Dark Opus was created as a sound score for a multimedia art work in collaboration with artist Graham Bowers. The completed work was taken further and formed the concept for a contemporary ballet entitled ‘Touch’ in collaboration with Scottish Dance Theatre. Other works in this genre include ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘Lila’, ‘Sarai’.
He has written and published many popular songs, several being hit singles for established artists in the UK, Europe, the Far East and the USA.
A double album, "attic tracks", containing his back catalogue of work has been recorded and released through the "Hawkins' Talkin" label under his other name of Billy Henshall.
Dark Opus is an extraordinary piece of musical composition, written and recorded in 1983 as a sound score for a multimedia art work in collaboration with artist Graham Bowers, and finally released to the public 23 years later without modification is testament to its longevity and quality.
Recorded long before computer technology had eased the process of sound production, the mind boggles as to how some of the superb, sensitive and very musical sound effects were achieved. Having a duration of approximately 25 minutes the work has been formatted into 5 tracks, each track following and preceding the next in a continuous flow (I am assuming the reason for this is to satisfy the demands of the download market). From the outset, one can sense the warm analogue qualities of the work, in the use of real instruments; violin, fretless bass, brass, saxophones, percussion and vocals. Henshall’s compositional skill heard through his carefully crafted arrangements takes the listener on a journey through an audio landscape, which is aptly described in the sub-title “dancing with demons”, enhanced and reinforced in the accompanying and wonderfully archaic art work of John Smith and the now familiar dark work of Graham Bowers. Starting with an enticing, yet coloured with a distinctly sinister and hypnotic atmosphere, the stage is set for a journey into the underworld of secret desires, followed by the inevitable consequential disastrous results of “selling one’s soul”. His ability to illustrate, through the means of music, emotional events and the order in which they are presented is akin to a good novel, leaving the listener in no doubt that the 25 minute audio experience sends out the message “look before you leap”.
The music flows effortlessly through the dramatic mood changes and is full of excellent musical surprises, notably the simple, but achingly emotive refrain of a picked banjo, the audio ‘thickness’ of ‘Mrs Doings Harmonium’ (whoever or whatever that might be), the musical quality in terms of arrangement, dynamics and playing (Ronnie Henshall) of the soprano, alto and tenor saxophone section, and not forgetting the very strange, powerful and disturbing choral passages.
In conclusion, this is an excellent piece of music, and one which is difficult to place in any one genre, if pushed I would say; contemporary classical, dark ambient, avant-garde, and progressive. I have no hesitation in recommending this work, in my opinion it really is ‘a gem’ and well worthy of adding to the discerning listener’s collection.
Arthur Hughes (Yahoo)
1. wollef doog nibor
2. cusp of nadir
3. lost in eden
4. beyond erebus stones
5. rack of succubus
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CD Feature/ William Henshall: "Dark Opus"
Just like Bowers, Henshall has a strong empathy for the absurd, the grotesque and the bizarre, blurring the line between free-form soundscspes and ecstatic musique concrete. What differentiates their styles is the degree to which the latter allows longer stretches of light and tangibly harmonic passages into his dark corridors. His voice is characterised by the constant passage from opaque lines to high-pixel intensity, from upbeat moods to passages of almost lifeless depression and alienation as well as by a perpetous confusion of the senses: On the central key piece “Beyond Erebus Stones”, he plays his Tenor Banjo like a Sitar and “Wollef Doog Nibor” could be damn cool Jazz, if it didn’t decide against it all of the time.
By Tobias Fischer
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