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RM Hubbert, Filmhouse, Edinburgh


RM Hubbert played his new score to accompany the showing of By The Law at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on 3 December 2017.

The audience files in early to Cinema 1 escaping a blustery Sunday afternoon. They take their plush red velvet seats in front of the stage and screen for a live performance by the composer of his new score for the Russian silent film, By The Law. RM Hubbert (aka ‘Hubby’) takes his seat stage left with an acoustic guitar on his knee seeming all too relaxed as this is the last of seven showings that he has accompanied on a tour by the film around Scotland.

His score was commissioned by the Hippodrome Silent Film festival based in Bo’ness. It accompanies a film from 1926 about a team of five gold prospectors in the Yukon. The story is not one to cheer the heart as greed and inhuman treatment lead to a double murder followed by the need (or not) to exact justice in one of the remotest places on Earth.

Hubby begins to play and the curtains open. His rhythm and the backbone of his composition are triplets that he describes as reflecting the river that almost the entire film is shot beside. The logic of his choice is clear as nature is like an additional main character in the film as we passage through summer to frozen winter and then flooding in the spring thaw.

The score is not a dull uniformity. The main characters have themes and from time to time there are breaks that reflect the action in the film such as a jig in the happy, sunnier beginning of the expedition. Hubby also uses some obvious suggestions from the action such as a snippet suggestive of Happy Birthday which features with a tension laden scene as the birthday candles burn down to a decision about the fate of the murderer.

There is always debate about the degree to which a score should intrude on the consciousness of the viewer of a film. Hubby says later that he did no research into composing a film score prior to writing this piece but he judges very finely where there should be more or less. The highlight of his efforts to create atmosphere matching what is on screen is the burial scene. There is a raging storm outside the cabin and those inside are going crazy with loneliness and the burden of deciding what must be done to their friend, the murderer. The score slowly breaks down but still incessantly repeats and it seems to become yet another feature of the environment that is driving the characters towards their madness. It achieves its goal to drive the audience beg for the tension to be over and for order to be restored.

At the end of an 80-minute performance without any break, Hubby stretches his fingers in obvious relief and the audience bursts into applause. There is a short question and answer session after the film during which the audience are treated to the black humour that punctuates Hubby’s gigs. The questions range widely from how often he has watched the film (about 100 times) to who was his favourite character (the dog, who has the sense to be around during the sunny opening then only reappears once the good weather returns after the spring floods). After such a marathon playing session and such a bleak melodrama, Hubby’s humour and honesty make for an effective decompression from the tension of the performance.

Here's the film, albeit with someone else scoring it -


SAY Award 2017 Longlist Announced At Dedicated Live Event

  • Published in News

Now in its sixth year, The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award aims to recognise the most deserving albums released from Scotland, highlighting innovation and talent across the country. With previous winners including RM Hubbert and Young Fathers, this year's longlist once again represents an array of talent. With a £20,000 grand prize on the line, and £1,000 for each of the shortlisted artists, this is one of the UK's most substantial music awards.

In a first the organisers have opted to celebrate live music explicitly, by hosting an event to announce the longlist, featuring performances by three previous nominees. With a playlist of Scottish music providing the backdrop, Steve Mason, Admiral Fallow and Mungo's Hi Fi played sets showcasing the prowess of Scottish artists beyond their recordings.

After an exciting introduction to the event, Steve Mason entertained the crowd with a set of his enjoyable political acoustic guitar jams. With insightful and hard-hitting lyrics, Mason's melodic guitar playing really lifts the melancholy about society, and it's no surprise he's had numerous nominations for this very award.

Admiral Fallow followed with their first performance in Glasgow for a while, and their expansive brand of chamber pop was a captivating as always, using harmonies and dynamics to enthrall the crowd. Laced with some sincere crowd interaction, they're undoubtedly one of Scottish musical assets and a wonderful addition to the bill.

With everyone suitably comfortable, it was time for the main event, the longlist announcement. Representing many flavours of Scotland's musical landscape, you can find the twenty albums below (in alphabetical album by artist):

Adam Holmes and The Embers – Brighter Still
C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
Ela Orleans – Circles of Upper and Lower Hell
Fatherson – Open Book
Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman
Konx-om-Pax – Caramel
Meursault – I Will Kill Again
Modern Studies – Swell To Great
Mogwai – Atomic
Pictish Trail – Future Echoes
Rachel Newton – Here's My Heart Come Take It
RM Hubbert – Telling The Trees
Sacred Paws – Strike A Match
Starless – Starless
Teenage Fanclub – Here
TeenCanteen – Say It All With A Kiss
Vukovi – Vukovi

Accompanied by YT, Mungo's Hi Fi then closed out the night with some party-worthy beats. Whilst the crowd thinned out fast following the announcement, perhaps there were trains to catch or this just isn't everyone's cup of tea, enough people remained to dance heartily to the music on offer.

With a successful "launch night" completed, the next stages of 2017's SAY Award can begin. From here the 20 albums will be whittled to 10, nine chosen by a panel of judges and the other by popular public vote on 12-14 June. Following the shortlist announcement on 15 June, the winner will be announced at Paisley Town Hall on 28 June at the final ceremony.

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