100 Days – Day 72

I finished one of my Christmas Carols for CCI today. I still need to add dynamics and so on, but all the notes are there.

It’s a very short, very repetitive setting of the text I sing of a Maiden*. The text consists of 5 verses – 2 ‘container’ verses, and 3 middle verses, which are repetitive and formulaic. I’ve always been struck by this structure, and so decided to set the outer 2 verses as entirely separate to the inner 3.

I’ve treated verses 1 and 5 as a sort of angelic narration – altos alone, in 3rds. Then, for the middle 3 verses, I wanted to sort of ‘zoom in’ on the scene, and the music becomes Mary gently rocking Jesus, singing a repetitive little lullaby about how good and sweet and kind the child is. It’s a very simple idea, but I think it’ll be quite effective, especially as a lot of my other carols are quite boisterous!

Simply, lullaby tune in canon in the sops and alto, underpinned by some big chords in the tenors and basses.

Simply, lullaby tune in canon in the sops and alto, underpinned by some big chords in the tenors and basses.

*The full text:

1. I sing of a maiden
That is makeless.
King of all Kings
To her son she ches.

2. He came all so still
Where His mother was,
As dew in April
That falleth on the grass.

3. He came all so still
To His mother’s bower,
As dew in April
That falleth on the flower.

4. He came all so still
Where his mother lay,
As dew in April
That falleth on the hay.

5. Mother and maiden
Was never none but she.
Well may such a Lady
God’s mother be.

100 Days – Day 69

Well, I was hoping to finish ACC6 today, but unfortunately haven’t managed it. There’s quite a lot of formatting to do in this movement (argh, I hate putting harp parts into sibelius) and with an early flight to London tomorrow for an audition, I just haven’t got the mental energy to work it all out. I know what needs to be done, so I’ll do it before the end of the week.


(N.B. Because of aforementioned audition I won’t be posting tomorrow or Wednesday.)

100 Days – Day 68

Some work on movement 6 today, before lunch and cocktails over the guardian cryptic crossword with Dr David O’Shea. I might finish this movement tomorrow, if I really knuckle down. It has very little left to do, and is texturally fairly uniform throughout. This will leave me with only 3 movements left to complete!

Fingers crossed.

100 Days – Day 67

Movement 2 completed

11 minutes, 34 pages, 214 bars of B flat minor tintinnabulating tremolo! I’m having a half bottle of champagne to celebrate, as this is the first movement I’ve completed* in over a year.

This brings me to a total of 3 completed movements, and 3 almost completed movements. I might be able to finish another one before I go to London on Tuesday if I really work my ass off. The 6th movement has very little left to be done, I think, so that’ll be the one.

*completed is a bit of a funny word for me. No piece of music is ever really finished. I just send out the best possible draft I think I can get to, without overworking the piece. In this case, what I’ve finished is the first draft of the 2nd movement. There are some things that will probably be tweaked, and all of the formatting needs to be done, but I’m not going to do any formatting on the piece at all until it’s completely finished.

I love this music. I actually can’t get over how much I love something I’ve composed.

I love this music. I actually can’t get over how much I love something I’ve composed.

100 Days – Day 66

Tremolo, tremolo.

Tintinnabuli, tintinnabuli.

2/5ths of the 2nd movement fully orchestrated. Might get another 5th done tonight. Then there are only 2 5ths left, but they’re the same, so it’s really only one 5th. I could pull an all nighter and get it all done today. Then tomorrow I’d only have 4 movements left.

100 Days – Day 64

Mostly just fuguing around today.

I oscillate between feeling like there’s very little left to do, and so much left to do. This is partly because what is left to do is spread very widely across the 5 unfinished movements. I’m aiming to have the 7th movement finished by the time I go to London next week.

100 Days – Day 63

Well, I got basically no work done in Sweden, because our schedule was extremely busy – this was nice, as it meant a complete and forced break from any kind of composition work for an entire 4 days – probably the longest I’ve gone without writing any music, or thinking about writing any music, since the beginning of my PhD.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my former life as a horn player. For some reason, it’s come up in conversation an unusual amount, and a few weeks ago, I actually dreamt that I was buying a horn in order to get back into it. Just now, as I was showering (it’s always in the shower, isn’t it?), I thought “why not add a horn to my PhD?”

There are a few places where I’ve found the string textures a little limiting in my piece. There’s one section in the third movement where there’s quite a distinct countermelody, and I’m just not sure it 100% works with just strings. It would actually be quite something with a horn part. Of course, the celtic horn (Carnyx) and the celtic harp are two of the instruments most closely associated with ancient Ireland. They’re also both mentioned in Amra Choluim Chille, but I’m not setting the text that mentions the horn. I’m also using tubular bells and crotales, because of the frequent mentions of bells in the Amra, and to evoke the ancient Dowris Crotales. *

I couldn’t, at this stage, write the horn into every movement of the piece, but I think there are enough places overall where it would fit that it wouldn’t feel like crow-barring it in. Just a natural expansion of the orchestration. And now that I’ve thought of it, it feels like it would be a dis-service not to include an homage to another instrument used so widely in pre-Christian Ireland.

Food for thought.

*To read more about ancient Irish instruments, see this very informative blog post.

100 Days – Day 58


And I’m leaving my laptop here in Dublin, just to get a bit of space from it. So there won’t be any updates on this blog until next Tuesday.

I’m bringing PhD work with me though – I’m going to try to get some good work done on the the fugues in movements 5 and 7 of my PhD. I’ll also be bringing my O Riada book, and singing my O Sacrum Convivium no fewer than 3 times.

Speaking of my O Sacrum Convivium, I finally got around to digging out legit sources for the 6 pieces that Cailínó will soon be publishing: Carol of the Field-Mice, Comrades, This is my Prayer to Thee, Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, I see His Blood upon the Rose and O Sacrum Convivium. Watch this space!

100 Days – Day 57

Apologies for the silence over the last several days! It was end of term in St Patrick’s so I’ve been enjoying the sun and maybe one or two cocktails, and also taking some much needed time away from my laptop. This is actually the first time I’ve been on my laptop in nearly a week, and I think it’s been very good for my mental health.

Which isn’t to say I’ve not been doing any work at all on my PhD. I’ve been making a bit of a plan of action as to how to proceed, and I think I’ll be going in reverse order – Movement 7 back to Movement 5 initially, then the first two movements.

I’m going to Sweden with St Patrick’s on Friday for 4 days, and won’t be bringing my laptop, so I might not blog between now and then, but I’ll be printing out the 7th movement and trying to get a good bit of work done on the big fugue, as the rest of this movement is pretty much finished, except for a few proportion issues at the end.

Of course, there are other elements to my PhD too. I’m leaving my write-up (ca. 30,000 words I believe) until the very end, but part of what I have to do in that is justify why my music is PhD-worthy. A part of what I’m going to be talking about is the general lack of pieces of music of this scale in the Irish language, that aren’t wholly dependent on Irish traditional music material for their main focus. To this end I’ve been reading about Sean Ó Riada. Other than his most famous work, Mise Éire, most of Ó Riada’s large scale work seems to have been totally separate from his work as a traditional musician. Indeed, they are almost all based on Greek sources. There’s a lot more work to be done in this field, I think, but I wonder if the fact that Irish traditional music grew up apart from any classical tradition, while that on the continent was always aware of it and surrounded by it, explains to some extent why there has never been “An Irish Bartok”. Not that I think there should be. But it’s an interesting thought all the same.