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Padden ensures monologue music is no crime

When Daniel Padden went to the first read-through of David Harrower's play Ciara, he did not think it required any music to accompany it.

Given that the Glasgow-based composer and musician had just been commissioned to write a score for it, this looked like it was going to be a problem. As it turned out, while the play was led by Blythe Duff's solo turn as a Glaswegian art gallery owner and daughter of a recently deceased gangster, Padden framed it with a soundtrack that helped to accentuate the mood of the piece even more.

"Finding music to put into the play was a real challenge," says Padden of Harrower's Herald Angel-winning Fringe hit, which returns to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this week. "In physical terms, it is just one woman on stage telling a story, with no action or set-pieces that offer a composer the opportunity to do something, so just finding a space for music was a challenge.

"In David Harrower's writing, every word matters, and the thing that came out of the script for Ciara is that, although on one level it is about Glasgow and the everyday, there is something much bigger going on there that is epic. In the way it looks at how things are passed down generations, it is almost Greek in its construction.

"I was trying to hint at the grandeur of that, but without being explicit. I do not like theatre music that tells you what to think. Music can represent a character or a location, or it can be a more conventional soundtrack, but there is an ambiguity in Ciara I tried to reflect. I wanted to create something that on the surface is quite conventional, with elements of 'classiness', but is punctuated with physical/ugly moments and has an odd insistency. I still do not know what time signature it is in."

Over the last couple of decades, as a performer in his own right, both solo and in his bands Volcano The Bear and The One Ensemble, Padden's sense of theatricality has increased since his move into composing for theatre several years ago. This came about following the Manchester-born musician's move to Glasgow at the turn of the century.

Padden provided music for three shows for Visible Fictions - Jason & The Argonauts, The Hunted and Curse Of The Demeter - and worked with Nic Green on her show Motherland. There has also been work with Ankur on their Jukebox project, and with the National Youth Theatre.

"Visible Fictions were very important to me," Padden says. "I had done a couple of short films, and started sending the music out, and I ended up doing my first real score for theatre with them. I had never made action music before - and Jason & The Argonauts still tours the world more than five years after we made it!

"The reason you make music for theatre is very different to doing a gig, and you learn very quickly that one note might be all that is required rather than doing something more. Rather than trying to make the best piece of music you can, you are trying to make the best piece of music for that moment, on that stage, with these actors doing these things, and that is a very different remit."

Padden first came to music when he bought his first guitar aged 16 before going on to study philosophy and psychology. An interest in experimental and non-western music continues to be explored with Volcano The Bear, who have released a multitude of work. There have been several albums too with The One Ensemble.

Ciara is the second of David Harrower's plays Padden has scored, following on from A Slow Air in 2011. The pair met at a bonfire party several years ago, where they bonded over their similar tastes in music. The commission for A Slow Air followed shortly after.

"I suppose I am never quite satisfied with anything I have done," Padden says. "I have got about 18 guitars, not because I am particularly interested in playing the guitar, but each one sounds a bit different, and I want to explore all those different sounds and what you can do with them.

"There is something mysterious about what you can convey through sound and what you might call noise. It has an effect on us that you do not quite get from anywhere else.

"I have come to where I am from quite a sideways path, and I wonder if I feel I need to keep doing it, to keep making work, different work, so that I can justify my impostor status. And people keep asking me, and I keep saying yes. But I try to see them all as chances to learn. I am pretty restless though. My life would be a lot simpler if I just stuck to one instrument."

Ciara, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, December 3-21; Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, January 21-25



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