Nitin Sawhney: how I wrote music for a dance without dancers

He has composed for films, TV series and orchestras. But his latest project – which sprawls out over three floors of Sadler’s Wells – could be his most ambitious yet

Nitin Sawhney has always loved writing music for dance, but he finds working with choreographers a very specific discipline – with very specific restraints. “You have to suspend your ego,” he laughs and mentions a particularly challenging moment during a collaboration with his good friend Akram Khan. It was late and Sawhney was still recovering from the marathon of writing music for all eight episodes of the BBC series Human Planet. He admits he was not as his most receptive when the choreographer said to him: “Right Nitin, what I want here is 10 minutes of just banging.” As he recalls: “I was like, ‘What? What kind of banging?’ How is that going to work for me?”

However, once he’d worked out that Khan wanted something that “sounded very tribal, very primal”, he went on to write music unlike anything he’d ever composed before. “It was a ticking that gradually expanded into this huge pulse,” he says of his compositions for what became 2010’s Vertical Road. “It sounded so epic, so strong – it was like the beginning of the universe. Working with someone else’s vision can be such a revelation. Once you start digging into their thoughts, you create something you would never have got to by yourself.”

You can hear music in every movement the body makes

I wanted to create the feeling that it rises from the depths of the past up into the light

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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