Human beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh has composed a score for the 1929 silent film Drifters using only his own voice, which he mixes and loops in real time during the screening.
Singh combines prerecorded vocal sequences and live vocal processing and sampling to create a sonic backdrop to accompany the journey of the film, which explores the tensions between tradition and modernity.
The film, made by John Grierson, premiered alongside Battleship Potemkin in 1929. It follows North Sea herring fishermen through their dramatic daily routines. Singh told Wired.co.uk that he’d been interested in scoring a film for a while and had always been inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey.
When he was approached to score Drifters, he found that even though it was about herring fishermen in the 1920s, it reminded him of a science fiction film “in terms of the loneliness and the dense vacuum of space.”
In addition to his voice, Singh uses a wide range of technologies in his performance. At the center is a Mac running Ableton Live, which he supplements with specialist software designed for using the voice as an instrument. He adds to that an Akai APC40 controller as well as three Kaoss Pads, eight Boss effects pedals and a Shure SM58 microphone.
Singh told Wired.co.uk: “There is a skeleton of sound texture that is prerecorded. It comprises of a density of layers that create beautiful ambient drones.” He describes this as a little like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports.
“Then all the beats and the abstract sound effects are done live. I use the Kaoss Pads to sample my voice and while that’s running, I create other textures using a loop station.”
A screening of Drifters with Singh’s live soundtrack, which takes place Nov. 6 at Cornerhouse in Manchester, England, is sponsored by the British Film Institute.