From 26th – 29th October I will be giving a presentation on Nordic Viola at Sounding the North conference as part of the Sound Festival, Scotland’s Festival of New Music in Aberdeen.
The conference will explore the following questions:
“What is it that makes northern music sound northern? Is it an association of ideas or experiences? Are the clues to a piece of music’s northernness left there intentionally by the composer? Or do some of the inherent qualities of northern places – the seasonality, the remoteness, the long days and nights, the untouched beauty – become a part of the minds of the people who live there? Perhaps northern music sounds different just because its creators breathe the air of a different part of the planet.”
The seasons of the north
In my presentation I will explore the idea of the viola embodying the sound of the north. I will look at how the seasons are depicted in music by Nordic composers, focusing on Kári Bæk’s “Vár Trio” flute, viola and bassoon, Poul Ruder’s “Autumn Collection” for solo viola and the two pieces I commissioned: “AND” by Lillie Harris for solo viola and “Ukioq” by Arnannguaq Gerstrøm for flute, viola and bassoon.
I’ll also look at incorporating recordings of natural sound as well as how these sounds can be imitated instrumentally through pieces by Kristian Blak, Arnannguaq Gerstrøm and myself.
Last, but by no means least, I’ll look at the role of improvisation in my project with reference to performing with Charles Ross in Iceland and, closer to home, with Dávur Juul Magnussen and David Martin as well as improvising solo in the Tvisöngur sound sculpture in Seyðisfjörður. Improvisation is also a tool I’ve used successfully in schools’ workshops – so successfully that I notated and have performed the piece I worked on with students at Anderson High School in Lerwick.
Composers and Performers
There will be lots of exciting composers and performers to mix with at the festival including Bent Sørensen , Gemma McGregor, Alasdair Nicolson, Geoff Palmer, Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson, Gunnar Karel Másson, Arild Anderson, Bozzini Quartet, Edinburgh Quartet and Zoe Martlew.
Dunblane Cathedral Concert
Personally I absolutely feel that the seasonality, the remoteness, the long days and nights, the untouched beauty do become a part of the minds of the people who live there. My 6 months in the North Atlantic area are something I treasure and long to revisit and hopefully I get that message across in concert.
There were some special moments in the Dunblane concert for me, many of them centred around the younger audience members. Our special guest from the Faroes, RSNO principal trombone, buried himself deep in the nave of the cathedral and when he started playing, the face of one of my young friends lit up – she loved the idea that the music had moved into the body of the cathedral and come to meet her. Another mother told me how her daughter had come home and written down all the things the music made her think of.
Pictures © Martin Stewart Photograhy
I think Dave Hubbard created a fair few fans of the contra-bassoon, too!
Other members of the audience met me in the interval, full of their own stories of the North Atlantic. We had a full house and it was lovely to share my musical experiences of Iceland, the Faroes and Greenland.