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UCA academic composes score for film documenting life of legendary mountaineer

A score composed by a UCA Farnham academic is featured in the new inspirational film documenting the life of legendary British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington.

Harry Whalley, course leader for BA/BSc (Hons) Music Composition & Technology, wrote the score for the film, Bonington, which premiered in Banff, Canada, this weekend.

“Working on a film is quite different to other types of music composition,” Harry says. “In a film, the story is the primary focus and the music needs to emphasise and shape it. The story is a candid look at Sir Chris Bonington’s life, which is laced with the tragedies of the mountains. The aim of the score is to reflect this melancholic nature while maintaining the underlying optimism of Sir Chris.”

Harry first became involved in the project when he carried out an artist in residency position for five weeks at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and met the mountain cinematographer Keith Partridge, who was working on Bonington at the time.

Harry adds: “Keith asked if I might be interested in writing the score, and of course the answer was yes. It’s hard to pin down exactly how long it took to compose, because it was written in conjunction with the production of the film. For the most part, the process involved getting new edits and sending ideas back and forth with the producer. Most of the main themes were written at the piano and these themes were then written into Sibelius and synchronised to the film in Cubase. The score was recorded at the Sonic Lodge recording studio.”

Bonington follows the highs and lows of the career of Sir Chris, who carried out nineteen expeditions to the Himalayas, including four trips to Mount Everest and the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna.

On how working in industry benefits his teaching practice and the learning experience of his students, Harry says: “It gives students the opportunity to learn both directly and indirectly from the artists I work with. By continuing to work in the industry, I hope to be able to pass both practical advice and the love I have for working in sound and music to my students.”

View the Bonington trailer here.

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