M1-11 David Bedford

M1-11 Wagner’s Ring in One Minute

There’s another David Bedford who was a British athlete (10,000 metres world record in 1973) well-known for running while wearing red socks. This is not he.

This David Bedford is running, alright. He’s running BASCA (the British Academy of Composers, Songwriters and Authors). A typical role for David, for he is one of those generous people with a broad outlook who is ideally suited to his much-needed role as organiser of massed forces such as choirs, orchestras – and now most of Britain’s composers. While I hate “lumping people in” with each other, as it can be demeaning, for me he comes into that category of deeply creative orchestra-focussed Brits which includes Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars (both Miniatures artists – twice), Neil Ardley (a gentle jazz genius featured on this link together with Ivor Cutler, another miniaturist – both sadly RIP) and John Tavener (who recorded for the Beatles Apple label).

David has a biography ( here and here ) which is a veritable cornucopia of musical adventures and excellence, including: playing with miniaturist Lol Coxhill in Kevin Ayers’ band, various projects with Mike Oldfield, arranging strings for such luminaries as Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg and Roy Harper, and various contributions to the scores for some marvellous films such as “The Killing Fields”, “Supergrass”, “Absolute Beginners”, “Meeting Venus”, and “Orlando.” As choral coordinator for the overpoweringly beautiful music in “The Mission,” I am guessing he must have met the legendary composer of that film score, Ennio Morricone, and perhaps even the star, Robert de Niro. If truth be known, he has probably met nearly every rock star and classical music legend that has existed in England since the 60’s during the course of his astonishingly multifaceted career.

Now, with all these myriad contacts, collaborations, threads, networks and achievements, I wonder if anyone has ever actually heard David sing, before or since the recorded his Miniatures piece? I am so glad we vetted the string synth idea and decided he should have a go at the microphone – and what a range he has! I leave it up to the listener to figure out how many octaves he covers (only one voice, a fiddly bit halfway through, was recorded at half speed, then sped up an octave). That high note at the end is way out of my league (I’m a tenor, but not a counter-tenor!) and I can still remember the mixture of strain and satisfaction on his face when he hit it.

How he managed to decide which themes from Wagner’s vast “Ring” cycle (I can spot the famed “Ride of the Valkyries“) is also beyond my ken,  but it is a perfect example of what I had in mind early on in the Miniatures project – to actually take large existing pieces of music and, well, make them smaller. (Later on I simply asked for one-minute pieces, to give the album more scope and variety). David does this brilliantly, somehow with his rather shrill falsetto and reedy bass summoning up the spirit (if not the actual sound) of an entire orchestra engaged in a very German fanfare. At times his very authentic-sounding brass chords remind me of The Mills Brothers, who were brilliant at that sort of performance.

It’s a very British sort of thing, I think, to be able to move with agility from parping trumpet noises with your lips to massing orchestral and choral forces to take us to the far reaches of some distant galaxy, and in the very short time I spent with David, I got the distinct impression that he is continually having a good old chuckle inside, without most of us realising it. And good on him for it!

Late addition – uploaded to youtube today: One of David’s recent community-minded musical events was the Bristol Remix Songwriting Project, about which he talks briefly (from 4:45) in this youtube vid.

Next up… a musical microdot?

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