Meeting with Dressage Composer, Tom Hunt

Monday 19th November

The Audiovisability team met with Tom Hunt, a world-renowned dressage composer and arranger who works with many of the world’s top equestrian riders. Tom had composed Laurentia and Sherlock’s music for the World Equestrian Games in September 2018, and is also aware of many of the dressage rules and regulations, so is a great source of knowledge for this project.

In this meeting, Tom demonstrated his composition process to the team. First, he requires a video of the complete floorplan from the rider. He then watches this (in silence), taking note of the horse’s natural rhythm through each movement and the length of the performance before beginning to compose. While he composes, he will match the horse’s tempo as accurately as possible and will also make changes to the music to match changes in the floorplan – for instance, he may insert a crescendo (gradually making the music louder) when the horse enters an extended walk, or will quicken the tempo of the music as the horse begins a trot.

Tom’s WEG composition was done on the computer and stored electronically, which made it easy for him to demonstrate the visual aspects of the composition to the team. He showed the team a screen on his laptop with his completed WEG composition open on Logic (a type of composition software). The software displayed a variety of ‘tracks’, made up of different boxes representing each instrument – piano, strings, brass, percussion, and vocals – which fade in and out at different moments. Coloured lines indicated pitch (high/low) and dynamics (loud/soft). Tom was able to play the composition alongside Laurentia’s floorplan video so Laurentia could watch the different layers fade in and out. However, Laurentia has never been able to hear the music well, especially in an acoustically-poor competition arena.

Technology expert Chris Bartholomew was present at the meeting to introduce Laurentia to two types of vibro-tactile technology – a vibrating watch, and a SUBPAC. Laurentia tried the vibrating watch but found it to be too simplistic as it only functioned as a metronome, and as it was quite large on the wrist it may interfere with the reins. Laurentia then tried the SUBPAC which was worn on her back, which Chris connected to the computer to relay the WEG composition. She was delighted with the feedback and was able to feel the rhythm and detect some of the changes as she ‘listened’ to the music and watched the video of her floorplan. Chris mentioned ways of improving the experience further by making a custom track specifically for the SUBPAC technology to make some of the ‘busier’ parts of the music clearer to feel.