Posted on 1 December 2005
Dr Sorrell, a senior lecturer in the University of York's Department of Music, was asked to create the music for a radio play his brother, Martin, had written about an unusual medical condition that caused sufferers to believe they were turning to glass.
The 'glass delusion' - a state of profound anxiety now associated with severe depression - was relatively common in the Middle Ages. King Charles VI of France was a sufferer and had iron ribs sewn into his clothing to protect himself in case of a fall while in 1610, Cervantes wrote a novella The Glass Graduate about the condition.
I decided that using the sounds that could be created by glass would give the music an other-worldy quality
Dr Neil Sorrell
But Martin Sorrell, who is Professor of French at Exeter University, has set his play The Glass Man, chronicling a young man's affliction with the condition, in the present day. He approached his brother to write the music and Neil Sorrell took up the challenge, though with a limited budget and a tight deadline, he decided on a novel approach.
Dr Sorrell said: "I didn't want to use normal instruments. I decided that using the sounds that could be created by glass would give the music an other-worldy quality. If it had been done on normal instruments, it would have sounded banal and naive."
After sketching out his musical ideas, Dr Sorrell set about gathering his 'instruments' including wine glasses, large vessels from the University's Department of Chemistry and even the inside of a vacuum flask. He enlisted the help of second-year postgraduate student in the Department of Music, Chilean Felipe Otondo, to act as recording engineer.
"I started producing sounds using the glass and recorded them with Felipe which gave me a scale of notes to work with. It was very satisfying and very creative but a bit of white-knuckle ride towards the end when the deadline was fast approaching!"
It took 24 hours of studio time to produce 15 minutes of music. The Glass Man directed by Sara Davies, and starring Cark Prekopp, Saskia Reeves, Barbara Flynn and Stephen Perring, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on 6 December 2005.