The soundtrack for MK ULTRA is a high energy, pulsating mash-up of trap, footwork, electronic sounds and manipulated samples. It’s music that makes you want to move and drives forward the dancers’ movements, much like the all-controlling MK ULTRA programmes supposedly dictating the actions of today’s celebrity icons.
We asked composer and sound artist Annie Mahtani, who was also part of the creative team for the award-winning 5 Soldiers, to work her magic on creating a hypnotic sonic accompaniment for the show. Annie is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham and is the co-director of SOUNDkitchen, a Birmingham-based organisation dedicated to promoting local sound artists and composers.
Here are some of the tracks being used in the show:
This is what Annie had to say about the techniques and processes she used in producing the soundtrack, and the role of music in MK ULTRA:
“I hugely enjoy composing for dance and working with Rosie Kay Dance Company in the past has often enabled me to explore new directions in my work. MK ULTRA is no exception. I was interested in the concept in the early days especially as the world of conspiracy theories and the Illuminati is not one that I was particularly well versed in! Musically, Rosie was interested in exploring the world of pop, mash up and high paced EDM, quite a contrast to anything we have worked on before.
In the research and development period, Rosie has been working with various tracks from Trap (a sub-genre of Southern Hip Hop) and Footwork (music and street dance that evolved from house) genres and some of these have stayed in the show. I’ve used these tracks as starting points for my work by taking tiny samples and manipulating them using various processes. These processes range from simply stretching them or changing their pitch to granulation (essentially sampling the samples, splitting the sound up into tiny fragments and playing them back at different pitches, speeds etc).
For the most part, I apply multiple processes to a sound so the end result is unrecognisable from its origins. I then take this new sound material to compose the tracks. For this project I have found myself initially improvising with the material to really get to know the sound and explore its potential. I do this using Ableton Live software which enables me to gradually build up the layers in the track and easily add extra processes or effects. Once I’ve laid the basic tracks I work in Reaper, a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), to build the whole score and work on the finer detail.
The score fluctuates between the fast paced EDM and my tracks which, although related are quite a contrast. At different points in the score, the music takes on different roles. At some points I’m trying to create a specific environment, at others a deeper insight into the characters. Music can add a further layer of complexity which aids the viewer in following the narrative and comprehending the deeper messages.”
Here are some of Annie’s tracks created for the show:
Tickets for the premiere of MK ULTRA on 17 & 18 March can be purchased here: https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/mk-ultra.html
Details for the other tour dates are here: http://mkultra.dance/tour-info/