LONDON, United Kingdom — “For you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” Lewis Carroll’s fantastical and much-loved novel “Alice in Wonderland” has long provided a fertile ground for artists and composers to draw inspiration from.
For award-winning composers and collaborators Litha and Effy Efthymiou, the book ignited a spark of an idea to create an immersive experience for the audience whereby they are unsure of what is real and what is not.
I meet up with Litha and Effy, both alumnae of the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, to discuss their recent sell-out work, Parting, and the contemporary art music scene where they are fast becoming names to watch.
The Efthymiou Sisters Interview
How would you describe yourselves and your genre of music and where do you fit in amongst your fellow composers?
Litha: We are composers of contemporary art music, which is concept music that is written now, for classically trained musicians and electronics. But our work is not straight composition; it is composition and theatre.
Effy: Most composers of contemporary art music are writing pure music; they might delve into multi-disciplinary work but the process they use is arguably isolated from the other disciplines.
Litha: The work of composer and director Heiner Goebbels is closest to what we do. He has a stake in both composing and directing.
Who or what inspires you when you are composing and creating works?
Effy: For me it is other music. If I am writing a violin solo, I will listen to violin solos, but not necessarily in the same style. It could be a Beethoven sonata – but it would give me inspiration.
Litha: It is really about being interested in everything. Flamenco, tango, ballet – we go and see everything. Every week I will see live theatre and live music – so it all has a massive influence.
The subject matters of your works have included neurological case studies, the crimes of Roman Emperor Nero and tales of delusion – is it fair to say your subject matter tends to be quite dark?
Effy: I would not say our music is light at the moment, but it could be. There must be a part of us that is attracted to writing dark music. It has a lot to do with music we have heard and liked, and the more moody music resonates with us. I like Shostakovich – his music is dark and grimy and raw. Being Londoners makes our music more edgy. We live in urban spaces with crime and grime and machines around us. Living in London is definitely an inspiration. The sonic landscape is so particular.
Tell me about your most recent work, Parting, which sold out when it was performed at Kings Place earlier this year. What is the story behind it?
Effy: We had been looking at “Alice in Wonderland” and trying to combine it with the real world. We had worked with psychologist Dr Vaughan Bell on an earlier work, “Reminiscence”, and knew he had done research on what it is like to have an hallucination or delusion. He had analysed how films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Proof” can induce a delusion. So we asked Dr Bell if he wanted to collaborate as we thought the concept of using a film to manipulate beliefs could be transferred to music and contemporary art, and he provided us with case studies. Parting is a ‘living-through’ experience of psychosis. In March Parting was performed at the international venue Kings Place and it was well received.
Are there further plans for the work?
Effy: We are now seeking funding to take the work on tour. The plan is to perform it in different venues throughout England and Europe, which we hope to do in 2015/2016.
For details of upcoming performances of Litha and Effy’s work visit www.efthymiou.co.uk