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Anatomy of a Song - making plans

The story of  ... the film of ... the song of ... the book ...by Philip Bridge
Anatomy of a Song is the story behind the song A Vulnerable Man based in part on the book Hostage in Iraq by Norman Kember.

Reviewing the Studio Material

The CD cover of 'Call back the fire'.The majority of the hard work for the film was done between the two visits to see Norman Kember, first on 7th Feb 2008 and secondly 27th May 2010.

Prior to the first visit I had been rushed off my feet shooting anything that moved in the recording studio a short walk across the road, here in Buckingham, as a group of peace activists under the auspices of MAW (Movement for the Abolition of War) together with invited guests were recording their second CD which eventually was given the title Call back the fire.

I had twenty hours of randomly shot material, all carefully logged in a spreadsheet. I did this as I went along and of course it enabled me to sort the information by recording date or by song title and produce a print any time I needed one. All on a 1994 SHARP word processor and yes I have a back-up machine. Who needs a laptop?

Photo of a mixing desk.

Well those organising the recording sessions that's who! With twenty songs to record and almost as many musicians, or so it seemed it was quite a juggling act to get everything done. For most songs the tracks were recorded individually which was the only practical way for part-time musicians who rarely had the opportunity to rehearse all in one place at one time. What did I hear you say about filming? Anyway between them, the musicians, the recording studio, all with other commitments, managed to get it all done.

Making Plans

On reviewing the studio material I found I was missing rather a lot of A Vulnerable Man such as the whole of the main vocal track and all but the opening few bars of the keyboard . Really the main body of what I wanted, as it had always been my intention to include much if not all of a performance.

I had what I thought was plenty of the minor instruments, an observation that was to turn out to be somewhat optimistic later but nothing daunted, I moved on.

  • The first thing was to borrow a copy of Norman's book Hostage in Iraq and read it thoroughly, which I did, taking care to make notes of potentially interesting quotes. Later I typed the possible quotes with their page references using the aforementioned word processor.
  • The next thing was to make contact with the singer-songwriter of the piece, Sue Gilmurray.

Photograph of Ely.As she had been present at most of the studio sessions and had played a major role in a previous event recorded by Milton Keynes Camcorder Club at which I had helped, we at least knew each other. The down side was that she lives in Ely and as a busy wife, mother, librarian at a Cambridge college and a peace activist, her spare time was quite limited. There was a bonus however. As she runs the choir at her local church there was a distinct possibility we could use a room there for filming, as long as it had not been previously booked. I outlined to her the general structure of the film. The original inspiration, some of the mechanics of composing both words and music followed by a performance of the song. The earliest time we could get together was 30th August 2008.

First Visit to Ely

Fortunately I still have my parents' home (even though I no longer have my parents) in Stotfold in Bedfordshire which is much nearer to Ely than Buckingham so I could stay there. Unfortunately Stotfold is the birthplace of Victoria Pendleton but more of that later.

I travelled to Ely, met Sue at her home and using her knowledge of the local one-way system we drove to the church. The room, I had been informed, was a fairly recent addition to the church and was essentially a meeting room big enough for various activities and there was even a sliding partition to make more space available. We didn't need that but joy of joys it had a large glass domed roof giving a beautiful overhead soft light and windows giving some directional light as well.

"I think I can film here."

Sue Rambles For 38 Minutes

I let Sue attach to her collar, a tie-clip microphone plugged into a minidisc recorder which she hid in a pocket. This gave me the freedom to try out various camera angles without losing any information when the camera stopped and restarted. I encouraged her to talk as if to a small audience. The idea was to get information in order to write a script. She sat at the keyboard and rambled. Sometimes playing, sometimes talking. When she thought she had nothing left to say and I had asked all the questions I could think of we decided to call it a day.

She went to the main body of the church where she had left her bag. "I'm sure I had my purse with me when we started out!" We rushed back to the car checking the path as we went. Nothing on the path or in the car. Loaded up and dashed back to her home. Checked every nook and cranny. NOTHING!

We decided the best thing I could do was to go away. It usually is. She would cycle to the police station and report the missing purse which has never been found.

Anatomy of a Song ... 1 - beginning | 3 - diversions | 4 - more diversions | 5 - editing | 6 - editing again

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