He is a deep-thinking, creative pioneer of the digital age who enjoys pushing boundaries.
His latest project is an EP – Songs for Spoken Words – for which he has created instrumental sound tracks for the work of Derby poet Michael Frearson and an app that allows us to read the poetry as we listen. They are animated in time with the music so you get a feel for the rhythm and flow.
“Michael’s live performances were like watching a great singer pour their heart out except just with speech,” he said.
“He asked me to write some acoustic guitar over the pieces for his first collection of poems that came out with a CD.
“Then whenever he performed I went along with my guitar. That all stopped when he moved away but I decided I wanted to make an EP where I sound-tracked the poems like films so they would work without the spoken word. That’s how the app came about.”
Richard, who is also the founder of Time Travel Opps, a digital consultancy, record label and publisher, has been working on the EP by combining existing and emerging technologies over the past year.
What he has developed and called Rubato will help other performers control their audience’s phones or tablets from the stage.
“The use of phones during performances has often been considered a scourge but Rubato encourages it and the audience will become part of the show,” says Richard.
He will be showcasing the new technology at the Songs For Spoken Words launch performances in London on February 3 and 24.
Before establishing himself as a composer and digital projects producer, Richard, 32, who lives in Belper, performed in several bands, most notably the now disbanded Crash of Rhinos.
He composed arrangements for the bands but eventually his style evolved beyond that which was compatible with their music so he embarked on music of his own under the musical guise of Emphemetry.
As well as composing tracks for commercial customers such as Emporio Armani, he has also worked for the Arts Council and short film makers and created his own album – A Lullaby Hum for Tired Streets, inspired by Derby at night.
“I used to walk around the city a lot at night after band practices and recordings and I used to cut through the dimly lit narrow streets and imagine them in the past. They became my inspiration,” explained Richard.
Then last year using his creative technology skills he enthralled the people of Nottingham with Night Sun – a project commissioned by the city council for its Light Night event staged to commemorate the Great War in February.
It involved a small toy music box mounted on a chest-high plinth outside an empty shop. As the intrigued public turned the arm of the box the windows began to glow with light and the journey involving music and words began.
“Night Sun was pretty much a pilot for Songs for Spoken Words and with the help of funds from Arts Council England and the National Lottery Grant for Arts I have been able to build on that technology to create Rubato.”
Richard will be performing his EP with Iskra Quartet in London at St John’s in Bethnal Green, on February 3 and the Apple Store in Regent Street, on February 24.
Go to http://www.rjbirkin.co.uk to find out more and link to the App Store.
You can get a taster of what is on offer here.