for open ensemble of ≥8 players
A great deal of Irish music has been transmitted aurally for centuries, continuing right up to the present day. This very liberating method of learning the music has certain implications for the music being passed on. Tunes can be varied; these variations can become new versions of the tune in their own right, or indeed beget new tunes themselves. The use of particular ornamentation and phrasing, combined with rhythmical swing, form a highly personal style for each performer. This style itself even encourages the endless variation, as there are as many different ways of playing a tune (or perhaps as many different versions of a tune) as there are performers of Irish traditional music. This is the beauty of the music.
Performers frequently come together for occasions known as ‘sessions’ wherein sets of tunes are performed – not always the same tunes in the same order, but guided by the energy of the session and the styles of the people performing. In between the sets of tunes many things happen, jokes and stories or ‘yarns’ may be told, songs sung, instruments tuned, velvety black liquid purveyed, different versions of tunes compared, and much more. This piece hints at all of the above, its free form and open material imitating the energy between the tunes. It doesn’t attempt to recreate, but rather suggest a musical experience.
As the words of Fr. Séamus Quinn and Rev. Gary Hastings so eloquently encapsulate (in the sleeve notes to their album Slán le Loch Eirne):
“Traditional music isn't about music at all, it's about people. Indeed, the most important bits of a session of traditional music are the bits in between the tunes. The crack and drivel and silence and chat that give the music shape and meaning and reason. Without that, the music is only another flurry of notes, one more kind of music amongst the hundreds available in the modern world. To really get a hoult on this music, you need to be close enough to smell the musicians. This kind of stuff doesn't stick too well to shiny CDs and plastic tapes. People are people. Recordings are only recordings.”
04.11.2017 — NOW Society Ensemble, ISCM World New Music Days 2017, The Annex, Vancouver, Canada