Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson picked up an award at the International Composer’s Conference in Argentina earlier this year. The piece in question was “Dust”—a striking three-part work written for violinist Daniel Pioro, and part of Daniel’s 2018 Bedroom Community album of the same name. “We set out to make an EP of Daniel’s existing repertoire, but quickly formed a musical and personal connection that demanded a deeper collaboration,” says Valgeir. “‘Dust’—in its three continuous movements—was born from this place; from data collecting dust on my hard drive, into Daniel’s musical fluidity that flows off his fingers like an avalanche, or a stream that has carved its path over centuries.” Here’s what Daniel has to say of the album.
This work that began life as a bed of electronic sound and layers of improvised violin playing, pulled around, re-shaped, and improvised over once again. Starting off sparsely, the violin sound and electronics thicken, following each other through moments of violence, struggle and deep peace. The score makes the most of the raw, unpolished, immediate sound of the strings, and of the air, and impurities created by the bow—sounds that are very important to both Valgeir and me.
A piece for violin and reverb, composed for me by Edmund Finnis. Cyclical patterns of sound move in and out of focus, as if approaching from a distance before receding into haze. The tone of the violin is transformed from white noise into glistening harmonics and back again, forming arcs. Lightly amplified reverb is used to extend the sounding space that the music inhabits. Our perspective on the music is altered. What we hear is simultaneously in the room and seemingly elsewhere.
One of the first surviving pieces for unaccompanied violin, this piece is built over a repeating bass theme of four descending notes, whose constant presence symbolises the unending watchfulness of the Guardian Angel. There is a great fragility in this work—moments of sparse textures, glee, intensity, wandering—yet always underpinned by those four notes. For me, this piece calls to mind a life cycle. No matter what happens—the tempestuous details, the miserable moments and those of absolute joy—life flows on.
Dark Sky Community
A piece for violin, voices and electronics written for me by Oliver Coates. Connected to a larger work ‘Shorelines’ for quartet and tape, Dark Sky Community invokes the purity of light on the island of Sark. The violin part is one of stillness and simplicity, interspersed with shimmering electronic textures and a choral line that brings to mind far older times. This piece is another place, far away, yet visible and clear.
The Lark Ascending
Written by Vaughan Williams, this piece is approached anew in this recording. The original piano part, arranged for organ, cello and viola da gamba, merges seamlessly with the violin line, drawing particular attention to the fragility and ancient world sound of the original score. There is an alchemy in this combination of instruments. The way that the cello and viola da gamba entwine and clash is a particular beauty to me, and the organ keeps everything rooted, present, in a way that allows the violin to soar, glide and sing, like the lark in George Meredith’s original poem of the same name.
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