Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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Much of the musical material is inspired by three versions of the text: the original old Irish, an 18th century translation, and a modern translation of the text by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly. All three provided rich landscapes for word painting and for capturing the heightened emotions expressed in the text.
The poem relates the thoughts of an old woman who is nearing the end of her life, living a monastic existence amongst nuns. She recalls her youth with pride—a time when she had many lovers, a time when she “drank wine with kings”—and she derides the way young women treat their lovers today. Her ailing health, perhaps related to her wilder youth, provides a counterbalance to these thoughts and reminiscences. The old woman’s presence is a ghostly and other-worldly spirit which the quartet summon through ritualistic material.
The piece, which is one continuous movement, follows closely the pace and dramatic structure of the Kennelly translation. The outer sections of the piece explore materials based on Irish traditional music, borrowing some of its many ornaments and harmonic techniques, whilst the inner sections explore a more experimental musical language.
The piece, commissioned by the Xebec Corporation, Japan, was written for the Smith String Quartet in 1994. The technology employed for the original performance was an IRCAM Signal Processing Workstation and the now obsolete NeXT computer workstation. The work was one of the earliest pieces in this genre to explore the potential of computer-based live electronics (in this case the ISPW which was a precursor to Max/MSP) as a live performance system.
from notes by Michael Alcorn © 2007