At the end of 1997 I was invited by Mark Fisher to join him in creating a visual and musical experience for London's Millenium Dome. We spent the first year brainstorming ideas on the narrative and visual concept. We were asked to do something that reflects a bit of the past, the present and the future, so I suggested we develop the plot around the struggles of three generations of a family. We thought we would do this in three acts. In Act 1, nature is the focus, and it is based in agricultural, prehistoric times. Act 2 is our industrialised period, and finally Act 3 moves into the future, integrating nature and technology.
OVO tells the story of three stages of our evolution through the lives of these three generations. It is about a family in transition, divided by internal conflict and by the great changes going on around them. It is also a love story. We have a father (Theo) who loves the earth and everything that grows from it, who finds a way to work with nature, even through he only knows one way -- his way. A mother (Beth), who sits at her loom and sees the future emerging in the patterns she weaves, is unable to reconcile her feuding family and eventually turns against her own son. A son (Ion), with a passion for machines, starts a revolution, which was designed to liberate his people, but ends up enslaving them. And a daughter (Sofia), whose quiet and enchanted childhood ends when she falls in love with one of hte mysterious skypeople. She eventually defies both her father and brother for love and leads her people away from destruction. Skyboy turns from romeo to rebel, as he watches his people being excluded and oppressed by Ion's expanding industrial empire. OVO, Sofia and Skyboy's child born in the time of the flood, is sent into an uncertain future in a floating nest that sails the sky.
Last year I concentrated on the music. I drew from traditional British folk references with the help of Richard Evans and Simon Emmerson, both of whom know a lot more about the subject, and then tried to develop music that reflected many of the different cultures that make up contemporary Britain. Although they may not always be obvious, there are influences and elements of Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Australian and European musical traditions. From 12th century hurdy gurdy to didgeridoo, from the pulsing rhythms of the Dhol Foundation to the nostalgic brass of The Black Dyke Band, from Arab laments over drum and bass to meditative moments with string section, the soundtrack is a real mix. I have really enjoyed working with the singers, all of whom have added a lot to the music. Elizabeth Fraser, Paul Buchanan, larla O Lionaird, Neneh Cherry and Richie Havens are some of my favourite voices and I was delighted that they were willing to take part. Their performances covered a real range of emotions that brought the OVO family to life.
-- Peter Gabriel