ryan king //
out of the strong came forth sweetness
PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE
Alan and Ryan's original idea was to gather recordings of interviews from sugar shed workers and locals. The original brief was delivered, but as they began to work on the project, it became evident that they would need to increase the team from two to four. Alan reflects on this moment, “We began working on three 20 minute soundscapes - roughly titles to encompass past, present and future. We asked Gary Deveney and Jim Lang, both talented musicians, song writers and filmmakers in their own right. Thankfully, they agreed to join myself and Ryan and from then on it was very much a combined effort. The soundscape would not sound or look anything like it does without this team pulling together.”
Achieving consistency for the planned soundscape would be challenging due to varying levels of sound. Having one narrator seemed to answer that problem and Gordon McKenzie came onboard adding his voice and gravitas to the project with his rich tone providing a framework and form of convincing credibility. Speaking of the decision Alan said “I think making the decision to have a single narrator pulled together realistically all the memories and stories to create a single story and perspective from one individual's point of view.”
Sugar spills through a hand in the opening shot signalling the passing of time. The shed doors open spilling light into the building, releasing the memories that drive the soundscape forward. During the ingathering of interviews the team bullet pointed particular stories, ideas and quotes that would suit the
track. Jim Lang was responsible for pulling everything together in the form of a coherent narrative. As the soundscape unfolded, Alan and Ryan with input from Gary and Jim, overlaid the narrated memories and visuals were added, enhancing the project.
As the doors open and people enter the Sugar Sheds the music is celtic and marches forward into the narrative. Behind the narrative and the music are effects simulating the noises of how it might have been in the days when the sheds were filled with mountains of sugar and the dock was filled with cargo. Quiet changes of pace and key denote a move forward in the storytelling as Gordon McKenzie adopts the mantle of each person who experienced loss, proudness, despair and fear as the story unfolds. Alan said, “We chose a story about a Christmas the interviewee can clearly remember for financial reasons. He got his first electric guitar as his father was just paid off as a sugar worker. They were determined as a family that this would be the best Christmas, despite facing unemployment in the months and years ahead. This story was drawn from an interview with Alec Galloway. He was the son.”
As the soundscape is carried forward, the instruments are layered to convey emotion. Together with the visuals, this sets the scene to complete the feeling of how it might have been to actually be there in these days of industry. As Gordon begins to speak about the role of hard-working women in the industry Yvonne Lyon adds her beautiful vocals and a woman's voice is introduced into the narrative, telling of skills matching any male but hindered by her sex. The visuals portray sugar on the cobbled shed floor being blown away to reveal 'Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness.'
The soundscape slows to a drum beat overlaid with intermittent piano notes as the visual portrays sugar being agitated by the banging of a drum. Speaking of the addition of the visuals Alan said, “During our visits to the sheds to record the sounds in and out of the sheds, Jim filmed the building, the docks, the weather and us recording, he then combined the video recordings to make the film. I think we all agreed that the soundscape would be more interesting if we introduced a visual side.”
Moments of reflective key changes dominate the pace of the narration and the visuals lend themselves to imagination. As the end nears for both the soundscape/project and the sugar industry the music becomes more sombre as the sugar lettering ‘Out of the Strong Came Sweetness’ blows away and the word ‘Lost’ is seen on the stone cobbled shed floor. Shadows pass the shed windows reminiscent of the ghostly absent voices represented as the lights go out and the people begin to leave. The shed doors slowly close and darkness once again descends on the sheds.
Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness, a bittersweet journey giving absent voices a chance to tell their story. This is a multi-layered journey in history through three mediums, music, spoken word and visuals. Alan says of the experience, “Inside the sheds, I got a real feeling of sadness, melancholy and neglect, knowing that it was once such a busy hive of work and the importance it had to Greenock's economy. The longer the project went on I was engulfed with waves of optimism that the sheds could/should be restored to something great again. For my part, the music I wrote, I tried to capture the neglect, bleakness, waste and optimism. I hope this comes across.”