Two Pieces for String Quartet:
I. Na horo eile (6’)
II. Le Dian (9’)
I wrote these pieces while in the midst of working a great deal with the Gaelic language in other musical works. This left me inspired by Gaelic traditional music’s frequent use of the sounds of the syllables, even independently of their meaning, to contribute to the overall sound of the music. String instruments are remarkable for their ability to sonically mimic the human voice and I aimed to take advantage of that here.
‘Na hóro eile’ (“na horo eh-luh”) combines a mournful chord progression based around falling and rising thirds with melodic lines that attempt to use string effects and song-like lines to imitate these effects, hopefully taking advantage of the vocal qualities of string instruments. The title is a bit of a nonsense phrase, a common convention in Gaelic music – sometimes words are inserted that don’t mean anything solely for musical purposes. However, it roughly translates to “no one else”.
‘Le Dian’ (“leh Jian”) was written as a companion piece, commissioned for the Ligeti Quartet, and the title means “with intensity” in Gaelic. Just before writing this piece, I had received a lot of comments of late about my music being “intense”, especially since I had recently completed a dramatic larger work for choir and percussion. I decided - why not focus on that? We all have tendencies and hallmarks in our compositional voices, best to make the most of them. I used incessant ostinatos, position shifting and polytonality to ratchet up tension bit by bit in this piece, as an exploration of this perceived intensity.
“Le Dian” was commissioned by the Cheltenham Music Festival in 2018. Both pieces were written for the Ligeti Quartet.