Irish Landscape with Rain
Louth Contemporary Music Society’s new recording Irish Landscape with Rain.
Irish Landscape with Rain was written by Cuban Composer Leo Brouwer for Guitar Quartet. It is Brouwer’s first Irish commission and this is the world premiere recording of the work. All four guitars were played by Alec O’Leary.
Had times been normal, the veteran Cuban guitarist-composer Leo Brouwer would have been featured artist at this year’s midsummer weekend festival put on by the Louth Contemporary Music Society. But times are not, and the festival had, of course, to be cancelled.
Yet the music goes on. If there was no way for four guitarists to get together to play the piece commissioned for the festival, and no way for an audience to assemble in Dundalk to hear it, Irish Landscape with Rain has been brought to life by electronic means for a limitless public.
The internationally renowned Irish guitarist Alec O’Leary has multitracked a recording available here on the Louth society’s website, www.louthcms.org and other digital outlets.
Irish Landscape with Rain turns out to be a charming greeting conveyed from one island to another. The Irish landscape is there, perhaps, in a snatch of a tune, the rain in the plink-plink-plink of repeated notes. Cuban rhythms play along with this, sending bright Caribbean sunshine through the drizzle to make pure musical rainbows.
Louth Contemporary Music LCMS1701
Ian Pace and Simon Limbrick
Compact Disc (Audio)
6th April 2018
György Ligeti Michael Zev Gordon John Luther Adams Luciano Berio
Call your CD Floating, Drifting and numerous reference points will be invoked, from the opening line of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows to that state of weightless grace we have all experienced, where the pressures of the world are at their furthest remove.
For the past twelve years, The Louth Contemporary Music Society have been seeking out such moments of weightless grace in 20th and 21st Century music, and with Floating, Drifting they bring together five transcendent luminous works that, through the remarkable piano playing of Ian Pace, achieve a strange, heightened beauty, precise and pristine in their execution, bright and alive at their heart.
Recorded over three days, in the June of 2017, at St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Floating, Drifting is an album structured as a dream-journey, a body floating down a river, that begins, with György Ligeti’s early 1950s composition, Musica Ricercata: Number 7: that first cold plunge into bright water, light and sparkling on the surface, dark, fast and roiling underneath.
Under a minute long, Michael Zev Gordon’s 2003 miniature, Crystal Clear, might represent a brief moment of realisation and calm, a fleeting clarity, before another long, ever-changing, spectral journey begins, in the form of John Luther Adams’ incredible 2010 work, Four Thousand Holes.
Titled after another Beatles song, A Day In The Life, Adams’ piece inhabits a strange place, somewhere between constant wheeling change, and Zen-like serenity. Working with percussionist Simon Limbrick, Pace immerses us into a world of strong rise and falling musical currents where, and our mind play tricks on us, picking out imaginary traces of bright possible melodies, like flashes of sunlight glimpsed from the complex swirling depths.
With its wry, tonal allusions to Brahms’ Op. 117 and Schubert’s Op. 142, Luciano Berio’s 1969 composition, Wasserklavier is exactly that sunlight, first glimpsed in the Adams piece, now glinting on the surface of the water. The waters have become calmer but there remains something incomplete, unresolved in Berio’s piece, as if to imply that this calmness is deceptive. We still have far to go. And there is a current deeper down.
That final journey comes with Michael Pisaro’s 2001 composition, Floating Drifting. Exactly 30 minutes in duration (a stopwatch is suggested), and recorded in one take, with silences, it is a piece to be played very softly, the sound present, but just barely. Like John Luther Adams’ Four Thousand Holes, it is also a piece that plays tricks on the listener’s ears, it’s silences, repetitions, and decaying notes suggesting other fragile presences within the floating world.
In Pisaro’s notes on how Floating, Drifting should be played he suggests the pianist approach it “with the fragile character of a nearly invisible ship (perhaps made of glass), drifting on a calm sea.”
For us, and for Ian Pace, it suggest the possible end of an incredible journey, yet also something delicate, elusive, unresolved; at rest, yet still moving. Two decisions suggest themselves: stay here in this new calm, floating world, or jump in and start the journey again.
This video/audio project is supported as part of Creative Ireland Louth 2017-2022