As we enter a new year I look back on last year and feel proud of all we managed to achieve with Nordic Viola. We were just about to travel to Shetland when lockdown hit. We swiftly repurposed our “Histories and Herstories” programme for an online concert which aired for Orkney International Science Festival in September and it will go to its original hosts, the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Institute of Northern Studies for their online 5th international St. Magnus Conference on 16th April at 4:15pm GMT
Back in September 2019, I made many new connections at UHI’s Shoormal Conference and these are beginning to bear fruit. Poet Lesley Harrison, clarinettist Alex South and I are building a programme for Arbroath 2021 and sound artist and composer Renzo Spiteri, who lives in Shetland, has been sending me tracks to improvise with so we can get a feel for working together prior to putting some work together (possibly alongside landscape artist, Orla Stevens of Callander) in late 2021/22.
Alex and I have already produced some work related to Alex’s PhD on whale song and these have led to invitations to develop work future festivals.
The focal point of Nordic Viola’s work this year, though, will be a new commission from Linda Buckley. Linda Buckley ls supported by PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music for this project.
I first met Linda a year or so ago when she was researching her radio project for Athena Media and RTE, “Mother’s Blood Sister Songs” which explores the links between her home country, Ireland, and Iceland. I was able to put her in touch with friend and pianist Arnhildur Valgarðsdóttir in Reykjavik and you can hear the fruits of their meeting here:
Around the same time, I’d come across an article in Air Iceland’s inflight magazine on the female settlers from the Icelandic Sagas. The names of six of these remarkable women now adorn Air Iceland’s bombardier aircraft, perhaps rather appropriately, as these six strong women were great travellers! In the long term, money permitting, I’d like to commission six women composers to write a piece on each of these Icelandic heroines, so Linda, with her research on the connections between the Celtic women and their journeys across the North Atlantic to Iceland seemed like the obvious place to start.
Together we chose Auðr djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir (Aud the deep-minded). Aud married Olaf the White, the self-proclaimed King of Dublin following Viking raids on Ireland. They had a son named Thorstein the Red. After Olaf was killed in battle in Ireland, Aud and Thorstein journeyed to the Hebrides. Thorstein became a great warrior king, conquering parts of northern Scotland until he was betrayed and killed in battle.
Upon learning of the death of Thorstein, Aud, who was then in Caithness, commissioned a construction of a knarr, a Viking era ship commonly built for Atlantic voyages. She captained the ship to Orkney where she married off one of her granddaughters, Groa, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. Aud then captained the ship on its voyage to Breiðafjörður in Iceland with twenty men under her command. She was respected as a captain; capable, independent and strong-willed. In addition to the crew, there were other men on her ship, prisoners from Viking raids near and around the British Isles. Aud gave these men their freedom and land to farm once they were in Iceland.
I am delighted that “Aud” will be premiered for Orkney International Science Festival on 3rd September this year, where it will form part of a series of events and lectures by historians, geneticists and saga scholars exploring Orkney’s links with it’s northern neighbours around the North Atlantic. Our concert will be entitled “Sagas and Seascapes” and will explore stories and landscapes shared around the Far Northern cultures. I’ll fill you in on the composers and pieces over the year!
Linda Buckley’s Music
Linda has written extensively for orchestra (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Dresdner Sinfoniker Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra), and has a particular interest in merging her classical training with the worlds of post punk, folk and ambient electronica. She is “one of the leading figures in the thriving Irish new music scene” (Christopher Fox, Tempo) with her work being described as “sublime and brilliant” (Tom Service, BBC Radio 3) “strange and beautiful” (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe), “fantastically brutal, reminiscent of the glitch music of acts such as Autechre” (Liam Cagney, Composing the Island) and “engaging with an area of experience that new music is generally shy of, which, simplified and reduced to a single word, I’d call ecstasy” (Bob Gilmore, Journal of Music).
Awards include a Fulbright scholarship to New York University, a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, the Frankfurt Visual Music Award (for Silk Chroma) and Gold at the New York Festivals Radio Awards (for Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs documentary with Athena Media).
Recent collaborations include work with experimental folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa as well as premieres by Hebrides Ensemble, Contempo Quartet, Icebreaker, Iarla O’Lionaird, Joby Burgess (Barbican commission), Ensemble Mise-En and Crash Ensemble. In 2019 she was invited by John Schaefer’s New Sounds Live (WNYC) to present the New York premiere of a new live score to the silent horror film Nosferatu (co-composed with Irene Buckley) at Brookfield Place. Linda holds a Music Degree from University College Cork, a Masters in Music and Media Technologies and PhD in Composition from Trinity College Dublin, and lectures in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In September 2020 her NMC Debut Disc, From Ocean’s Floor was released.
You can listen to Linda’s music here, including a previous response to Icelandic music, the beautiful and haunting Númarímur.
Linda Buckley is supported by PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music