Aidan Tulloch

The relationship between music and visual culture has always intrigued me - whether that be film, video or theatre.  I recently caught Techno Electra at the Corpus Playroom and found that that the rhymed monologues were accompanied by an instrumental soundtrack that floated between scenes and described the narrative of Electra, complimenting the spoken verse with astounding sensibility. What I took away from the show, more than anything, was its vision and atmosphere, communicated through the music. I have never seen instrumental music do so much in theatre; it established such a clear tone without overbearing the production. It carried the words in its simplicity. The actors were moved by it and so was the audience.

The mind behind both soundtrack and script was Aidan Tulloch. An English fresher from Christ’s, originally from North Yorkshire, I found his approach fascinating. Composer and creator were roles I hadn’t put together before, but now I can clearly see the merit in it. Following Techno Electra, Aidan released his debut EP Figures in a Storm. For the Student Music Spotlight, he explains the process and his experience of being a musician in Cambridge.

"I want to be the soundtrack to people's emotional fever pitches"

Firstly, I asked him about his influences. He describes this EP as drawing from "minimal techno and contemporary music", citing Kiasmos, Christian Löffler and Loke Rahbek as influences. His new EP is a detour from the alternative rock and pop that he’s worked on in the past, describing the process as "exploring new textures, horizons, soundscapes, moods... I'm really conscious about finding my 'sound.' I spend a lot of time agonising over that balance between being accessible but authentic and different." Figures in a Storm certainly achieves this.

It is the perfect accompaniment, serving as a decorative soundtrack to the everyday, but is in no way generic. Without the support of lyrics or poetry, it still achieves the movement of emotion as the EP progresses. It is not forceful, but natural. He explained, “My next projects will be some kind of combination of everything: the electronics, the indie stuff, the spoken word, and some really searing lyrics. I want to be the soundtrack to people's emotional fever pitches.”

Figures in a Storm - available to stream now.Aidan Tulloch

The complexity of emotion made the creation of the EP "inevitable" in Aidan’s words. "I just knew I had to take some time out and make some instrumental music. Over the Christmas holiday, back home from university for the first time, there was a deluge of feeling that found itself channelled into a handful of pretty lyric-heavy demos. Then, by the time the Easter holidays came round, I craved the simplicity and sanctuary of instrumental music. That's what I love about music - for those few minutes, nothing else matters. What deep electronica does especially well is give even the most fractured mind a pillow to rest on, a playground to be young again in. I wrote it as a life raft for myself, but constantly aware that it might be the same for other people."

When working on instrumental music, conveying meaning provides a greater challenge, as there are no lyrics to spur it forward. However, this didn’t seem to be a problem in Figures in a Storm. The titles of the songs are clearly carefully chosen and distinctly reflect the pieces. This was an interesting part of the process. "Throughout, I was compiling a list of titles that I liked - things that meant something (or, ideally, lots of things) and then I'd take a title and compose the tune to fit alongside it.”

"The best lyrics, moods, ideas all come to me when I've drifted out of the uni bubble, relaxed into a very suburban solitude"

To work in this way reminded me of composing something deliberately for a play or film, explaining why there is a clear narrative conveyed through the EP. He suggests that musicians should "worry more about how your music makes people feel than what they think." Undoubtedly, this is evidenced in his EP, particularly in the track 'The Brilliant Light of What's to Come', "a little different to the others: a lighter piano-driven piece". There is something very delicate and moving about its progression that immediately stood out to me.

Composing in Cambridge is undoubtedly different to composing at home. For practical reasons, his Cambridge compositions are guitar-based. Coming from the thriving music scene of the North, Cambridge could seem quite empty, but he suggests that it can be quite comforting, too. Location plays a part in the music he writes - “The words I write in Yorkshire tend to be more exalted and optimistic, whereas down here they feel more grounded and biting.”


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He revealed that being a musician in Cambridge is about sourcing your own opportunities with open mics and gigs, not letting mediocre experiences faze you, requiring a thick skin. "I'm still discovering places in Cambridge - to enjoy music I love Relevant Records down Mill Road. To create it, either just my room (I should publicly apologise to my neighbours John and Sam) or somewhere out on the fringes - the best lyrics, moods, ideas all come to me when I've drifted out of the uni bubble, relaxed into a very suburban solitude that comes only from urban edgelands."

He also takes advantage of the Cambridge theatre as a creative outlet. He said of Techno Electra, "It was really useful having this external thing forcing me to not give in when inspiration was low or the learning curve steep.” He has certainly used Cambridge theatre to his creative advantage, with an already impressive selection of composer credits.

Aidan Tulloch's debut electronica EP, 'Figures in a Storm,' is out now to stream and download on all platforms.