Published on March 11th, 2014 | by Liam McMahon


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.”

Experience Gift at the Bradford Festival on 14th & 15th June.

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