In a new series exploring past CD releases featuring contemporary Irish music, Bernard Clarke writes about Trio Scordatura's album Dubh, released in 2010 on the Ergodos label.
It hit me at the launch of the CD - music with a special sense of mystery ... eerily quiet harmonies, seemingly hinting at archaic consonances, and a voice squatting in a strange language. I refer to Enda Bates' Invocation, on Ergodos's debut release Dubh.
Open-mouthed, hairs standing on the back of my neck, I found myself in conversation with Bob Gilmore (it was his ensemble Trio Scordatura that the music was written for) and we ranged over alternate tunings, new approaches, laughter and the impact of James Tenney. Or rather inspiration - three of the pieces, by Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Scott McLaughlin and Garret Sholdice were written as a kind of "reply" to Tenney.
What their music spoke of was not homage or imitation, but rather consolidation. Three young guns in dialogue with a late lamented master could be deemed an interesting novelty. But, for me, these pieces mark instead the crystallisation of a maverick tradition in miniature. More pertinently, the musical ideas seem inseparable from the instrumental sonorities used to express them - reassuring, but also disquieting.
Ditto for Linda Buckley's Dubh, which seems to move by an association of sound: black begetting blacks, a sonic rhyming in darkness. Then there's Peter Moran's It is not true ..., a shadow game for voice and viola, and an often strange mix of desire and tender bewilderment.
Judith Ring's [Hush] moves in and out of silence, a fugitive music of half-remembering, half-forgetting but absolutely certain in its play with allusions to consonant harmony and conventional tonality.
It's a startling disc, but the nub of everything here is Trio Scordatura: an idiosyncratic voice, Harry Partch inspired-viola and MIDI keyboards. Whatever the approach or challenge set, this ensemble investigates with such thoroughness and panache so that each work sets one on a sonic adventure.
Bernard Clarke is a writer and broadcaster. He presents a weekly contemporary music programme, Nova, on RTÉ lyric fm.
The views expressed are those of the persons concerned and are not necessarily the views of the Contemporary Music Centre.