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Liz Haddon and Martin Suckling: Òran Fìdhle / Violin Song

Tuesday 17 May 2022, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Speaker(s): Dr Liz Haddon & Professor Martin Suckling (Department of Music, University of York)

Event details:

Oran Fìdhle / Violin Song is a collection of 21 short duos based on the rich repertory of traditional Gaelic song accessible through the online resource Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o’ Riches ('well of heritage'). Following the model of Bartók’s 44 Duos for 2 Violins (1931), itself based on folk song from Eastern Europe, they are presented roughly progressively and are intended to be accessible to non-expert performers.

The music of Oran Fìdhle / Violin Song is currently being used as the primary music source for a research project examining string pedagogy and duet playing, led by Liz Haddon in collaboration with St. Mary’s Music School, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Chetham’s School of Music and Sheffield Music Centre.

‘Hungry listening’ is a concept introduced by Dylan Robinson in his eponymous 2020 study, intending to capture (amongst other things) an acquisitive settler / colonial mode of encountering music which seeks to categorise, fix, standardise and aestheticise Indigenous musical practices. The process through which Indigenous / folk musical materials are reused within contemporary classical music is one which Robinson highlights for particular criticism.

The tension between my set of pieces (and also, perhaps, Liz’s interview-based methodology) and the critique of colonial attitudes Robinson highlights via the hungry listening concept should be clear. This presentation will explore these tensions and consider issues such as compositional responsibility, translation/transmediality, and ‘extended’ techniques in music for amateurs.  Is there a compositional mode of encounter by which folk materials can offer new possibilities rather than just stand as nationalist markers or souvenirs of the cultural tourist trade? 

Taking the ‘tobar an dualchais’ metaphor – the archive of recorded song and speech as a well of heritage – perhaps ‘thirsty composing’ might be a way of approaching this which can both acknowledge what has been received and also be nourished by the living waters of another culture. (Though by appropriating and modifying Robinson’s ‘hungry listening’ concept, it could be questioned, am I, as a composer, simply re-enacting the settler attitudes that Robinson confronts…?)

About the speaker(s):

Dr Liz Haddon is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of York UK, where she devised and led the MA Music Education: Instrumental and Vocal Teaching, 2015-2022.

Her research output includes Making music in Britain: Interviews with those behind the notes (Ashgate, 2006); two co-edited volumes with Pamela Burnard: Activating diverse musical creativities: Teaching and learning in higher music education (Bloomsbury, 2015); Creative teaching for creative learning in higher music education (Routledge, 2016) and research articles and book chapters on instrumental and vocal pedagogy, mental health and music students, instrumental learning across cultures, and early music.

Prior to working as an academic in higher music education her self-employed career included music editing; ensemble administration for the new music group Icebreaker; gamelan workshop leading; piano, violin and music theory teaching in private studio, school and university contexts.

Martin Suckling was born in Glasgow in 1981. After spending his teenage years performing in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and in ceilidh bands around Scotland, Suckling studied music at Clare College Cambridge and King’s College London.

He was a Paul Mellon Fellow at Yale University from 2003-5, undertook doctoral research at the Royal Academy of Music, and subsequently became a Stipendiary Lecturer in Music at Somerville College, Oxford. His teachers include George Benjamin, Robin Holloway, Paul Patterson, Martin Bresnick, Ezra Laderman, and Simon Bainbridge. He has benefited from residencies at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldeburgh Festival, Aspen, and IRCAM, and has won numerous awards including the 2008 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize and a Philip Leverhulme Prize. He is Professor of Composition at the University of York.

Suckling has been championed by many leading orchestras and ensembles including the London Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Ensemble, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and the London Contemporary Orchestra. His music has been performed at Oxford Lieder, Ultraschall Berlin, and at the 2007 ISCM World Music Days in Hong Kong. In 2011 Suckling’s critically acclaimed Candlebird for baritone and ensemble, to poems by Don Paterson, was premiered by Leigh Melrose and the London Sinfonietta.

From 2013-18 Suckling was the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Associate Composer, a partnership which resulted in Six Speechless Songs (premiered by Robin Ticciati and later revived by Oliver Knussen), a concerto for pianist Tom Poster, and Meditation (after Donne) for chamber orchestra and electronics. Other orchestral works include Release, premiered at the 2013 Tectonics festival by Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and The White Road, a flute concerto for Katherine Bryan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (2017).

Suckling also enjoys a close relationship with the Aurora Orchestra. A recent tour of Candlebird, conducted by Nicholas Collon, followed two commissions: Psalm for harp and spatialised ensembles premiered at the Royal Academy of Arts as part of Edmund de Waal’s ‘white’ project in 2015, and the String Quintet Emily’s Electrical Absence, the result of a collaboration with Poet in the City and Frances Leviston premiered in 2018.

Other chamber works include Nocturne, a 2013 duo for violin and cello for Pekka Kuusisto and Peter Gregson, and a clarinet trio Visiones (after Goya) which premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival by Mark Simpson, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Tamara Stefanovich in 2015.

Suckling received a Scottish Award for New Music for his song cycle The Tuning, commissioned by Oxford Lieder and premiered in 2019 by mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons. Suckling’s latest orchestral work This Departing Landscape, commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic and completed in 2019, gives its name to an orchestral portrait disc released by NMC in 2021.

Join via Zoom

Meeting ID: 974 1147 1887

Passcode: 030134

Location: D/003 (Sally Baldwin Buildings, D Block)