I am currently working with composer Lisa Illean on a new 20-minute work for voice and pre-recorded sound, to be premiered for BBC Radio 3 in September 2018. The accompanying film will be developed later in the year.
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 three of 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
other dates to follow
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.