestra. Lau came together in 2006 and their debut album set a precedent for new politically-charged folk music that expands the form and experiments with sound while staying rooted in tradition.

The film accompanying Aidan’s fanastic track is the work of Chris Sanger, a Birmingham School of Media student.

Week 5:

Aidan O’Rourke: Kamaljit Panesar

This is the second film featuring Aidan O’Rourke’s track. We asked Aidan to describe his inspiration for the track “I recorded this in Edinburgh at midsummer. I imagine Scottish summer is a bit like a cold wet version of Venetian autumn. Given the year we’ve had, this project was a gift. To dust off the mics and add my fiddle line to these lush and searching strings. I thought about the mysterious sonnet that Vivaldi wrote into the score of Autumn, and I fixed on the line ‘everyone is made to forget their cares’:
Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,
The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
And fired up by Bacchus’ liquor,
many end their revelry in sleep.
Everyone is made to forget their cares and to sing and dance
By the air which is tempered with pleasure
And (by) the season that invites so many, many
Out of their sweetest slumber to fine enjoyment
And then there is the more plain-speaking instruction Vivaldi wrote for this particular movement: “the drunkards have fallen asleep” which made me laugh. I imagined walking into a room as the sun is coming up. The dregs of a wild soirée. A ‘ruined table’, as Christopher Hitchens put it. Or maybe it’s a bigger image, to do with this year, and the dark, and the moment before sunrise.


Aidan’s second film has been created by Kamaljit Panesar’s, part of our student group from Birmingham School of Media. When asked about their inspiration, Kamaljit said “I wanted to capture the textures of colourful Indian clothing and food, as well as textures using water.

Week 6:

Paul Sartin: Carlo Prevosti

Paul Sartin is an oboist, singer, traditional violinist, competent pianist and swanee whistle virtuoso. He is a prolific and highly-regarded performer, composer, arranger and teacher. He is a founding member of the award- and nomination-winning ensembles – Belshazzar’s FeastFaustus and the late Bellowhead. Paul’s inspiration behind the track was very much a family affair. He has chosen the melody of a traditional Dorset folk song, ‘One night as I lay on my bed’ famously sang by Marina Russell in 1907, whose maiden name was Sartin – Paul’s great, great, great Auntie. Her songs (of which she sang 100 on two different occasions) and other singers’ songs (648 to be precise) were collected by the Hammond Brothers during their Dorset tour, from 1904 to 1907. The song is a ‘night visiting song’ where a lover is lying in bed and visited by a partner that is either alive or has passed away.

Carlo Prevosti, professional filmmaker created the film to accompany the track. Spending lockdown in Milan next to the Naviglio Martesana was Carlo Prevosti’s inspiration for Fluid: a liquid journey in space and time – his film to accompany Paul Sartin’s improvisation. Carlo explains “I spent the lockdown in Milan, one of the first epicentres of the Covid pandemic. During this period, I moved home from a central neighbourhood. My perspective on the city changed thanks to the presence of the Naviglio Martesana, a canal that dates back to the times of Leonardo di Vinci. And that flows everyday placidly like the passage of time. The idea of this project was to trace the course of the canal backwards, from the garden of my house to where it was born, as if to rediscover the origins of what we are, through the fluidity of its waters.”

Week 7:

Eduardo Garcia: Luca Fornaciara

Eduardo Garcia was born in Argentina in 1964. He studied the bandoneon in Buenos Aires under the most prestigious of maestros such as A. Barletta, D. Binelli and Rodolfo Mederos. In 1983 he founded the “Apertura” orchestra and recorded a CD, which was awarded several major prizes. Eduardo has also performed with many other musicians and orchestras including Horacio Salgan, Orlando Tripodi, Jorge Sobral, Erlin Kroner and “Tango por dos”, and in many plays and radio and TV programmes. When Eduardo arrived in France in 1992, the famous director Alfredo Arias asked him to play in his show “Mortadela”, which was awarded the Molière best musical show award. Since then, Eduardo has performed as a soloist in France and overseas with many artists including Lio, Gustavo Beytelmann, Antonio Agri and Omar Espinoza, and recorded several CDs with other musicians such as Ombu, Luis Rizzo Quinteto, Jean-Paul Poletti, Santos Chilemi, François Beranger, Dimitra Galani and the Cuarteto Cedron.

When Eduardo was first approached by the Swan, he confessed he thought it was a strange idea “But when I heard it, the atmosphere was so beautiful. I didn’t want to just improvise, I wanted to mix a conversation and writing so I wrote lyrics to the idea of the dream.” Eduardo explains.

The film to accompany Eduardo’s improvisation is from professional filmmaker Luca Fornaciari. Luca, following 15 years in computer and graphic design now devotes his time to graphic and photographic training, particularly astronomical photography, explained his inspiration behind the film. “I‘ve selected seven Autumn theme images from the Web. I treated them digitally and zoomed to 40,000 %. The animation is a sort of abstract picture, with a slow movement, designed to explore the image on a cellular level. The final image will never be revealed, but it will be as if it were seen through the lens of a powerful microscope.”

Week 8:

Yumi Kurosawa: Tyrell Charles

Yumi Kurosawa is an award-winning Koto star. She is one of today’s most exciting soloists on Japan’s national instrument, the Koto. Born and raised in Japan, she started studying the Koto when she was three, under her parents Kazuo & Chikako Kurosawa.

She started studying 21 strings Koto under Nanae Yoshimura when she was 15 years old. Ms. Kurosawa received first prize at the National Japanese Koto Competition in 1989 and 1992, and a scholarship from The Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan in 1998. She toured U.S., Canada, Malaysia and Russia.

Yumi has been lauded by the NY Times for her graceful musicianship, “drawing on a timbral palette that [ranges] from warm and rounded to bright and metallic.” She also has received praise in the Washington Post and other prestigious publications. When asked about her inspiration for the piece she said “I thought it was an interesting idea and tried to think how I wanted to improvise on the track I was sent.

Explaining the complexity of the piece Yumi said “Honestly this kind of piece changes keys so often and is very tricky to improvise on the Koto. I created two-thirds of the music for the Koto and planned to reduce moving the bridges as much as I could, so that the rest of it could be improvised and played with technical passages inspired by this piece.”

Tyrell Charles, video producer, editor and photographer talks through his film accompanying Yumi’s improvisation. “The dreams are framed as a type of love story with Hope, our lead character, longingly following this mystery figure and watching her experiences from a distance.

The experiences the girl goes through seem all too familiar. Hope is desperate to be with the girls as she lives through each dream, getting closer and closer with each passing dreamWe were essentially inspired by the sleep and dream element of the synopsis and felt Kurosawa’s string melodies seemed to resonate well with the story”.

Week 9: 

David Gordon: Stewart Bywater

David Gordon is an improviser, award-winning composer and genre-bending keyboard-player.  The rich diversity of his collaborations includes work with musicians from the worlds of jazz, classical, tango and baroque music.  Amongst these is an innovative duo project with OOTS’s very own David Le Page, entitled ‘Blurred Lines’.  Improvisation, the link between baroque music and jazz, is the beating heart of what he does.

“When performed as part of the Four Seasons cycle, this piece is accompanied by a harpsichord, and Vivaldi writes ‘il cembalo arpeggio’ an invitation to the player to embellish and shape the music according to taste.” David explains.

The greater compass and depth of the piano keyboard allows a more dynamic and colourful approach than would be possible on harpsichord. The adventurous nature and sometimes surprising sequence of Vivaldi’s harmonies are the perfect springboard to explore the multi-dimensional nature of sleep and of dreams, whether fragmentary, vivid, vague, sweet, or calm.”

David’s improvisation is the featured in Stewart Bywater’s film featuring faturing the actor Joelle Rae who most recently appeared in Amazon Prime’s Christmas film ‘My Dad’s Christmas Date’ and the BBC iplayer and Netflix series Get Even.

As with all the films they were filmed during the first lockdown and here Stewart explains the film’s significance: “I wanted to illustrate the monotony of the lockdown. I used the dripping tap, ticking clock and swinging lightswitch as metaphors for the repetitive, Groundhog Day-esque experience of being stuck indoors throughout the lockdown.

The use of the phone was intended to show the impact social media can have on our mental health, especially this year, with everyone being confined to their homes, watching others leading ‘their best lives’, combined with all the toxic memes that were floating around and the awful things happening in the world at the time we made the film. I also hope that it shows how social media exacerbates the general feeling of loss, loneliness and being ignored that so many of us have felt this year. Combined with the alcohol, the combination of loneliness, despair and alcoholic depression leads her into a dark place and for a while, it looks like she might not be emerging from the deep sadness, which I hope came across in the bathtub scene.

With the dream sequence, I wanted to illustrate our collective yearning to be outdoors and ‘set free’ from the lockdown. More importantly, I hope that it shows how happiness can come from simple, natural things and just from an uncomplicated existence. Even though it was all made in just a few hours with just one camera and no other kit, I hope that this film captures some of the feelings, both good and bad, that 2020 has conjured up within us and also that it sends out a positive message about how we don’t need all the trappings of the competitive modern world, and that most of us already have what we need, all around us.”

Week 10: 

Jim Moray: Rosie Mulhern

Week 11: 

David Le Page: Music and Film by David Le Page

Jim Moray is amongst England’s finest interpreters of traditional song. His relentlessly innovative recordings can truly be said to have changed the sound of folk music since the early 2000s, and he has won fans and admirers far outside of the folk scene without ever betraying his traditional roots. A five-time BBC Folk Award winner, his songs have been featured in a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, he has appeared on-screen singing a specially composed song for Dr Who spin-off Class as aliens attack the earth, and he has presented documentaries on traditional music for BBC Radio 3.

We asked Jim to talk us through his piece: “The words for this come from a song called ‘Night Song’ found in a collection of Broadside ballads entitled “The Mayday Garland”. It was published in 1850 by J Pitts publishers, Seven Dials, London. May day is one of the most important dates in the traditional music calendar – possibly more important than the actual New Years’ day, and most folk song collectors notated at least one may day carol as traditional songs. The tune is my own, inspired by the chord sequence.

The film has been produced by Rosie Mulhern who also featured in Week 4 supporting Shahbaz Hussain’s arrangement. Rosie is one of our Birmingham School of Media students. Rosie explained the thought process behind the video: ” I created a pinterest board to get get some initial inspiration and ideas, the main thing I took from the story, given by the brief, was beautiful dreams. I then focused on these words and the key idea that really stood out was shadow puppetry and this seemed like it could reinforce the idea.”

And finally, we reach the climax of the Vivaldi Sleep Project, we have shared all ten of our diverse musicians from the world of folk, jazz, rock and many more musical genres over the last ten weeks, providing a plethora of contrasting and exceptional improvisations, along with all the videos produced by our talented group of professional and student filmmakers.

We are excited to share with you one additional improvisation to the mix. Having been inspired by all of the pieces, the Swan’s very own Artistic Director David Le Page has created Sleep Walk for you to enjoy.

David’s piece is a hybrid of improvised and written parts for multi-tracked violins. The orchestral track was discretely manipulated and the process of layered recording, editing, and mixing became a creative compositional tool which informed the eventual outcome.

David’s creativity extends to his family as his daughter Clara helped with the filming of the video. Here David describes the inspiration behind the video to accompany his improvisation: “In my video a hooded figure – suggesting the human statues of Anthony Gormley – materialises at different locations in a stark landscape. Transition to a dream state occurs as the figure approaches the lens. Winter trees overlayed by a violinist appearing as flickering shadow play, create an unsettling reverie. The figure returns as the music reaches its resolution. The video was filmed, with the help of my daughter Clara, at East Carlton country park near Corby and in a very muddy field in the Welland Valley.”