Illuminating talks round off latest Perse 42 lecture series

The 2021-22 Perse 42 lecture series concluded with fascinating talks by two guests from very different fields.

Top TV and film music composer Benji Merrison gave a captivating glimpse into his work creating soundscapes for major shows, such as the BBC’s renowned Green Planet and Dynasties series.

Benji, who won the Public Choice accolade at last year’s World Soundtrack Awards for his score on action movie SAS: Red Notice, explained how he switched from classically-trained musician to screen composer using largely synthesised sounds.

He focused on how he went about finding the right sounds to create a mood or feeling for the aforementioned David Attenborough natural history shows, while working closely with the directors, editors and scriptwriters to ensure the maximum impact for the viewer.

Following the lecture, Benji led a workshop for Year 10 GCSE music students, encouraging them to produce a piece of backing music for a 90-second scene featuring predator and prey in the savannah from Dynasties.

Perse Director of Music Ben Wingfield said: “Our pupils were shown a silent clip and were then given time to put something together in small groups.

“Each group played over the clip and we had four very different interpretations of the brief. We then unclicked the mute button and listened to Benji’s original score from the scene.

“It’s quite fascinating how Benji uses layers of musical ideas and silence, as well as perhaps some subversion in the music which might not be reflective of what’s happening on screen.

“Benji’s workshop helped expand their sonic horizons and take them out of their comfort zones.

“The pupils really enjoyed it. It allowed them to bring their guards down and create music that’s not always pleasant to listen to, but has the desired effect for something like this.”

Meanwhile, Chris Dodsworth (2016) returned to The Perse to provide an interesting insight into his career since joining the Civil Service’s Fast Stream programme.

After leaving The Perse, Chris graduated from Oxford University with a degree in ancient and modern history and gained a Master’s in philosophy and classics at Cambridge University before becoming a civil servant in 2020.

He explained how the role of the Civil Service is to help the government of the day implement its policies as effectively as possible, while adhering to the four values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Chris gave an overview of the Fast Stream initiative, the Civil Service’s accelerated development programme for graduates, with the opportunity to work and learn new skills in three different areas over the course of as many years.

He told students: “You’re a resource that can be moved around with ease, which I see as positive rather than a negative, and it’s really rewarding work, at a fast pace, on national priorities.”

In his initial post, Chris was a corporate secretariat officer in the Cabinet Office, with his duties including drafting parliamentary questions, minuting meetings and responding to freedom of information requests.

He is currently working as a policy advisor to the World Customs Organisation and will complete the Fast Stream programme in a role with either No 10 Downing Street or the Economic & Domestic Affairs Secretariat.  


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