From their more industrial early work to their later explorations of classical and ambient sounds, In The Nursery have always had a cinematic edge to their music. Comprised of twin brothers Klive and Nigel Humberstone, the group has taken this aspect of their sound to the next level in recent years with their Optical Music Series. This series consists of new soundtracks to classic silent films, which are released on CD and performed live with screenings of the films. They recently did two such performances in CA, and Klive took the time to tell us a bit about it by email.
1) Are these your first performances in the US?
KH: We actually performed last November in LA, presenting ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ at The Silent Movie Theatre.
That show gave us the impetus to arrange some more. So this time we are playing at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on 11th May and then ‘A Page of Madness’ at The Silent Movie Theatre in LA [on May 17th]. We are also quite keen to find the right venue in New York to take our Optical Music scores to – a show in NY is long overdue!
2) Can you describe the process of the “Optical Music Series” a bit?
KH: As with all OMS scores we view the film and log cue points for sections of music. Then we start putting together a collection or palette of sounds with which to write the music. It’s often useful to limit ourselves to a specific sound spectrum but the types of sounds, samples and timbres are usually dicatated by the film and what needs to be expressed. For instance, with ‘A Page of Madness’ we used samples of traditional Japanese instruments like the plucked Koto and expressive Shakuhachi flute. We edited and layered these sounds to give them their own identity within the compositions and combined them with other electronic and percussive elements.
Certain sounds obviously didn’t fit with the atmosphere that we were trying to create for film – for example symphonic strings. Instead we used a very thin sounding solo string harmonic.
3) Are these soundtracks generally comprised of completely new compositions, or do you perhaps look to previously unused/unfinished music/musical ideas that you think will fit on?
KH: Most of the latest scores are completely original compositions. I think the only exception was with the first soundtrack we did, ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ back in 1995. At the time we adapted a couple of tracks from our Les Jumeaux side-project. The score was originally intended as a one-off performance and never intended to be released on CD, or performed again. We have learnt a lot since then – The optical music scores are created and composed to exist on their own.
4) Have the film projects become the focus of In The Nursery? (as opposed to traditional albums)
NH: The film soundtracks add a variety to our work, but not a main focus – we generally alternate between studio album and soundtrack.
5) What else is in the immediate future for you?
KH: During the summer, we are putting aside some ‘quality’ time to record new material.
In August we head over to Hong Kong for a series of Optical Music score events and an ITN masterclass session
For more info on In The Nursery, check out this Chaos Control interview from 1993, as well as their official site.