The pioneering composer and musician releases her debut EP – a bold, gripping body of work for string ensemble.

Conceived as compact miniatures, the eight tracks of VIII offer a range of emotional depth, from lush soundscapes to tense, unsettling moments. Recorded at the renowned Air Studios in London and performed by the pioneering un-conducted string orchestra 12 Ensemble, this EP showcases Isobel’s innovative use of string techniques. With a body of work that includes critically-acclaimed film, television, and theatre scores such as Black Mirror, Fleabag, Emma, and Munich: The Edge of War, Waller-Bridge has deliberately pushed her boundaries and challenged her established creative process for this very personal project. Embracing a sense of freedom, Isobel delves deeper into her identity as a musician and composer, exploring the idea of multiple selves and finding her true musical identity.

Isobel shares, “I found there to be a profound catharsis in writing these pieces. They have in one form or another lived in me for decades and are a private (albeit public) reflection of my style, my development, and my love of writing. The process and the material has reconnected me with parts of my identity, and made me even more curious about music than I was before. I wrote this music to let my inside out. They are imperfect, and perhaps they are incomplete. But they are honest.”

Isobel Waller-Bridge is a game-changer in the music industry, known for her versatility and ability to blend classical and orchestral music with electronic and experimental sound design. From feature films like Vita & Virginia and Emma to TV series such as The Split and Black Mirror, Isobel’s work can be seen and heard everywhere. Collaborations with fashion houses Alexander McQueen and Simone Rocha, as well as principal ballerina Francesca Hayward for her dance film Siren, demonstrate her wide-ranging talents and versatility. With a career that spans from the West End to Broadway, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal National Theatre, The Old Vic and The Donmar Warehouse, among others, Waller-Bridge is a force to be reckoned with.

If you haven’t heard it yet, be sure to check out VIII, the latest release from the award-winning composer and musician Isobel Waller-Bridge, out now via Mercury KX and get ready to be swept away by the beauty and emotional depth of her new EP.”

Head below to find out more…

Hey Isobel! Where are we speaking to you from?
Hey! I’m currently at home in London, UK.
What was the last thing you thought about before you went to bed last night?
That I need to call a tree surgeon to come take a look at the tree outside my house.

Music is so integral to your life. Have you always been making music? Or, was there a definitive moment when you realised that music is what you want to pursue?
One way or another, yes, I have always been making music. Honestly there are photos of me as a very small child – about 3 years old – sitting on someone’s knee at the piano, and really I’ve never looked back.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote? Did you play it for anyone?
Songs came later, but the first filmscore I wrote was when I was around 10 – it was for a friend of a similar age at the time who made a film about a train journey. It was a piano score, and I can still play it note for note. I then later turned that music into a piece for piano and flute, which led to writing more pieces when I was a teenager.

Congratulations on your new EP VIII! How did that come to fruition?
Thank you! For a while I have wanted to return to a completely unboundaried space to experiment with music and sound again. This EP re-connected me with a style of writing I haven’t looked into for a few years. The music is a very vivid response to how I was feeling at the time. It unlocked a lot, both emotionally and technically. It was very healthy for me to do.
It’s a very intimate project. How do you reconcile such personal subject matter with such a public output?

I do find it pretty strange. I have to remind myself that I wrote this EP, this music, because I needed to, just for me. Being aware of that releases me from the urge to look up what people make of it. Obviously it’s nice if I hear someone likes it – it makes me feel very connected to them, and it also makes me feel like I’d like to keep going. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a boost from good words. But when it comes to my own personal work, it’s very important to me to be able to feel self-assured, and not to find validation only through other people’s opinions.

With scoring it’s quite different – I always look to the director since it’s their vision I’m responding to. The editor’s opinion is also very important to me, and the writers opinion – actually all the people involved! But outside of those key people, and the musicians, I find that neither praise nor criticism, unless it’s constructive, are that useful. But anyway, I can yo-yo between wanting everyone’s praise, and wanting only one lonely person to understand it, so it’s a no-win situation, and better if I stay away from all that.
I find the process of writing music quite bumpy, so ultimately I need to make sure I can feel secure, and grounded on my own, and that I believe in my choices without too much from the outside.

You’re also a prolific composer. How does your approach differ when you’re making a score compared to when you’re making songs?

I think the two couldn’t be more different in terms of process. Maybe for some people they’re the same, but the role of the ego makes them very different for me. When I’m scoring, I need to listen much more to the other creatives for quite a lot of the process. My ego is definitely alive, but I keep it very much in check. You always need to do what’s best for the project, which means killing favourite moments of score sometimes. I actually really love that about scoring. Collaborating makes me a better listener, and sharpens my instincts. I think it’s generally very healthy to collaborate. Not least because what a gift it is to make work with others. Scoring is also very deadline orientated, so it’s more structured, which makes the process quite different to writing my own music.
When I’m writing for myself, I have to turn all the literal lights out, and allow myself (through some reluctance) to think about me – how I feel, what I’d like to communicate through the music. I’ve realised I feel quite candid and unrestrained when it comes to my own music – that is to say less bogged down with things feeling extremely polished and perfect. I use it as a space for me to experiment and to let off some steam I think – to try stuff, and to be unafraid. I’d say as a composer I’m generally tremendously anxious and a perfectionist, which has also been a great asset, but in this space I can loosen up a bit perhaps. I find it vastly liberating to make noise so freely, and then ideas from those experiments feed back into my scores.

In both cases I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it all, and then the actual writing happens quite quickly. The development of the material is hard. Actually it’s all really hard. Every project is incredibly important and needs to be the best it can possibly be.

What’s your favourite film score?
The late Angelo Badalamenti’s score for ‘Blue Velvet’ is up there for me.
If you could score any film in history, which one would you choose?
Tarkovksy’s ‘Mirror’, and anything directed by Chantal Akerman.

Do you have a dream director that you’d love to work with?
Paul Thomas Anderson, Lynne Ramsay

And finally, what’s on the horizon for you? Are there any goals that you’re currently working towards?
I’m writing a ballet at the moment, which is completely new territory for me, and I’ve fallen in love with it. Something that tends to happen when it’s a good project.

In terms of goals – to continue making work that interests me, and nourishes me. To evolve, and to always look at the unsaid, the edges of a conversation – to find the music in that.


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