I’ve been commissioned to compose works for choir for Stefhan Caddick’s openings event of the renovated ‘Llwyn Celyn’ house by Landmark Trust, on October 5 and 6. The sheer wealth of material about the place, landscape, history, language and nature gathered by research, by knowledgable commissioners, professionals, friends and colleagues is such a treat, I’ll be blogging little snippets to share the joy.
Llwyn Celyn is one of the finest surviving medieval hall houses in the heart of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, which is being restored into it’s full glory by the Landmark Trust. Click on the above links to read more.
Detail from my ‘Garn Fawr’ panoramic score in scaled down model-size. This segment is about 8 metres long in reality.
From Panoramic Score to Medieval music
Last few weeks I’ve been working on ‘panoramic scores’ for the Fort Process festival for experimental music which took place in Fort Newhaven, East Sussex, UK. Panoramic scores are from my interpretations on sheet music series. I developed a graphic scoring technique in which the scores are landscape-sized, long enough to wrap themselves through a space in a Christo-esque fashion.
It’s easy enough to confuse my panoramic scores for something random happening, based on improvisation. While, in fact, Panoramic Scores are my variation on Medieval monophonic model. From a single line, a monophony, harmonies open up by means of a canon principle: musicians starting their parts in a staggered way.
I very much enjoy J.S. Bach’s music and he is a well-known example of a composer repeatedly using a phrase in many guises throughout a work: mirrored, in postive and reverse, slowed down and sped up. This principle very much resonates to me in this digital era of using software to compose with. Bach’s music is so very timeless.
The repetition of a phrase in various forms is a fundament of why I started to develop my panoramic scores. I’m describing how one repeatedly walks through a landscape and experiences the same features differently each time – from East to West, North to South, going out and return, in light and dark, in happy or sad, in major or minor.
As a – natural, kinetic or even choreographic – result of performing the single lined panoramic part, the performers generate polyphonies and harmonies. A multi dimensional, multi-disciplined representation. I see it as a skipping in time from reinterpreting the medieval music via the digital age back to a very minimalist and ancient use of ink and brush graphic lines – and I feel I’m only at the beginning of its exploration.
But what has this got to do with the choral compositions I’ve written for the Llwyn Celyn opening, as it’s notated as conventional sheet music, printed on a standard A4?
The Llwyn Celyn buildings date from around 1420 and in an attempt to express this astonishing awareness of time passed I’ve written two works in modern medieval style. I’ve been using monophony in canon and found myself working pretty much in the same way while developing both very different commissions – that of the panoramic score and the choral pieces.
Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars, movement one titled ‘Four Seasons, Countless Years’ uses canon in four different keys, the four different seasons. A spin on Ockeghem’s ‘Prenez Sur Moi’. More about it in next blog.
The second movement ‘In The Wings Through The Night’, draws from calls of the Lesser Horseshoe bat (and what they might be saying!) in a more contemporary canon style, with phrases chopped up and diffused.
To honour the hard work of The Landmark Trust’s builders, included in the lyrics is something I overheard the local Lesser Horseshoe bat colony say the other day, while they were going about their business at 2am in the morning (under the curious stars, you see). I thought it was quite a nice appreciation of quality that shouldn’t go amiss:
“get hold of the well-made roof beam, love!”
“citsho y ceibir dēcha, cariad!”
Which reminds me that all lyrics are written in the nearly extinct Gwenhwyseg dialect! More about it in this blog.
Premiere and performances are coming up soon!
‘…as the Raven knows of singing’, is artist and producer Stefhan Caddick’s umbrella title for the openings event, which takes place on October 5 and 6 at Llwyn Celyn, Cwmyoy, Black Mountains, Wales.
Stunning Black Mountains region of Wales, UK. Panoramas and medieval in one photo of Llanthony Priory which ties in with Llwyn Celyn, situated in this valley, but out of view just around the corner.
#modernmedieval #choralmusic #llywncelyn #blackmountains #breconbeacons #bats #gwenhwyseg #cymru #whatdoesanartistdoallday #enduringlikeatreeunderthecuriousstars #october5and6
@stefhancaddick @LandmarkTrust @unicornsingers @HeritageLotteryFund