The Neil Gaiman and FourPlay String Quartet collaboration was born in 2010, when Sydney Opera House's Graphic Festival commissioned FourPlay to write a soundtrack to Neil's novella The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains for a live performance with him. That collaboration led to an ongoing friendship and creative collaboration, where Neil and FourPlay workshopped the concept of a suite of original works around the concept of the zodiac, with the traditional signs replaced by a new collection of words and objects exploring aspects of life. They called this collaboration Signs. Some of the work on Signs of Life was developed for that project. Nestled alongside these original works are new poems and stories of Neil's crafted with FourPlay's music, two "covers" of songs from Neil's previous projects and an instrumental inspired by Neil's work.
Neil Gaiman says, "I'm not entirely certain when I fell in love with a string quartet. I remember our first date, though. It was a day spent in a tiny room somewhere in the backstage maze of Sydney Opera House. We played the next night on the stage of the Sydney Opera House. It was remarkable. It was so much fun we did it again. We did a tour together, but when we reached Carnegie Hall, we decided we needed something better than me reading a poem as our encore, so we stole some time from soundcheck and rehearsed a song. And then we performed our song on the stage of the Carnegie Hall, and that felt a lot like something special. We started to build a repertoire, and when I was in Australia we would make music together. These are some of the things we've made together. It's been a long fallow winter, the last two and a half years. Here are signs of life."
FourPlay say, "Neil's mastery of storytelling, and his crafting of words, is second to none. Among the members of FourPlay, we have been fans of Neil's for many years, and it was a golden opportunity to work with him. Nevertheless, we could never have expected to find him to also be such a master of pacing, such a musical performer and wordsmith. We're joyful to count him as a friend as well as a collaborator, someone we spend pleasurable time with and someone we never fail to create beautiful, glittering things with."
Since meeting, Neil and FourPlay have been firm friends and collaborators. Reflecting the fact that each have always refused to be pigeon-holed in their creativity, together in Signs of Life they have created something remarkable and unique. The album is a gorgeous, ground-breaking and genre-bending collaboration between an iconic author and a singular musical ensemble. Part songwriting, part poetry, part story-telling; all-encompassing, all-engaging, all beautiful.