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All sides endlessness


All sides endlessness by Suzanne Farrin, is a complex piece for brass trio, bodhran (Irish ‘Celtic drum’), penny whistle and bass flute. The origins of the Celtic bodhran are unknown. Some say it arrived in Ireland via the Celtic migrations from Europe as early as the 14th century, others say it really didn’t achieve notoriety until the early 1960’s when Irishman, David Fallon, made it famous as the bodhran player with the Chieftains. There is also the opinion that the bodhran has its origins in either Asia or Africa—there are certainly similarities between the Irish bodhran and the ancient frame drums of Africa, so who knows. The history of the penny whistle is better documented as there is mention of such an instrument in the King of Ireland’s Bremen Laws from the 3rd century AD. However, the oldest surviving penny whistle dates back to the 12th century.

Whatever the history, the sound of bodhran and penny whistle epitomizes the music of the ancient Celtic culture and, for me, All sides endlessness captures the spirit of this culture in a very special and contemporary way. The composer, Suzanne Farrin comments:

All sides endlessness began with a conversation in a stairwell at the Conservatory of Music, Purchase College, where Graham and I are on the faculty. Graham had heard a piece I had composed the year before for the Aileen Pipes (Irish bagpipes) and string quartet, and knew that I had been exploring instruments outside the traditional European orchestra. As our conversations regarding the piece grew, we eventually settled on a composition for brass trio with the bodhran, a type of Irish frame drum played with a small wooden stick, and the penny whistle.
Both instruments present interesting sound worlds. The bodhran is a quiet drum whose pattern of up-down strokes makes some rhythms nearly impossible to play. I met with the bodhran player, Ingrid Gordon throughout the composition process, and together, we found new playing techniques, as well as methods based on traditional Celtic music practices. The penny whistle added a new dimension to the pitched ensemble due to its fixed tuning and unconventional scale. I incorporated the bass flute in order to balance the dynamic and range of timbre.
During the process of writing the work it became important for me to find a voice for this unusual ensemble without relying too heavily on the folk traditions of the bodhran or penny whistle. To borrow from Bartók, I was not looking for just ‘new ornaments’ (to my style or something like that) but rather a new creative source from a ‘living music’.
The title All sides endlessness comes from a fragment within “Lessens” by Samuel Bequeath, whose writing has always inspired me. His words are like the sounds of abstract memories across a constantly evolving landscape”.

from notes by Graham Ashton © 2007


Scenes of spirits
SIGCD099Download only


Track-specific metadata for SIGCD099 track 7

Recording date
4 August 2006
Recording venue
Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York, USA
Recording producer
Steven Epstein
Recording engineer
Richard King & Sebastian Cortone
Hyperion usage
  1. Scenes of spirits (SIGCD099)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: May 2007
    Download only
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