Published on March 11th, 2014 | by Liam McMahon0
Jez could sing before he could talk…
Jez Colborne is an international artist, musician and composer. He has a rare condition called Williams syndrome – a genetic condition that brings some striking verbal abilities, perfect pitch and, particularly, an affinity for music.
“Music for me is more than a passion, it is an obsession. I hear music in almost everything I encounter; some say its part of my condition, I say, may be it is, but having sensitive hearing is the best thing when it comes to listening. I love hearing music where most people hear noise.
Listening to sounds that make me anxious or wary, intrigue me, and I am compelled to investigate. How is it made? How can I use this and create a new sound, a sound that raises so many emotions, to give it a quality that represents my unique view of the world.
Working with Mind the Gap for the past 17 years has fuelled my hunger to explore different ways I can ‘read’ the sounds I hear. Whenever I start any project, the ambition is to always create something no one has created before and challenge people’s perceptions of artists who have a learning disability – ultimately creating a world of positive chaos! A lot of different types of music like rock, funk, soul, jazz, contemporary and world music inspire me, but I relish non-traditional instruments such as sirens, shipping containers and foghorns!
Growing up I met a deafening, horrible sound that stayed with me for years to come. The wide-area warning siren. It screamed to life like a huge monster. It was to become the first time I used a sound I was afraid of. As a musician I felt the sirens had loads of tones, they had their own voice; just really loud, like an opera singer. Listening to them as musical instruments squashed my fear and it became about using danger, excitement and risk to create a new piece!
It was the start of my journey towards PRS New Music Foundation’s New Music Biennial commission Gift. I was inspired by a project we did with MA students from the University of Leeds exploring the ideas of being contained, being trafficked, that all is not what it seems, it was a powerful experience. I was struck with how odd the container was, a big space that could be brutal and beautiful. I knew I had to create a feast of sounds from it that liberates musical qualities from different cultures.
I’m going to be drumming, strumming, humming in on and around the container; the audience won’t know what to expect! It follows the story from Greek mythology of the Trojan Horse – a gift arrives, but is all what it seems? I want the audience to go through a mix of emotions when they hear the piece, from wary, confused, to elation and amazement. It will be 15 minutes of new and exhilarating music.”