Choral works The Landmark Trust Wales

Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars

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In collaboration with sculptural artist Stefhan Caddick and The Landmark Trust we are working on a performance that will mark the opening of their current restoration project, the medieval historical heritage monument Llwyn Celyn in Brecon Beacons, Wales, on the 5th and 6th of October.

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 links to read more.

 

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ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS #6

 

Ockeghem - Prenez Sur Moi - Jobina Tinnemans

Johannes Ockenghem

I was wondering which tunes were hot around 1420 when my friend Dan turned around and sang me ‘Prenez Sur Moi’ by Johannes Ockenghem. Since Dan is from around 14-15C but somehow landed in 2018, he must be reliable source!

Ockenghem is a Flemish composer, sort of from around my native area and I thought it might be fun to sneak a little bit of my genetics into the music …so I took after him. (pun intended, ha!)

‘Prenez Sur Moi’ is a canon consisting of three parts in different keys. The difference in pitch gives each part a different feel. A beautiful challenge to work with.

For the first movement of ‘Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars’ I wanted to focus on the passing of time, something the title carries so elegantly. A canon is perfect for it – technically it can go on forever, there isn’t really a beginning or an end, it nestles in a moment of time. Ockenghem’s three different keys I changed into four, to voice the four seasons over the choir’s SATB ranges.

Four Seasons, Countless Years’ is a slow, pensive work, reminiscent of sacred music, worshipping time and nature. The lyrics are in the nearly extinct Gwenhwyseg dialect. Here is the Soprano part ‘Spring’  I wrote with help of notes and glossaries:

 

Amsar ō’r dīwadd dīni cadeira yn y cwm ma   
Time finally wakes up stones in this valley

Blōta ācor i llycid yn ārath nêt ācos Pen-Y-Glec        
Flowers open their eyes in a fine speech near House-Of-Gossip

Dēra dinīwad cyfordis yn y bwa’r wibran
Come comfortable innocence in a bow in the sky

Amsar traddōti, am bỳth āarth mōr annepyg â dŵr ā thɛ̄n, o dan y sêr diarth
Time tells tales, for ever as different as water and fire, curious under the stars

 

Premiere and performances are coming up soon!

‘…as the Raven knows of singing’ is producing artist Stefhan Caddick’s umbrella title for the openings event, which takes place on October 5 and 6 at Llwyn Celyn, Cwmyoy, Black Mountains, Wales.

Admission is free but ticketed. You can obtain tickets and more information from the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cynefin-of-this-place-tickets-48551002355

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ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS #5

Jobina Tinnemans - panoramic scores - Garn Fawr detail

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.

Admission is free but ticketed. You can obtain tickets and more information from the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cynefin-of-this-place-tickets-48551002355

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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. 

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ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS #4

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photo from a Gwenhwyseg glossary archived by Iolo Morgannwg

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Gwenhwyseg

is a nearly extinct Welsh dialect from the Gwent region, it was spoken in the area around Llwyn Celyn. We want to bring the sounds of the language back into the valley, just for a moment, as such the lyrics of both works from ‘Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars’ will be in Gwenhwyseg.

Artist Stefhan Caddick is the creative producer and sound sculptor of the Llwyn Celyn opening performance on October 5-6 and he has been visiting the Gwenhwyseg dialect as part of his research for this project. He found some great glossary examples archived by Iolo Morgannwg, which brought him to the umbrella title of the production ‘as a Raven knows of singing’, freely translated from ‘cynnefin Bran a chann’.

If you would like to hear what Gwenhwyseg sounds like, Elin Jones is one of the last remaining speakers and Llwyn Celyn’s poet-in-residence Clare Potter interviewed her http://www.walesartsreview.org/a-i-r-dewch-gyda-ni-come-with-us/

Clare Potter: “As our conversation draws to an end, Elin compares this language we share to the river—’changing, staying the same, flowing on, endlessly different but still the same river.’ And though it is lamentable that her way of expressing Welsh is coming to its end, it has nourished and allowed for a new wave of dialect. And, yes we speak our Welsh differently, but it is this, our one language that binds us.”

And it is this what deeply interests me on a personal level about ancient dialects and languages of Western Europe. My native language is Limburgs rather than Dutch, spoken on the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It’s a severely endangered ancient oral language which receives little research or protection. Yet, there are some strong indicators of it influencing modern English language, for example. From working on projects like Llwyn Celyn, I’m learning about synchronisities with other languages and origins of sounds used, as well as a certain sense of humor or sarcasm, the language in between the words, genetic to their linguistic characteristics, to find more background about my own deeply rooted heritage.

“No matter if the river water is different, it touches the same stones.”

 

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‘ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS’ #3

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Near Llanthony, Brecon Beacons

‘ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS’

is the final sentence of R.S. Thomas’ poem ‘A Peasant’, which I’ve included below. I hadn’t heard of it untill this commission and the words describe so accurately and painterly the modest but weathered routines of tradional Welsh farming life, still existing in the remoter parts of Wales. A life so down to earth and genuine, very worth writing about.

My life has seen some radical changes which I followed up on intuitively, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. From an overly planned and artificial country such as The Netherlands, where I grew up, I moved to a remote peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales. First with a partner, who left pretty soon – leaving me in the trusted company of weather and solitude. This wild environment doesn’t do a half job, and however tough and unforgiving it can be, I realise that I feel extremely privileged for experiencing this fundamental reality first hand.

It’s such a beautfiful poem. The words fit ‘Llwyn Celyn’ seamlessly, enduring the wild weather of the Black Mountains for centuries, not only the human inhabitants but also the winged ones, the bats, and the building itself.

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‘A Peasant’ – R.S Thomas

‘Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind—
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind’s attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed, even in death’s confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.’

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#RSThomas #apeasant #composing #modernmedieval #choralmusic #llywncelyn #blackmountains #breconbeacons #bats #gwenhwyseg #cymru #landmarktrust  #whatdoesanartistdoallday #enduringlikeatreeunderthecuriousstars #october6

@stefhancaddick @LandmarkTrust @unicornsingers @HeritageLotteryFund

 

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Llwyn Celyn, some visual notes

 

 

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‘ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS’ #2

Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars’ is a commision for choir and I will follow a traditional approach to this composition referring to medieval music. Later this year, in September, I’ll be making my next contemporary cross-discipline work for Fort Process in Newhaven. To the eye perhaps miles apart, but the techniques I’m using in both works are very similar. It’s another reason for me to blog about this work to show how everything fits together.

BATS

Not only humans have been residing in Llwyn Celyn since 1420. When the Landmark Trust took on the renovation project they found a colony of bats to have built their happy homes, amongst which endagered species such as the Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bat. They are now rehoused in a part of the building especially designed to fit their habitat, let’s call it the Bat Wing of the house! ha.

Kasia Howard, engagement manager of the Landmark Trust, has been closely involved with the bat detection team and resulting rehousing developments. In my personal research of Llwyn Celyn’s past, present and future to find ingredients to feature in the work, she supplied me with beautiful recordings of the Greater Horseshoe bat.

The melodic qualities of this bat’s song are wonderful, bearing in mind of course, the actual pitches of the calls are significantly higher, beyond our human ear’s spectrum. As I come from an analog electronics background, the recordings to me sound similar to very early machines, like my favourite ARP2500 or Synthi100 presets. But of course, it’s the other way round – even though this is not exactly true as they are processed to make them audible to us – but still the specific modular sound qualities are there. Thank you Nature for A Sound Spectacular!

I’ve been analysing the calls and playing them on the piano, to get an artistic feel for it’s timing and pitch. Like a painter, it’s not always necessary to paint exactly what you see, it’s what you want to be seen. How it turns out we won’t know untill it’s finished.

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The ‘Bat Wing‘ of Llwyn Celyn, at the barred window at the top of the white washed wall, under construction earlier this year.

Audio clip of the Greater Horseshoe bat by Darren Maynard.

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#modernmedieval #choralmusic #llywncelyn #blackmountains #breconbeacons #bats #gwenhwyseg #cymru #whatdoesanartistdoallday #enduringlikeatreeunderthecuriousstars #october6

@stefhancaddick @LandmarkTrust @unicornsingers @HeritageLotteryFund

 

‘ENDURING LIKE A TREE UNDER THE CURIOUS STARS’ #1

Balmy quiet Summer evening. My studio is still very warm from the daytime. The French doors are open. I can hear crickets. I’m working on a choral piece ‘Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars‘ for Stefhan Caddick and The Landmark Trust. Right now life is good, these are the moments sprinkled with gold dust, and I’m writing it down not to forget.

#modernmedieval #choralmusic #llywncelyn #blackmountains #breconbeacons #gwenhwyseg #cymru #enduringlikeatreeunderthecuriousstars #october6

 

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This. Simply because it’s the most beautiful wood working hammer I’ve ever seen. On site of the Llwyn Celyn restoration in Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK.

 

Checking out the hottest tunes from 1420 #modernmedieval #LlwynCelyn#LandmarkTrust #fourteentwenty #composer #inspiration

 

I will be working on this commission in collaboration with Stefhan Caddick and The Landmark Trust for the opening performance of this heritage monument in Autumn.

@landmarktrust #LlwynCelyn #historic #heritage restoration project. This #monument has been continuously inhabited since 1420! I will be writing an #early#medieval #modern #contemporary #choral #music #composition. My snapshots of the #photogenic #buildingsite and #architecture.

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Llwyn Celyn Medieval Monument Music

I will be working on this commission in collaboration with visual artist Stefhan Caddick and The Landmark Trust for the opening performance of this heritage monument in Autumn. More news to follow.

More info about the restoration you can find on this Landmark Trust page.

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