Peper Harrow: Iain’s Story

Audio / 2022 / 9mins
Comissioned by Drake Music

Peper Harow was a residential school which had a radical approach to education, therapy and mental health. In the 1970s, the school accepted boys who had previously been trapped in the criminal justice and mental health systems. Instead of treating them and their issues as problems to be punished or fixed, Peper Harow was a therapeutic community which operated on the principle that trauma could be healed collectively. For this composition, Calum interviewed a man called Iain, who had been sent to Peper Harow in the 1970s aged 15. He recalls his first experiences of entering this new, radical environment.

This composition was created as part of a commission from Drake Music, a disability music organisation. Calum composed the music very closely around the text, reflecting the cadence and rhythm of Iain’s speech, and creating a musical score for cello, clarinet, piano and bass. The interplay between the music and dialogue question the use of abstraction in documentary. We often think of the role of music in documentary as ornamental, or literal- telling the audience how they’re meant to feel. But instead, can music help us access a psychological subtext, to say the unsayable? And when dealing with trauma, can the 
abstraction of music help us to hear things which we normally cannot bare to listen to?