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.

Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.

Please use the dropdown buttons to set your preferred options, or use the checkbox to accept the defaults.

The old woman of Beare

author of text
Irish 9th Century poem

Perhaps the most striking feature of this piece is the intersection of very diverse elements: an Irish 9th Century anonymous poem, a group of instruments (string quartet) whose roots lie in the Western art music of several centuries ago, Irish traditional music (the inflections and latent energy of which have had an influence on this piece), and the responsive and expressive sounds which are possible with the use of live electronics.

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


Ghost stories
Studio Master: SIGCD088Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 2 on SIGCD088 [17'03] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD088 track 2

Recording date
7 July 2006
Recording venue
Trinity College London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Cotton & Tim Oldham
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch & Andrew Mellor
Hyperion usage
  1. Ghost stories (SIGCD088)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: July 2007
    Download only
Waiting for content to load...
Waiting for content to load...