Tidal Island

I can see Eilean Tioram and the castle just in my minds-eye.”

Mary Ann Kennedy (BBC Radio Scotland Global Gathering)

 

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Artwork by Roberto Fernández Castro


Tidal Island' is a new composition inspired by the haunting yet beautiful Eilean Tioram on the west coast of Scotland.  On top of the rocky island is the ruined Castle Tioram which was ordered to be destroyed by the Clan Chief Allan of Clanranald in 1715 to prevent it from falling into enemy hands when he left to fight for the Jacobite cause.   Featured and developed within the piece is a traditional Gaelic An Jorramm from The Patrick McDonald collection - Mo rùn gael òg (My Fair Young Love).  An Jorramms were work-songs sung by men to keep time rowing with the oars of their boats.  Tidal Island  brings together a live electronic atmospheric texture with acoustic instruments to musically create a sense of the rise and fall of sea level, the swaying movement of the waves and the intriguing ambience of this tidal island.

Part 1: Low Tide Sunrise

Part 2: High Tioramm Tide

Part 3: Castle Tioram at Dusk

 

Musicians:

Shona Mooney: Fiddle

Lillias Kinsman-Blake: Flute

Amy Thatcher: Piano Accordion

Fiona Rutherford: Clarsach

David de la Haye: Live Electronics & Electric Bass Guitar

 

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A tidal island is a piece of land that is connected to the mainland at low tide, at which time can be reached on foot.  At high tide, however, it is completely cut off from the mainland and becomes an island.  Evoking the rise and fall of the tide was one of the focus points of this composition and Shona uses a range of musical colours, textures and effects to achieve this aim.  Calling upon an element of tradition within the piece was also particularly important for Shona, as it enabled her in a sense to connect with this beautiful tidal island's past and all of the stories it remembers.

The instrumentation includes fiddle and clarsach which are two of Scotland's most associated instruments and the addition of flute, accordion, electric bass and live electronics gave her further colours and textures to explore.  Each melody instrument has the opportunity to play the ancient Gaelic An Joramm melody which was found in the Patrick MacDonald collection, 'Mo rùn gael òg (My Fair Young Love)'1.  At the beginning of the composition the melody is heard in its original state and then at the end of the composition the tonality of the melody changes to evoke isolation and the haunting atmosphere late at night.

Alongside David de la Haye, various sound samples produced with Shona's fiddle were recorded and then manipulated on a midi controller. These included: creaking wood sounds (created by rubbing hands down the back of the fiddle), pizzicato, harmonics and long drones. No samples of actual waves, wind or creaking boats were used within the piece.  Most of the electronics sounds were created through sampling the fiddle and then pitch shifting, altering EQ and utilising effects on the computer.

 

Part 1: Sunrise and low tide

The first section musically describes the panoramic setting as the tide creeps in gradually towards Castle Tioram, which is perched high on Eilean Tioram.  The sun rises throughout the section and the soaring high flute and fiddle parts represent the sparkle of light on the water. 'My Fair Young Love', which was found in a collection by Patrick MacDonald makes its first appearance.  This rowing song is in the time signature, 12/8 and it comes into focus towards the end of this movement played by flute and harp.  The fiddle, accordion and left-hand of the harp are used to create wave textures that move around the song melody.  The live electronics add texture and intensity towards the end of the movement. 

Part 2: High Tioramm Tide

The tide is now at its highest in this section.  Castle Tioram is isolated on its island from the mainland.  The waves crash against the rocks and boats are sailing to catch fish.  Two main melodies are featured that have a distinct Scottish/Celtic structure.  The second melody is a reel, but it has been harmonised with contemporary influence.  The chopping fiddle technique towards the end adds extra ferocious texture to evoke the chaotic waves crashing into the rocks around the island.

Part 3: Castle Tioram at Dusk

The piece ends with two softer tunes that were developed after visiting the island.  They try to capture the feeling of the day ending, as the sun sets and the water disappears from around the island.  Shona adapted the An Jorramm, 'My Fair Young Love', by changing a few of the intervals to make it sound more melancholic and lamenting. The melody fragments towards the end and one final motif is repeated on flute and accordion.  This motif she feels captures the image of the island as it disappears and merges into the mainland.

 

Sources:

1) MacDonald, P, 'The Patrick MacDonald Collection', Taigh na Teud, (first published 1784) republished 2002.

 


Hollin Green Hollin

Traditional song/melody with variations arranged by Shona Mooney


Shona Mooney: Voice, Fiddle

Christopher Keatinge: Accordion

Andy Watt: Guitar

Craig Mooney: Bodhran

Artwork: Roberto Fernandez Castro