Paddy Kingsland

It was on a rainy March evening that I arrived to interview the composer for The Changes, Paddy Kingsland - and promptly got lost. His Hammersmith recording studio is tucked away up an inauspicious alleyway, and after half an hour of aimless wandering I at last noticed the huge door that up till then I'd managed to overlook. Seconds later, I was inside and chatting to this most hospitable of composers.

Paddy kindly let me use his recording equipment to tape the interview, and after viewing several chunks of the programme in question, the memories came flooding back. He seemed very fond of the series, and an old diary he unearthed provided vital clues about his work on it. His extensive recall and obvious enthusiasm for his job made our chat a real pleasure, and it was with reluctance that I eventually had to step out of his cosy studio and into the dingy London rain again.

Skonnos: The first question's obvious - how did you get the commission to compose for The Changes in the first place?

Paddy Kingsland: I was working at the Radiophonic Workshop in 1974, and I'd been there about two years I suppose, doing various things like radio jingles and theme tunes, those sorts of things. The show came in, and as always the organiser at the time, whose name was Desmond Briscoe, gave out the work to the various people who worked there, and fortunately gave that one to me. It was a nice one to do. A lot of the music that was done there was just ordinary music really, and it was quite nice to have something where there was a real reason to have electronic music in it, which there was in The Changes.

Were you able to sit down and watch the whole series before you started?

No. I had the scripts and they described what it was all about, but I just watched them bit by bit. I think we looked at some rough cuts, but we didn't really get them until they rolled off the production line. But the scripts described extremely accurately what was going on.

How did you go about producing the score itself?

Well, in those days the technology was a bit different from what it is now: there were synthesisers then, and eight-track recording, but there wasn't very much in the way of sequencers, like nowadays, with computers on which you can record dozens and dozens of different lines of music and play around with it and have it all there and change anything about it at any time, which is marvellous. In those days, if you put a track down onto eight-track, that was it. If you wanted to change the tempo then you had to change that track and all the other layers that were associated with it. So in fact there was a lot more reluctance then to change things if they weren't quite right or if somebody didn't like them. However, it was possible to do quite a bit, and we used natural sounds a lot. To make the abstract noises we used a lot of bits and pieces; there were all sorts of pianos being bashed and combinations of different things.

I remember the Noise, which was the thing that carried on when they were in trouble - I think I used about twelve different layers of continuous thrashing, awful sounds in that, and built it up to make it sound as horrendous as possible, and sort of ear piercing. And it does sound quite annoying!

Did you work in terms of themes for characters?

Yes, I've always done that. There were some Sikhs in the programme, and we used some Indian-type music. There were standard musicians in the series as well, there was flute and there was also a sitar in places. There was quite a lot of percussion, which was played by Terry Emery who is in the BBC Symphony Orchestra - they were based in Maida Vale Studios anyway, which is where the Radiophonic Workshop was. And there were horns and trumpets on the closing theme, and I think there were various other bits and pieces, though I can't remember what. But basically it was electronic music with various other things brought in on top. Because there wasn't a huge budget for doing this, as you can imagine.

The method of working for the different episodes was to spot the music; so with the director and film editor we'd go through and sort out the bits where they needed incidental music, and then I was given a copy of the episode on an old Phillips video cassette with the timings on, and then I went away and wrote the music to that, using a metronome click against the picture, finding the various synch points and going from there - having that on one track of an eight-track tape recorder, and then adding various layers.

That was something I was going to ask you - how accurately were you able to make the music fit the action?

Well, I haven't seen the thing all the way through, but I think it wasn't too bad. I think we hit quite a lot of the cuts. But we weren't writing to picture as we do now - I mean, nowadays if I've got some music to write to the picture, I have the picture synchronized with the music all the time, and I do a hell of a lot of tweaking to get the thing exactly right. The subtleties you can create are marvellous if you just get the music in exactly the right place. The other thing you can do is you can get little phrases between lines of dialogue, so nothing clashes with it, it just sort of happens around it. So you can be much more precise now, and it is very effective. In those days it was much cruder, unless you had enormous amounts of time or the luxury of being able to shoot the thing to picture, which of course we didn't have then. We could do it vaguely, but we couldn't exactly synchronize to picture.

Did you work with the director on the title sequence?

Yes, I think what we did there was we did a basic track with the theme, which they cut the pictures to, and then we added various noises to highlight things afterwards.

Is there any particular reason why the title music is different to the end credit music?

I can't remember anything about that. In fact, when you played me that episode, I had remembered the closing music as being the opening theme, and I really can't remember why we had two separate ones. I prefer the closing one, to be honest, but I think they wanted something which sounded quite up-tempo at the beginning, so they probably decided to go for that...

How long did it take you to compose the music for the series?

I've got various notes in my diary. (Consults it.) I think it was done over quite a period, but I had loads of other things on at the time, and I remember seeing [producer and adapter] Anna Home on the 20 June 1974, that's the date in the diary, and then there's another meeting noted down on the 12 July when she came with Chris Rowlands, who was the film editor, and listened to the Noise, because that was the cardinal thing! And I probably played them demos for the opening as well. So that's July. And then nothing much seems to have happened until September, and then it went on into January of '75. I don't know when it actually got transmitted.

It started on the 6 January 1975, so presumably you were still working on it while it was being transmitted.

That's right. (Looks at diary.) I've got "Fine cut of Episode 1" at Week 39, which is, in BBC-speak, round about 20 September...there we are, 23 September. So I suppose I took about a week to do each one. As I remember it, I think they had two weeks inbetween each one, but it didn't take a week to do them. So there was my bit, which was a couple of days of laying down tracks and then having to write out a few parts for the percussionist or flute player - Bob Downs played flute on it, I think. And then there was a sitar which was Nick Gomm, and I did find a little session where I think we did the closing music with the horns, played by Derek Taylor and Nicholas Hill, with John Wilbraham on trumpet - so two horns and a trumpet, and also percussion with Terry Emery.

So it goes on into January 1975...

So you would have been working on the last episodes while it was being transmitted.

Oh yes, very much so, while it was still going out. (Consults diary again.) Oh yes, "The Changes - 7pm, TC3, February"; I don't know why that would have been. Maybe there was some kind of dub going on, a sound dub in the Gallery. Anyway, dubbing The Changes episodes 5 and 6 was on 25 January, so they were still going then. And I've got dates with Terry Emery in all over the place doing percussion for different episodes. The dubs for 7 and 8 were on the 1 and 2 February, then 9 and 10 later on Thursday 30 February.

It only finished on the 10 March...

Yes, they were moving it quite close to the transmission! It was fun to do though. Good fun to do, and the people who were working on it were very nice. I saw the director [John Prowse] once since then, I think he's still directing. And Chris Rowlands, the film editor, I don't know what he's up to now. His wife also worked on it in some capacity - I think she was the PA or something. It doesn't seem very long ago to me, but of course it is!

Tell me about the themes you used.

There was a theme for the girl, for Nicky, and then there was this thing that we're hearing now (from episode 1), which was meant to be really for the travelling and moving, which is pre-empted here, but that's what we used it for mainly. And then we adapted it and used it in different ways when the different characters came in. (Watching the programme.) It's much more slow moving than things are now, isn't it? Which isn't a bad thing, it's quite interesting to see. (More music occurs.) Yes, they're using the music really for the passage of time, I think. (End music rolls.) I prefer this to the opening one.

It works better as a piece of music in its own right.

Oh I think so, yes. It had a sort of unfinished ending.

What about the Sikhs' music?

She joins them, doesn't she? We've used sitar on that. And also tabla, Indian drums, which a percussionist played - they're two little drums and you sit on the floor to play them, and a sort of bendy note comes out of one drum: they're quite distinctive. (Watches more of episode 2.) Do you notice the music sounds pretty amateurish in the first episode, and it's actually getting better now? I think it was a case of learn while you earn! It was one of the first things I'd done in that field. (Listens to the 'English Country Garden' theme in episode 3.) This takes you into a sort of joke mood, and then immediately takes you back into something more serious happening. That's the idea of that.

Some bits in the first episode aren't quite right, I think, and I obviously got the hang of it better by the second episode. I don't know quite why that was, but I suppose the thing is you're scrambling to get things done - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

How does your working practice differ now from then?

I try and use more musicians if I can. As I said before, there's a lot more control over the synchronization of the thing. I take much more trouble that I used to, partly because I want to - that's the main thing - but also partly because of the opportunity and the amount of time I can spend on it. It's up to me how much time I spend on it, rather than if you're working somewhere where you don't have that much time. And the technology's so much better for writing music to pictures to now. Also the equipment and the sound quality's improved quite a lot, and some of the sounds you can get are quite astonishing on samplers and sequencers nowadays. Having said that, lots of people produced extremely good work work through the '50s, '60s and '70s doing this kind of thing. I probably wasn't producing particularly good work at that time compared with what I'm doing now, but everybody improves as they go on, don't they? I think when you listen to your own things as well, you obviously think, "Oh no, there's something wrong with that!". Nowadays I think the standards are higher, definitely.

Did you watch The Changes when it was transmitted?

Oh yes. I didn't necessarily watch it as it went out, but I saw copies of it. It's quite important really to see where you went wrong - because when you're looking at things at home on a telly, it's completely different to hearing it in the studio with the speakers, which are all very nice and everything's balanced. Once they put the thing on the soundtrack for real you've got all the effects and the music fighting with the dialogue if it's not done quite right, and you learn exactly where you've slightly missed out. Sometimes you learn something that's accidentally extremely effective, and usually it's simple things that are very effective.

Paddy Kingsland, thankyou very much.

(Interview conducted March 1996)

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