Nations meet making music in Brighton

The words are in Japanese; one composer Santa Ratniece is Latvian; the other composer Jamie McDermott is British.

War Sum Up: Music Manga Machines is a Brighton Festival exclusive in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Friday, May 25 at 8pm.

The piece is an ultra-contemporary audio-visual spectacle that fuses classic warrior texts from Japanese Noh theatre with war-mongering manga graphics, surreal costumes and a live music mash-up of contemporary choral music, electronica and melodious chamber pop.

Performed by the assembled ‘warriors’ of the Latvian Radio Choir, the libretto tells the story of three archetypes of war. First, the soldier, back from the front and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Then, the warrior, killed in battle and cast into Purgatory. Finally, the spy, captured in war but soon to be transformed…

As each character plays out their own story to a digital storm of striking manga graphics, the totality of war is revealed – from fantasy-fuelled power games to the here-and-now horrors of conflict on the ground.

“I was asked to write the music,” says Jamie. “It was divided up for us. I was given the arias and Santa was given the rest of it to write.

“I am a pop composer that fuses classical orchestration into pop music and writes in a style that associates with baroque and that style of polyphonic music. They approached me because they like the sort of music that I create.

“My approach is very pop. When I think of pop, I think of it in a way that is quite broad and encompassing. I see it as being defined in terms of it being about iconography, being the embodiment of feeling, of emotions.

“I wanted to make sure that the music had very deep references to the references that were being used in the libretto. My process of investigation was in many way very classical, an investigation to bring about a study of musical forms. The opera is in Japanese, but I wanted to make music that for me could express the feelings in the libretto emotionally without the audience having to translate the text.”