Dan Jones: Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans

Dan Jones: Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans

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'I first conceived of Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans in 2001 when researching ideas for a film score for director Pawel Pawlikowski. He’d opened his film in Margate and I thought it would be interesting to use the iconic sound of a distant ice cream van as a different way to score a film. That impulse led logically to whether or not it would be possible to get a van to play specially composed music and I then wondered: What if there were a second van playing a second voice in the same piece of music. A third van? I settled on seven.

Having worked as a sound designer as well as a composer, I’m very interested by what happens when music opens up a space around us, rather than being the centre of attention. I ended up not doing Pawel’s score on that occasion, but I realised that this was a project that I wanted to explore in its own right. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Mark Ball, then artistic director of LIFT, suggested that I produce Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans for their upcoming season, co-commissioned by the Norwich and Norfolk Festival.

For this incarnation the work has been completely rewritten for the PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennal at the invitation of Absolutely Cultured in Hull, for the streets of Hull and London’s Southbank Centre.

My relationship with Hull goes back to the opening event of the City of Culture 2017: We Are Hull. This too was a sound driven event which enveloped an entire city centre with different works by some extraordinary artists. The idea that music and sound create a space that we share, that interacts with the architecture around it, that has us as its focus; and that, if you will, becomes an unexpected film score to real life, is an idea that draws together threads from my existence as a film composer and sound designer. I hope that by etching something ephemeral and unexpected onto the sometimes chaotic urban sound field that we swim through everyday, that we might see our familiar surroundings with new eyes.

I had worked with Mark Ball and Luke Jerram on a sister idea, Sky Orchestra in 2004 and had explored the indeterminacy of which sections of music any given listener might hear as the music passed overhead; different musical refrains echoing across the sky from our seven hot air balloons. I had to embrace the fact that I had lost any control over what constituted the start and the end of the performance. And indeed I couldn’t know how may of the voices anyone might hear given the huge distances involved. 

I’ve embraced that game of chance in Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans. Also uncertain is the way that the synchronisation of the voices will slip with the speed of sound stretched out over possibly a quarter of a mile or so. What you hear on this recording is the seven voices combined with equal strength and totally in synch.

What is missing perhaps is the gentle doppler that occurs as soon as the vans begin to move, and the multitude of reflections and echoes from baked brick and concrete, creating that distinct summer sound that haunts British suburbia.' – Dan Jones

This piece is part of PRS Foundation's New Music Biennial 2019. 

Commissioned by Absolutely Cultured.

Dan Jones sound designer



‘It’s a beautiful listen … a strangely compelling universe’ BBC Radio 3 Record Review



Catalogue number: NMC DL201916
Release Date: 20 September 2019