Is there something big you know you want to do?
If there is something really big that you know you want to do… so big that you don’t even know how to get started? Something that is beyond yourself, beyond what you think you can achieve? Can you imagine how you would feel if you were to begin to achieve this thing… you stepped off the precipice into the unknown….?
The Colours of Sound is a documentary film following Britain’s only blind orchestra, the Inner Vision Orchestra on their UK tour. A celebration of the power of music to transform lives. It is the vision of Marie Cecile Embleton, a Making Moves participant who demonstrates what happens when you truly speak from your “inner vision”.
Cecile’s idea has so many contradictions – of making a visual project about a group of people who cannot see and will only be able to experience her film through their inner vision.
But it is also about our own inner vision or lack of it. A blind person’s inner vision, is so much more acute than ours. When I listen to a truly exceptional piece of music often I want to close my eyes so I can really hear the music. Occasionally we see a blind musician but it is rare.
INNER VISION is a feature-length documentary about the Inner Vision Orchestra, its members and their stories, struggles and triumphs.
With some players born blind and others experiencing sight loss in their life, the heart of this film will reveal intimate portraits of key characters from around the world, and how creativity has helped them overcome the challenges imposed by sight loss.
This group unites players from Iran to Japan, Lebanon to Nigeria and India to Britain. Boasting a repertoire from classical and gospel to soul and traditional Indian ragas, through music they transcend barriers.
Making a film about a blind orchestra
Where did this journey begin?
Cecile: A year ago I met the Inner Vision Orchestra and immediately wanted to learn more about them. How do they rehearse and who conducts? What was their process for learning to play? When Linda – the Orchestra manager – began to tell me about the different characters that make up the group, I realised that they are the perfect cast for a documentary film. Ranging from 34 to 90 years of age and originating from all over the world, they are the most diverse group you can imagine!
Each with fascinating, beautiful and often harrowing back stories, and having been born blind or experiencing sight loss at some point in their lives, music has become an integral part of adapting to a new life for these musicians. Linda was keen for me to meet the players. Joining them in their rehearsals I instantly knew that the energy, humour and passion of this group was something that would be inspiring and entertaining for audiences to see on screen.
Interview by Emily Wright
What I want to discuss initially is your practice, your process, or more specifically the ways in which you make a documentary – how you begin to make something.
Cecile: I’ve known the orchestra for around a year now. And this has been invaluable time for getting to each of the characters. They are such a diverse group with fascinating back stories and personal interests that lie both within and outside of music.
In the beginning I started filming rehearsals and found it very challenging as I just didn’t know enough about the group to know how to anticipate and what to focus on. So in many ways, an initial period of following them has been a crucial part of research for me. Over time, focusing on particular aspects of some of the character’s lives – Victoria’s synaesthesia, Takashi’s love of movement and dance, Peggy’s first career as an artist – I began to see lots of potential in the contrast between their communal life as an ensemble and their personal ‘inner’ lives that tell us a lot about how they have adapted to blindness in very different and creative ways. Creativity in overcoming adversity started emerging as a theme not only for the group as a whole, but I realised it was also a big part of their personal lives and journeys.
When did you first meet the members of the orchestra?
Cecile: I met Linda and Baluji (respectively the manager and director of the orchestra) last summer really by chance. I researched ‘blindness and creativity in London’ and found the Inner Vision Orchestra. My interest in blindness came from a year spent living in Madrid for my degree. Madrid is full of blind people. I would see a blind person almost everyday there. I wondered whether the lively soundscape of the city was particularly stimulating and interesting for someone who cannot see.
Since living in London and working on film projects I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of creativity and how it can enrich people’s lives. So meeting Linda and Baluji and hearing about this amazing collection of musicians that come from all over the world and have come together to make music together was really exciting. Here was a group of people that was so diverse you really couldn’t make it up; an Indian sitar player, a Nigerian opera singer, a Japanese viola player, an Iranian singer….Each player with their own powerful, beautiful and sometimes harrowing stories. They each bring something very special to the group. Then the narrative of taking ten blind and partially sighted musicians around the country on tour promises lots of unexpected challenges that would work so well in a road movie.
So it was a really exciting meeting for me and I loved Linda and Baluji’s openness inviting me along to get to the group. It’s this approach of including people and making things happen that’s so great about the spirit of Inner Vision.
Could you tell me about some of the obstacles you faced whilst making this film?
Cecile: I’ve been really lucky as I’ve had many people come on board to help me with the film and I am extremely grateful to them for the time they have put into it. There is no way the project could have come this far without them. But the nature of documentary is that you can’t really tie it down and plan it into your diary months in advance. There have been times when something’s come up to film and it’s been impossible to find someone to come along and help. When this is the case I have to asses whether its worth filming on my own or if I let it slide.
Another main obstacle really is trying to divide tasks up so that the workload is manageable. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and there are so many aspects to focus on whilst keeping hold of the overall picture.
With this film there seems to be an encounter between two art forms – music and documentary film. Yet, blindness is also a strong element to the film. Could you tell me about how these three interact in your film?
Cecile: The really exciting part of making this film for me is studying the individual stories to find a way to portray their relationship with blindness using the visual medium of film. So Victoria for example, despite being totally blind, lives literally a very colourful life as she sees sound in colour – a condition called synaesthesia. Experimenting with different environments of colour for Victoria to sing in has been really fun and interesting. I’m aiming to create a final outcome with an abstract dream-like quality that will portray her ‘inner life’ or in her own words ‘the world that I chose to imagine I live in’. Again, for me this is a fascinating insight into how Victoria has approached adapting to blindness in such a creative way – by holding onto her love of colour aged 7 when she went blind.
In this piece you have made specific use of another’s artistic practice, by documenting the performances of the Inner Vision Orchestra. Is there an element that you want to share their work and perhaps your enjoyment in the process of watching it, with a wider audience?
Cecile: Absolutely! The Inner Vision Orchestra are so much fun to spend time with. Every rehearsal or road trip is peppered with great stories, jokes and limericks (the latter mainly from Rikki Jodelko) and hilarious encounters. Their repertoire makes up a super original and beautiful fusion of different styles of music. They’re the most unusual collection of people you’re likely to see on a stage, but it’s exactly this that makes their appeal. And with the film I hope to capture the amazing energy of this group, as well as an insight into the individual journeys that have brought them together.
Cecile raised all the money she need to make this film – even though she didn’t know how she might do it.
What about that thing you would love to achieve?
Imagine yourself taking a step towards achieving your dream….Imagine it as fully as you can – see it as fully as you can with your own inner vision.
Is there a small step you could take today towards your dream today?
Want to find out what it’s like to tour with a blind orchestra?
Claire Schrader 2014
Want to break free? If this project has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others.