The Berlin Tapes - Singer/Songwriter (1995)

Working with Graeme Murphy has enabled Iva Davies the singer and songwriter to see similarities in their way of working. Graeme is gentle and I think that's because the arena of dance, while it can be very powerful, is nebulous. For example, although Max Lambert and I might develop a very specific narrative, we've always known that it can change dramatically by the time it becomes a dance work and that's what is great about it. That's the sort of thing I've always tried to do when writing lyrics - to leave something open enough that it can have lots of other people's ideas superimposed on it. I think it's disappointing when you hear a song and it's all put in front of you and that's it. Dance is good in that way because you come out of that theatre and one person will have a completely different idea from another, or some point will have been made to this person that has a completely different impact on another. So the medium of dance is gentle in that way. It's not direct or set in stone. The process of getting that vision out is a circular process and, in this way, is far more gentle.

The process for me, however, has been neither straightforward nor circular. Everything with this ballet has happened backwards. I started with these songs which are generally by popular bands, but they are very diverse. There's a Frank Sinatra song, a Velvet Underground song from the sixties, there are punk songs, and in particular you notice that they all come from quite different periods. These songs emerged for me as the ones that can stand the test of time. Although some of them were very high fashion products at the time, the fashion has gone and the song remains but the treatment here is completely different from the original. There's a song by XTC, who were a quirky new wave pop guitar based band and now they're being played in Berlin on cellos and piano. It's a very luxurious sound. A lot of it is very quiet.

Max and I then worked backwards with each song like an island - ultimately there are seven islands in this score. But there's an album too - The Berlin Tapes - which features all the other songs we made in this style as well. There are about eleven or twelve of them. It's like a double project, there's the score with the incidental music and there's an album of the songs because I wanted to air that material. I'm very economical and I don't like to waste things. Every song that I've ever written is on a recording somewhere. I don't throw things away. Most of the time I know early on if it's going to be something, otherwise I just throw it away at the beginning. This process is completely different. When I'm writing a song for my own voice I know that I can sing it. Dealing with other people's songs, I get halfway through something and then try to sing it. They are quite eccentric, some of these performers I've covered. Lou Reed is not a singer's singer. He was kind of a Warhol school art-poet, that was where the Velvet Underground came from. He's a reciter rather than a singer. I am a singer's singer and I'm much more comfortable with a Frank Sinatra song. So I ended up doing all this massive work on things that were failures which has never happened to me before. But eventually we had the two things - the score and the album.