Composing for Circus: Joe W Edwards in collaboration with Brainfools

Associate artists, Brainfools are working on a new show called Lift Up! Jacksons Lane has supported their work with residency space to create new work. Beyond this, one of our very own technicians, Joe W Edwards, has been collaborating as a composer on the show. We asked Joe to tell us more about the creative process!

I’ve been working with Brainfools to develop the music for their latest show, Lift Up. It’s a contemporary circus production that incorporates the use of unlikely objects to perform a variety of circus disciplines with. As a creative collaborator I felt the sound needed to echo the visual stimulus. I did this by sampling sounds from kegs, my guitar and percussive elements before manipulating them both with guitar pedals and audio software.

Joe experimenting with his guitar whilst brain fools performers devise
Joe experimenting with his guitar whilst brainfools devise. (Photographer: Pablura Herrera)

Brainfools are so playful in their unique style of development, so I felt it important to compose the score in a way that reflected their style of creation. I did this by allowing myself to play with sounds and rhythms as opposed to creating with a more conventional mindset. This enabled me to form compositions intuitively, relying on instinct to develop structures that ‘felt’ right.

The Brainfools company are devising in a rehearsal whilst Joe is also present in the space experimenting with sound alongside the scene.
The Brainfools company are devising in a rehearsal whilst Joe is also present in the space experimenting with sound alongside the scene. (Photographer: Pablura Herrera)

After several years of composing music with contemporary circus companies, I’ve found my preferred way of developing score is alongside the creation process; in the room, whilst in research and development. This allows both art forms to feel like they belong in the same world, to grow together, giving them a level of consistency that is harder to create if the music was composed remotely.

A vital aspect to keep in mind when composing for the stage is that it’s not just sound. What’s being built is the emotional vessel that delivers the emotional content to the audience.

Brainfools will be bringing a preview of their performance Lift Up to Highgate’s Fair in the Square on Saturday 10 June. Can’t wait to see more? Visit to find out more information, and we will see you there!

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