PHILIP SHEPPARD – Walk into the Light

Philip Sheppard Composer | Philip Sheppard

Walk into the Light is from “I’ll be gone in the dark” – a film soundtrack by Philip Sheppard. It’s available to listen on Soundcloud [bottom of the page], but this link I’m giving is to a location on Philip’s website, where you can find out more about Philip and the film in question.  

Two discussion points arise immediately:

Does the track stand as a piece of music in its own right, or do we need to hear it harnessed to the film footage?

Does finding out more about the film and the composer help our understanding and appreciation of the music?

Anyway, here are some of my initial thoughts on a first listen. There are two discrete layers to this piece. The first to grab my attention was the ‘electronic’ layer of relentless echoing footsteps ploughing on through the mist and murk of watery, percussive noises which functions as an ostinato. It is this simple layer which so effectively provides a strong undercurrent of menace and foreboding. Over the top of this we have a small ensemble of orchestral instruments playing much more conventional gentle, lyrical music. It is this juxtaposition of strongly contrasting layers which gives the piece its tension. We are bracing ourselves,  waiting for something to happen … and it does.

At the 1:48 mark,  the ‘electronic’ layer gets busier and the orchestral sounds come to a gradual halt.  Then a new section begins at 2:15 when a fuzz bass sound provides a simple but assertive foundation for a meandering piano melody. The strings are still there but are now providing more jittery nervous interjections – a breakdown of the ensemble as the music comes to a gradual conclusion. 

The strength of this short piece lies in its simplicity and lack of drama. Something more bombastic would be nowhere near as effective. By holding the music back, Sheppard draws us into the story – in effect making our imaginations do some of the work by immersing us in the drama.

4 thoughts on “PHILIP SHEPPARD – Walk into the Light”

  1. I’d be intrigued to see this alongside the imagery which informed its creation. I’ve recently found myself ‘hearing’ a lot of interesting scores in TV and film I’ve been watching – notably Adem Ihan’s score for Armando Iannucci’s sci-fi series Avenue 5, and Evgueni Galperine & Sacha Galperine’s score for the series ‘Undoing’ currently on Now TV to name a couple.

    I’ve tried to imagine the images to this work – and get taken to a Bladerunner type place in my head – (image wise) – feelings of tension, dark, half glimpsed figures – and when the fuzz bass enters I get flying cars! The second part (fuzz bass onwards) definitely feels futuristic to me, and probably has strongly influenced my Philip K. Dick and sci-fi fandom to come to the fore.

    I actually really enjoy listening to contemporary classical / ambient / whatever the label instrumental music when I work, and this would sit nicely in that kind of playlist (e.g. Spotify’s Music for Concentration), so I’m off to look up the composer now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I also found myself wondering about hearing the music in the context of the film, but on reading this was a film about “an investigation into the dark word of a violent predator”, I decided I’d probably give it a miss!

      There are many instances of music being extracted as stand alone listening experiences which work very well. I have always enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘Soundtrack from the film More’ and it was only years later I was able to catch up with a rare screening of the film at an art house cinema. I remember coming out of the cinema feeling disappointed and somewhat cheated. The film itself lacked any coherence, robbing the music of much of its power and charm.

      I suppose composers for different media forms have always considered the possibilities of having music only performances, whether it be Stravinsky publishing his ballet scores for orchestral performance, Britten extracting his Sea Interludes from his opera ‘Peter Grimes’ and so on. Sometimes the listener’s imagination is all that is required to complement the music

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating. As someone who is currently teaching Bernard Herrmann and Hans Zimmer (among others) for A level I am constantly intrigued by whether the fact that film music works outside its context has any relevance whatsoever. I would argue that if the music serves the film successfully then it is doing its job, period. Nothing else matters: you cannot criticise a repetitive minimalist soundtrack if it works. However, the fact that so many people adore film and gaming soundtracks despite never having see the images proves me wrong! I can only assume these people project their own images in their head – after all, nobody can stop them.

    David’s point about Stravinsky ballets etc is a valid one: I vividly remember seeing Petrushka for the first time having been a fan of the music for a while, and being blown away by how much more it made sense. However, that lack of context had never stopped me liking the music for its sheer colour and imagination – the Peter Grimes preludes are another case in point. And then of course there is the other side, with Disney’s Fantasia transforming The Sorcerer’s Apprentice forever in our eyes and ears – inescapable surely?

    I would love to hear Philip’s own take on this: when writing music for and to images, does it need to have a ‘shelf life’ beyond those images? Does it enter the equation at all? Does it need to be ‘memorable’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great suggestion re trying to get Philip Sheppard’s thoughts on the questions you outline. I’ll try and establish contact …

      Like

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