Expiry tbc.

Music composed and performed by Peter Copley

Text written and performed by Mark C. Hewitt

Lighting design by Kristina Hjelm


Expiry tbc is an experimental performance featuring movements and improvisations for looped solo cello, written and performed by composer Peter Copley. The accompanying text, written and performed by LLL's Artistic Director Mark C. Hewitt, is set in an antechamber in the immediate hereafter and explores memory and mortality using a combination of live and recorded voices.

The work was first performed at the Nightingale Theatre, Brighton, as part Brighton Fringe 2013.

The piece follows a number of other collaborations between Peter Copley and Mark C. Hewitt, including scrublands (Blank Productions, 2012) and Maria Jastrzebska's Dementia Diaries, which was directed by Mark with incidental music by Peter Copley (LLL Productions (2009/2011). 

The music

Composer’s note

'The present work arose out of previous collaborations with Mark Hewitt. These usually included large numbers of performers and the text would always generate the music. For this collaboration we decided to write something that would require just two performers and also that the music would generate the text, rather than the other way round. The music was composed for solo cello and is divided into seven sections. The longer ones (1, 3, 5, 7) are called ‘loops’ and incorporate pre-recorded repeating patterns for three cellos. Above these, the live cellist plays a free line that develops material from the pre-recorded material. The overall effect is that of a quartet of cellists. The shorter movements (2, 4 and 6) are for solo cello and are called ‘soliloquies’. These are more improvisatory in character and are designed to be played at the same time as spoken or recorded text. My original idea was that the pre-recorded ‘loops’ should represent ‘hard wired’ personality traits from which the 
individual (the ‘live’ cellist) is unable to escape.'

Listen to a recording of the backing track for the opening movement of Expiry tbc by hitting the link below. 


The text

Writer’s note

The text of Expiry tbc. consists of three separate sections - linked within a narrative idea but independent of each other - that sit between the looped movements of Peter Copley's score. Although the music score creates a strongly architectural form, the live 'soliloquy' sections allow for looser passages of interplay between the voice and cello.

Section 1 introduces a protagonist who finds himself in a waiting room in the immediate hereafter. He appears uncertain or forgetful about the circumstances that have brought him to this place and enumerates various possibilities for how this may have come to pass.

Section 2 features a sequence of memory images recounted in the third person. After the cello begins playing, these memories are augmented by the memories of other people spoken in other languages. This eventually becomes a river of voices, conveying a sense of one tiny life amongst infinite others.  

In section 3, the narrative takes up again the world evoked in the first passage of text leading to an audio sequence in which 'found voices' variously examine the experience of the moment of death from scientific, unscientific and religous / mystical perspectives. None the wise at the end of this, the protagonist prepares for the idea that life (or death or whatever) must go on ... but this could just be the vivid hallucination of a collapsing organism.

Audience feedback

‘The music and lighting perfectly captured the dread and uncertainty experienced by the protagonist. I was mesmerised by the power and intricacy of the cello music and having the cellist performing live really added to the whole experience. ... intimate and thoroughly memorable ...’

‘The soundscape of ‘Expiry tbc’ was cumulative and effective on my subconscious - the layered cello music, recordings of voices, Mark Hewitt's voice, all combined to surround and bathe the mind. I felt transported into a shared reservoir of powerful memory. The images were personal, subjective, but universal. It seemed to deal harshly with sentimentality whilst holding onto the accretions of nostalgic thought-forms for a lifeline.’

‘We really enjoyed ‘Expiry tbc'. It felt innovative and intriguing - loved the way the music, words and lighting combined to express the bewilderment of the speaker and the strangeness of the situation. The single cello with its multitrack looped backing seemed to represent a Greek chorus reflecting on the 'action' and there were real moments of poignancy for me, such as the photos/overhead projector sequence, that stayed in my mind long afterwards.’