Wednesday 16 December 2020

...out of silence: Louth Contemporary Music Society launches its new series with Linda Catlin Smith's Meadow

Linda Catlin Smith Meadow; Mia Cooper, Joachim Roewer, Bill Butt; Louth Contemporary Music Society

Linda Catlin Smith Meadow; Mia Cooper, Joachim Roewer, Bill Butt; Louth Contemporary Music Society

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 11 December 2020 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A new recording project from Ireland, inspired by music arising out of silence, begins with a string trio from New York-born Canadian composer Linda Catlin Smith

...out of silence is a brave new project from Louth Contemporary Music Society (as a good Lincolnshire lad I was confused at first, but the society is based in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland). A series of intimate recordings on the society's own label conceived under the exceptional conditions of the pandemic. The first recording from Louth Contemporary Music Society is Meadow by Linda Caitlin Smith performed by three Irish string players, Mia Cooper, violin, Joachim Roewer, viola and Bill Butt, cello.

Meadow is a 30-minute work by the New York-born, Canadian resident composer Linda Caitlin Smith, who explains "A meadow is a simple place, with elements that are there quite naturally; it’s not a spectacular garden, but if you look closely there are many different types of plants and tiny flowers. It is a place of infinite variation." The work was first performed at Louth Contemporary Music Society's festival in June 2019 [see the review in the Journal of Music]  

This is music which unfolds without hurry in one single, unfolding movement. There are folk-ish hints in the way Smith handles the string instruments, with the use of double stopping we can hear perhaps the hardanger fiddle or perhaps folk-playing from Northern America. The textures weave in an out without urgency, and the beauty is in the contemplative detail. At times, she places notes and chords in space, at times we are reduced to a single instrument shading to nothing, but then the wind blows, the meadow changes and all three instruments join together, sometimes creating remarkably rich textures.

Smith talks about having time to sit and to dwell in the material. This is music which wants the listener to become absorbed, to notice the small details and the telling way that things change. And it is not just pitch, rhythm and harmony, the very texture and timbre of the music changes too. This is a meadow that you can feel as well as hear. With Smith's music it is not the repetition that counts, but the small variations. There is no dramatic direction to this music, it unfolds as it wills, and perhaps it comes as no surprise that Smith, in amongst her studies, attended lectures by Morton Feldman.

The three performers seem finely attuned to Smith's music and the 30-minute span of the work (there are no subdivisions) sees the three functioning as a seamless whole, weaving the aural image of the meadow in our ears.

Looking ahead, future releases in the series will present music by the South African-born Irish composer Kevin Volans and the Swiss master of unexpected simplicity Jürg Frey, with whom the Louth Contemporary Music Society has over several years developed a close relationship.

Linda Catlin Smith (born 1957) - Meadow
Mia Cooper (violin)
Joachim Roewer (viola)
Bill Butt (cello)
Louth Contemporary Music Society

Available from Proper Music, from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on! Smith's music is beautifully executed by these wonderful musicians. Bravo.


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