Music: Song of the birds; Wash Me; Purcell; Kafka; Icebergs; Josquin; Muddy; Rainforest; Africa
Poems: Mother; Wash Me; Kafka; Gratitude
The CD opens with Sophie’s version of the Catalan folk song “Song of the Birds” popularised by the great Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, through whom it came to represent dissent from Franco’s regime in Spain. So saddened was Casals by the lack of action against Franco after the 2nd World War that he refused to perform any more, saying: “The life of a single child is worth more to me than all my music”.
Wash Me was written when someone close to Sophie was very ill. The music invokes the poem as water, bird and a transformative vehicle for suffering.
In Purcell’s “O Lord Hear My Prayer“, Sophie was struck by the use of plaintive C as the “enlightened“key. Emptied of colouration or ornament, C is the white spectrum for religious contemplation. It is the synaesthete’s purity. She feels that the dissention from the C is Purcell’s prayer, the struggle and suffering on the journey to purification. And it is the language of that journey which she wanted to explore in Purcell, by extrapolating the C and allowing an ensuing jumble of harmonic colour – as if throwing light onto the different vibrations of flowers – then finding a path back to the beginning.
The poem Kafka came to Sophie as a series of vivid images whilst driving to Rick’s house one day. On arrival she wrote it down and then went inside to create its musical counterpart. The Kafka story it references is called “The Penal Colony “: a devastating depiction of split-off cruelty in which a machine murders its victims by imprinting their crime onto their body via huge needles. In her poetic journey a white calico covered with myriad silken threads uprooted and jumbled, mirrors Kafka’s punctured human body. And it is the unravelling of this yarn or narrative thread which makes visible the unspeakable. Just as every Kilim and artisan cloth holds a story passed down.
Icebergs is a visceral image of our melting world: the feel and sound of the far North. As the composer inhabited that space, she had a strange shamanistic experience of being taken over by an ancient Inuit woman. In a rocking trance, a sung lament for the melting world came out of her which she then translated into cello dialogue and forms the apex of this piece.
Over the years Sophie has had the great pleasure of working with the Hilliard Ensemble. Her improvisation entitled Josquin, over this original work by Josquin des Pres is homage to Jan Garbarek and his work with the Hilliard – juxtaposing ancient and modern.
Muddy is the affectionate name which Rick gave to this piece when he first heard it. He said that it reminded him of Muddy Waters. As a classical musician, trained from infancy to appreciate the wonders of the Golden Section in Mozart and celebrate the great and diverse traditions of European Intellectual Life, for her to take off that glorious cloak and leap headlong into the unknown of beyond was thrilling.
Rainforest is a short aural ode to our beautiful world. Sunrise in Brazil calling us into being. Sometimes stepping into Rick’s upstairs room is like the back of the wardrobe to Narnia or the changing room in the shop which Mr Benn frequents. On this occasion Sophie closed my eyes to be greeted by a world emphatically non human, the calling of animals and birds unknown to her in shape or voice was a delight to experience.
After mining the vaults of Freud and Gizek one day, Sophie started a piece which initially was called Africa, as it did begin as an enquiry into our origins and impulses. But then like all free thought it went on its own journey and quickly took on a different character resulting in a piece which is a personal embracing of the proximity of spirituality and psychosis . A challenging space to step into but one she felt she needed to take. The traces of Africa are barely discernable beneath the layers of philosophical modernity – a palimpsest of sound reflecting the discussion which prompted it into being.