Five minutes with… GoGo Penguin

Published: Thursday 16th November 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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GoGo Penguin return to Hull this month to perform their incredible new live score to a 1982 American experimental film.

Koyaanisqatsi, directed by Godfrey Reggio, reveals how humanity has grown apart from nature. The title is taken from the Native American Hopi word meaning “life out of balance”.

The renowned documentary involves scenes of natural landscapes combined with artistic shots of modern civilisation and technology.

Mercury Prize nominees GoGo Penguin have created a distinctive original live score to accompany this iconic film and will perform it live at Hull City Hall this Saturday November as part of Hull Jazz Festival. We caught up with the electronic-jazz trio find out more.

It’s great to see that you’re back in Hull. Are you looking forward to playing Hull Jazz Festival?

Chris Illingworth: Absolutely. We performed in Hull during the summer at Fruit as part of the Hull UK City of Culture events and we had a fantastic response from the audience. We were performing our specially commissioned piece ‘As Above, So Below’ to commemorate the Hull-based composer, Basil Kirchin.

It’s definitely nice to be back for another special project. And it’s our final performance of the year, so what a good way to sign off 2017.

This time you’ll be playing an exhilarating new score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult masterpiece. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?

Nick Blacka: This is our own live score, so it’s different to the original Philip Glass soundtrack, which usually accompanies the film. We actually wrote the score for a one-off performance in Manchester, but after we put so much work into it, we thought it’d be nice to take it out on the road so that more people could hear it.

With our score, we just decided to come at the film from a different angle. Initially, we took a section in the middle where there is quite a lot of time-lapse footage of machinery and technology and came up with a mechanical and technically quite demanding section. We then worked our way outwards from there.

Some people have said parts of it have left them feeling quite emotional, whilst other sections, like the aforementioned mechanical section, outlines the fast-paced nature of humans and advancements in technology.

For those who are completely new to this sort of thing, what would you say to encourage them to try something different?

Rob Turner: I guess it’s still a relatively uncommon experience to see a movie performed with a live soundtrack. There’s also no current plan to record and release our creation, so the only place you can hear it from start to finish is at one of our live performances.

What you take away from it is really down to the audience, at the end of the day. But hopefully they will feel like we’ve given them a unique visceral experience along the way.

GoGo Penguin perform Koyaanisqatsi A New Score at Hull City Hall on Saturday 18 November. Tickets start at £20 and can be purchased via the Hull Theatres website.

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Published: Thursday 16th November 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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