Fall From Earth

June 2018

  • Music By Philip Sheppard
  • Recorded At Abbey Road Studios
  • Conductor Philip Sheppard
  • Director of Operations for Philip Sheppard Chris Walch
  • Recorded by Andrew Dudman
  • Pro Tools Engineer Gordon Davidson & Matt Jones
  • Score Prepared By Andrew Foster
  • Orchestra English Session Orchestra
  • Contractor Dom Kelly
  • Orchestra Coordinator Jojo Aravanitis
  • With Thanks To Abbey Road
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Philip will digitally release his sophomore solo orchestral album titled, Fall From Earth, on June 22nd. The album was recorded in the legendary Studio 1 at Abbey Road Studios in London by the English Session Orchestra and conducted by Philip. Below, Philip explains the ideology and inspiration behind Fall From Earth:

Why ‘Fall From Earth’?

I love the idea of losing belief in gravity itself, somehow leaving the surface of this small blue dot and flying higher, further and faster, literally and metaphorically. 

Falling from earth is what the god, Hermes, did in ancient legend, and by the 1960s we humans transcended to the point where we could leave the earth (via Apollo – Hermes’ half-brother) in order to look back and think, my God, we’re lucky.

I was lucky in 2007 to work directly with all the Apollo astronauts on my first movie, In the Shadow of the Moon, and subsequently the female astronaut candidates of the Mercury 13 programme. I am completely perplexed by the many women and men in their 20s who are intelligent and brave enough to step off the edge of terra firma.

But stillness is also the key to elevation, and this album is equally about those people who fly without moving a muscle.  Those whose flights are of imagination, their ideas flying beyond a mere lifespan. 

It’s about that girl who left a negative space paint handprint on a cave wall in Indonesia 40,000 years ago just to say I was here. Her idea, her handprint will still be there when we are but dust. 

If one of these pieces of music can give just one listener goosebumps in the way that Indonesian handprint does for me, then every moment of making this record has been worth it.

 Italo Calvino wrote; 

“Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification…”

This quote is cited in Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening – itself a source of many of the ideas behind the tracks on this album.

Apotheosis

The word apotheosis means many things but in the case of this piece, it’s about those peak moments in life when a human being seems to step out of the realm of being mortal and becomes something wondrous.

Through my documentary work, I’ve been fortunate to meet many people who have stepped beyond the bounds of what appears to be possible, each of their lives defined by single moments of courage – when courage meets preparation and an opportunity.

That moment when somebody chooses to sacrifice everything for the good of others is for me the true meaning of an apotheosis and I suspect that the greatest of these moments are often invisible.

 Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Chosen Road For Clio Gould

This track was written in a single afternoon just before our Abbey Road Sessions for Fall From Earth.

I had just had confirmation from Dominic Kelly – my orchestra contractor – that Clio Gould would be leading the orchestra for my recordings. I knew I had to write something special for her.

I’ve known Clio’s playing for most of my life – in fact we first played together when we were 15 years old.

Even then, her sound was utterly and totally breathtaking and I’ve been in love with her playing ever since. Her sound is effortless, silken, chocolatey and quite unlike anybody else.

Chosen Road is about the paths that you take and the routes that you choose through life. Sometimes the going is hard, but the views can take your breath away.

Clio is the greatest violinist in the world. This is my way of saying thank you to her.

Featuring Clio Gould (solo violin) with English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Fall From Earth For Pamela Neville-Sington

What would it feel like if we stopped believing in gravity?

I love that moment in a flight when the aeroplane breaches the clouds and (despite the murky conditions below) the sunshine plays out across the utopian landscape of the cloud layer, something so physically present and tangible and yet merely vapour.

The first time I flew to America in 1979 my face was pressed tight against the glass of the passenger window, not quite believing what I was seeing as a nine-year-old, and honestly believing that what was just outside the window was possibly what heaven looks like.

Even now I’m still that kid pressed up against the window on a flight…

A note about the dedication –

Pamela Neville-Sington was a wonderfully intelligent woman whom I met through her husband, the filmmaker David Sington. Pam passed away shortly before the Abbey Road recording sessions, and I wrote this piece after her memorial service which was astoundingly joyous, funny, musically rich and occasionally profane. A deeply loved and loving person, she was an authority on Browning, Trollope and Utopian histories and is still to this date the only person I’ve met who could confound Dr. David Starkey with raw intellect…

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Unflattening For Nick Sousanis

I wrote this piece after reading the ‘drawn essay’ Unflattening by Nick Sousanis for maybe the 5th time.

It’s a profound meditation on what it means for ideas to take flight and proves the case that in order to think in more than simple dimensions, the drawn image is as important as, if not more so than, the written word. There’s a parallel with music. For me, the music starts flowing when words fail me, and I think Nick draws in the way that I’d like to be able to compose.

It is a glimpse into the mind of a genius whose skillful draughtsmanship and generosity have opened a window into the deepest labyrinths of philosophy and what it may mean to be human.

I realise now that almost every track on this album can be tied back to an idea from this book – from flights of imagination, Greek gods, to cave paintings, to Kubrick, to multiple ways of seeing.

Sousanis concludes one chapter; “…Armed with multiple ways of seeing we gain access to multidimensional sight… where existing barriers tumble and creative possibilities flourish”.

 Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Every Line

A simple little chorale, a hymn to life and friendship.

This features both my Georgian cello and my electric cello playing the very high top line solos.

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Breaking Light

A representation of dawn gradually breaking over the mountains in Montana.

The tips of the peaks lit up with fiery light that washes down the slopes as birds of prey wheel and circle into the valleys.

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Hope Remains

Whilst writing this album I was also composing the soundtrack to Greg Barker’s movie, The Final Year, which tracked the final year of President Obama’s administration through extraordinary access to his foreign policy team.

This was an incredibly difficult score to compose as it couldn’t sound politically biased.

But I had a serious problem. Anytime I set any music to Obama, it seemed to support him and make him appear heroic.

In documentary, it’s very important that the viewer doesn’t become aware of the music attempting to manipulate their point of view. The viewer has to feel they are creating their own truth. I’m proud of the movies I’ve scored where I can provide a blank surface, a tabula rasa, upon which the story can be projected.

However, in the case of the Obama movie, I ended up rewriting the entire soundtrack twice after my first attempt, taking on the role of a Greek chorus at times, heavily weighting my music against the positivity pouring from the man and his team. It was extremely counter-intuitive and somewhat without precedent in my experience.

Over the past few years I have come to know Larry Tribe, Obama’s tutor at Harvard, and have seen some of the work that Obama presented as a student which defies conventional thinking. Tribe is famous for teaching using stunningly artistic diagrams that reflect his extraordinary lateral thought processes – not unlike Nick Sousanis’ approach (see Unflattening). To my mind, Larry is the Carl Sagan of political thought and seeing his teaching style helped me form what I thought would be ‘Obama’s sound’, a neoclassical framework holding some deeply lateral elements.

This track, Hope Remains, epitomises this approach. However, it was comprehensively rejected from the movie as it was (correctly) deemed to be far too positive in its outlook and would therefore create serious problems regarding the objectivity and impartiality we were all striving for.

The title alludes to Pandora’s Box – which, having been opened, released all manner of bad things into the world. However, it contained one last thing; Hope.

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

This is your future self

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future, and it’s easy to write melancholic music.

This piece is neither of those things.

Over the course of writing this album, I was also working on my first video game soundtrack, Detroit; Become Human.

The game is a massive adventure set within a decidedly bleak future, where AI is used and abused.

I wrote this track as a counterpoint to some of my themes for the game.

 Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Chasing thought

This is a piece about the grain of an idea growing into a movement.

Much of the music I love is based upon ostinatos, the loops and patterns in music that repeat like Lego blocks, intersecting and aligning to create slow vertical patterns through their interplay. Whether in baroque, classical or EDM, the principle is the same.

In Chasing Thought, there are two scale-like patterns running parallel throughout, that seemingly have little in common with one another. As layers emerge, they become the pulsating clockwork inside a much grander tune. This effect reminds me of being a student at the Royal Academy of Music when standing in a Victorian corridor lined with practice rooms, scales, etudes and concertos would collide in the most incredible cacophonous noise, but just very occasionally they would synchronise into a harmonic moment of utter beauty, only to be lost in a flash.

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

I am alive For Emily Levine

“You’re given this enormous gift – Life!

You enrich it as best you can, and then you give it back…”

That’s my friend Emily Levine quoting the German biologist Andreas Weber.

I have known Emily for years. She describes herself as a philosopher/comic, but she’s way more than that.

She somebody who’s come to terms with mortality and consequently is one of the most vivacious people I know in the truest sense of the word, that is to say she burns with life.

Emily’s modus operandi is to simply connect with people, whether by making them laugh or think deeply, but almost always both at the same time.

She embraces life and death at an atomic level, seeing ‘life’ as a present in every given second, a transitory state that is wondrous and yet has an expiration date, and she’s totally happy with that.

 As she says;

“Reality looks like two things but it turns out to be the interaction of those two things. Like space and time, Mass and energy, and life and death…”

“Reality comes into being through interaction…”

Interaction is simply one person sparking off another and Emily is a wildly cascading firework of perpetual sparks.

On the other hand, this piece is rather a quiet, little reflection…

Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Chosen Road Alone

This is the Chosen Road track revisited as a cadenza with orchestra – a piece about solo flight – the violin soaring high across a bucolic landscape, removed from the shackles and constraints of being earthbound. This was recorded in Abbey Road Studio 1 and is to my mind and ear the finest acoustic in the world.

Featuring Clio Gould (solo violin) with English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard

Fallingwater dawn

This piece is a blend of my fascination with architecture and the American landscape.

One of the most beautiful sights in the world is a waterfall tucked away in a ravine in Montana.

Ousel Falls runs off the Gallatin River and drops down to a rock plateau where you can stand in its spray and become lost in the patterns of water eddying past your feet. Arrive at the falls at the right time and a dizzying spectrum of colours is refracted from the sunlight hitting the spray.

It’s sobering and reassuring to know that whatever is going on in the world, that water will continue to cascade, and will do so hundreds of years from now.

Every time I’ve made the short hike to see the falls, I’ve come back with numerous pieces of music in my head.

 I’d already sketched out a piece about the falls called ‘Falling Water’ before seeing the incredible house of the same name designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania. His masterpiece appears to sit astride a magnificent waterfall and is one of the great achievements of American architecture.

 Featuring the English Session Orchestra conducted by Philip Sheppard