Lisa Illean's new work for voice and tape was premiered in BBC Radio 3's 'Open Ear' series at LSO St Luke's in London on 29 September 2018. Developed during a number of collaborative sessions, the piece sets excerpts of two poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, strung between short framing movements to form a single 15-minute work. The piece has an optional video component, made by Lisa in 2019.
Observed patterns of tapestry in the natural world — such as foliations in wood or stone, or the ‘lashtender combs’ of ash trees — occur frequently in the highly personal poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. A through-grown earth draws on Hopkins’ texts, creating intimate settings for voice, pre-recorded sound and (optional) moving image. Composed in non-tempered tunings, the work demands a discreet virtuosity as it explores the subtle edges of the voice, its tuning and sonority.
The core of the pre-recorded sound material is composed of retuned zithers — a painstaking process that allowed me to be very precise with tuning and shift between microtonal modes in a way that is impossible in live performance on acoustic instruments. This is interwoven with lines for harp, voice, strings and electronic material.
Here is one of Gerard Manley Hopkins's beautiful poems:
Not of all my eyes see, wandering on the world,
Is anything a milk to the mind so, so sighs deep
Poetry to it, as a tree whose boughs break in the sky.
Say it is ashboughs: whether on a December day and furled
Fast or they in clammyish lashtender combs creep
Apart wide and new-nestle at heaven most high.
They touch heaven, tabour on it; how their talons sweep
The smouldering enormous winter welkin! May
Mells blue and snowwhite through them, a fringe and fray
Of greenery: it is old earth’s groping towards the steep
Heaven whom she childs us by.
29 September 2018: BBC Radio 3 'Open Ear' series, LSO St Luke's, London
15 January 2019: MIRY concert hall, Ghent
4 July 2019: AngelicA Festival, Bologna
And soon to be recorded for commercial release.
Lisa and Juliet would like to thank Australia Council for the Arts, its Arts funding and advisory body, the Britten-Pears Foundation, Anne Denholm, Sound and Music, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Leverhulme Trust and ACE.