Creating New Musics

Aside from the sheer inspiration of visiting Greenland and the creative urge and sense of curiosity about cultures of the North Atlantic region, the other major impetus behind this project has  been working with RSNO Alchemy and Peter Wiegold.

Working with artists from a range of cultures and genres, we have created music using a unique blend of written scores, one-page skeletal scores and free improvisation. It’s interesting listening to recordings of Alchemy at the distance of a couple of months: even as performer I can’t really determine where we were reading off a score and where we were improvising.

One of the frustrations for me is that a busy orchestral schedule leaves the group with precious little opportunity to get together and build on our improvisational work. I feel now that I want to spread my wings a little and see what I can produce under my own steam and also out in the rural environment where I am most happy and inspired, rather than the urban environment that I usually perform in.

I hope to create innovative short works for the solo viola plus other artists I encounter in the  communities I am visiting. I’ve never really worked with electronic sound and, if I can, I would relish the chance to work with people  such as  Sellostina and the sound artists at Skálar in East Iceland.

Through a friend and colleague of mine, I hope to meet some of the range of musical talent in the Faroes. There is an astonishing amount of music produced in these small islands. listen to this from the RSNO’s own Davur juul Magnussen.

I hope to work with Arnannguaq Gerstrøm in Greenland. Greenlandic music is not well known in Western European music and this would open up new interpretations, blending with music from my home culture in Scotland.

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Taking the viola northwards!

If I had to distil it to one moment, then it would be sitting on the rocks looking at the ice floes at 10pm in that beautiful low light. Not a sound to be heard – at least not a human sound. No voices, no cars. Yet the more you listened, the more you heard: running water, creaking ice, the occasional bird, a fight breaking out in the dog park. How would I convey those sounds in music?
But Greenland isn’t one big paradise. People struggle with rapid social change and globalisation and life is not easy that far north. How could I give something back to a country that offered me so much?
And so a project was born that would take me another 6 months to crystallize.

The final pieces of the jigsaw fell into place courtesy of BBC R3’s Northern Lights series. I discovered how each of my host countries have developed their own distinctive voice through the music of, amongst others, Jon Leifs and Haflidi Hallgrimmsson (Iceland), Kristian Blak (Faroes), the amazing Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and the traditional drum music of Greenland.
I have discovered a surprising amount of contemporary viola music from the North Atlantic area through the Association of Faroese Composers, Iceland Music Information Centre and the Scottish Music Centre. I hope to work in new ways with sound artists in Iceland and with composers in Greenland – more on that in a future post! There are also several interesting educational and coaching opportunities.

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