The culmination of an 18 month residency with Red Note, Elbow Room uses composition, performance and field recording techniques to tell the story of the mid-twentieth century plan to demolish the city of Glasgow and replace it with a futuristic concrete utopia; an architect’s view of a healthier, more rational and productive city, for a healthier, more rational and productive population.
Thomas Butler said: “When I first moved to Glasgow I wondered why there was a motorway running through the city centre; that was really the starting point for this piece. Elbow Room echoes a time when Glasgow was being torn down to make way for a futuristic city powered by its inhabitants; an efficient machine with clean lines and clean living.”
Mixing period films from the Scottish Screen Archive, which extol the virtues of the Glasgow of the future, with new sound recordings made in the city and a virtuosic score featuring violin, cello, percussion, electric guitar, synthesizer, clarinet and bass clarinet, Elbow Room is a nostalgic reflection upon fantasy and reality, ideal and actuality.
John Harris, Red Note Ensemble, said: “Tom has been part of the Red Note ‘family’ since the beginning of last year, and in that time he’s worked with us many different roles – including producer, workshop-leader and even music-stand-mover (!) as part of the all-inclusive experience of his Embedded Residency. It’s now time for him to shine with us as a composer, and we’re thrilled with Elbow Room. It’s such an ambitious and thoughtful piece, and we are incredibly proud to be presenting it with him.”
Thomas added: “In the city each generation overwrites the last and creates a layered tapestry of ways of living in constant flux. A city’s development is being told at the micro and macro level; from multi-million pound construction projects to old signs and insignia that survive long past the thing they once signified and patches of wasteland, now overgrown ghosts of their former social and commercial life.”
More than just a story, Elbow Room is an evocative, highly stylised voyage combining video footage, still images and music. Transporting the audience back to a glorified past, a time of naively optimistic urban evolution.