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Home > About Us > In Focus > In Focus: Field Music – Music For Drifters

In Focus: Field Music – Music For Drifters

Our Beyond Borders programme is now in its sixth year, and as the deadline for submissions is growing ever closer (Monday 21st Sept) we thought we’d take a look back at one of the most recent projects to be completed, Music For Drifters, by Mercury Prize nominated Field Music.

In 2013, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival commissioned the critically acclaimed, North East based, band Field Music to compose a new cinematic score for the seminal silent documentary, Drifters, by John Grierson. Widely acknowledged as the first British narrative documentary, and originally shown alongside Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, the 1929 film kick-started what would become known as Grierson’s documentary film movement. Drifters is a quite remarkable depiction of the unquestionably tough reality the North Sea herring fisherman of the time faced, largely focusing on their battles within the hostile environment from the Shetland Islands to the North Sea.

field music music for drifters 569 Field Music performing to The Drifters at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival.

Thanks to the impact of the original performance back in 2013, our Beyond Borders programme here at the PRS for Music Foundation was a perfect fit for the project, and we were thrilled to help it tour the UK. A screening of Drifters, with live accompaniment by Field Music, travelled to independent cinemas and art spaces in Newcastle, Glasgow, Swansea, Belfast and Dublin between the 24th of April and the 27th of June. As well as this, the band revisited their original improvisation and recorded the score for a limited release on Record Store Day earlier this year. On silver vinyl and with impressive accompanying artwork, the Memphis Industries release can be purchased here.

Speaking to London In Stereo last month, Peter Brewis discussed his thoughts on the project as a whole now that it’s completed:

“I did worry what people would think, if they’d ask why we were involved in a project centred around a 1929 silent documentary about fishing, and why we were playing these obviously out of kilter rock instrumentals. Those two things just shouldn’t go together but I hope that what shines through is us trying to communicate the movement of the film in a way in which we know best – the way we could best give some kind of aural meaning to the film was by doing those things. I’m glad we didn’t go down the folky, or cinematic, or knowingly soundscape-y route because I think the one we took was actually the best that we could have done it.”

The band have now released a digital version of the soundtrack, in a Facebook post linking to various online streaming sites, including the full album here on Spotify.

Speaking to the Berwick Film Festival about the project, David Brewis said:

“It’s incredibly exciting to be given the opportunity to tour Drifters, as writing and performing the original commission for Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in 2013 was a true pleasure, culminating in a wonderful evening. We are delighted that we can do it all again at some truly lovely cinemas and art spaces around the country, and very thankful to the Festival and PRS for Music Foundation for making it all possible!”

Find out more about John Grierson, about Field Music, and of course about all of our current programmes too. Be sure to take a look at the Beyond Borders page whilst you’re here.