Our latest project, with support from Creative Scotland, features specially commissioned poetry and music, inspired by the 18th century travels of the eminent literary duo Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell across northern Scotland and the Hebrides. Three distinct pieces, Ochan, Saltpetre and Drift, from six brilliant poets and composers, look at the Scottish landscape and people then – and now. As 2020 proved to be a year of disruption and necessary adaptation in so many aspects of life, so the project took on a new look and changed its course. Live performances became impossible, but plans gradually evolved to allow the atmospheric music and poetry to make their digital way into the world instead. The song cycle was recorded and mixed at Castlesound Studios in the summer and late autumn of 2021, and spring 2022 will see No Trees to Whisper premiered online.
music Aidan O’Rourke ~ poetry Dawn Wood
Aidan O’Rourke is a fiddler, composer, producer and curator. With his trio Lau, in multiple solo projects and in collaborations, he has pioneered a new sound in folk music and redefined traditional forms. His roots are in Scottish and Irish folk music. He grew up in an Irish family in Argyll and studied fiddle in the West Highland tradition. By 14 he was touring with The Caledonia Ramblers; in 1998 he joined Blazin’ Fiddles; in 2010 he formed the quartet Kan with whistle player Brian Finnegan; in 2016 he formed a duo with the jazz pianist Kit Downes; in 2017 he joined the legendary Donal Lunny’s new collective the Atlantic Arc. Lau came together in 2006 and their debut album set a precedent for new politically-charged folk music that expands the form and experiments with sound while staying rooted in tradition. As a solo artist, Aidan is always looking for new ways to articulate the tradition. He has released four solo albums and he was named Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2014. As a composer, Aidan threads his heritage into diverse settings. He is a three-time winner of the PRSF New Music Biennial commission at the Southbank Centre; other commissioners include the Scottish Ensemble, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Sage Gateshead, Celtic Connections, the Tolbooth in Stirling, An Tobar, Cottier Chamber Project and Capella Nova. In 2017 he wrote the official music for the opening of the Queensferry Crossing. Aidan’s main project in the last few years has been the immense tune-cycle 365. He wrote a tune every day for a year in response to a short story collection by James Robertson. The result is a major new body of 365 tunes – a significant addition to the Scottish traditional music canon. www.aidanorourke.net
Originally from Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Dawn Wood lives in Perthshire, working as a poet, artist and part-time tutor in postgraduate medical education at the University of Dundee. She has published four poetry collections with Templar Poetry, most recently, As Mind Imagines World, 2018. In 2017, she completed a libretto based on the life of Flora MacDonald (supported by a grant from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland). Current writing projects include a collection of poems based on the Book of Psalms. www.dawnwoodartist.co.uk
music Linda Buckley ~ poetry Iain Morrison
Linda Buckley is an Irish composer based in Glasgow who has written extensively for orchestra (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Dresdner Sinfoniker Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra), and has a particular interest in merging her classical training with the worlds of post punk, folk and ambient electronica. She is “one of the leading figures in the thriving Irish new music scene” (Christopher Fox, Tempo) with her work being described as “exquisite” (Philip Clark, Gramophone) and “strange and beautiful” (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe). She has also written extensively for theatre. Awards include a Fulbright scholarship to New York University, a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, the Frankfurt Visual Music Award (for Silk Chroma) and Gold at the New York Festivals Radio Awards (for Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs documentary with Athena Media). Recent collaborations include work with experimental folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa as well as premieres by Hebrides Ensemble, Contempo Quartet, Icebreaker, Iarla O’Lionaird, Joby Burgess (Barbican commission), Ensemble Mise-En and Crash Ensemble. Linda holds a Music Degree from University College Cork, a Masters in Music and Media Technologies and PhD in Composition from Trinity College Dublin, and lectures in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her NMC Debut Disc, From Ocean’s Floor was released in September 2020. www.lindabuckley.org
Iain Morrison’s poetry collection I’m a Pretty Circler (Vagabond Voices, 2018), was shortlisted for the Saltire Prize. His poems appear in the anthologies Makar/Unmakar: Twelve Contemporary Poets in Scotland (Tapsalteerie 2019) and the weird folds: everyday poems from the anthropocene (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2020). He was ArtfulScribe writer-in-residence at Southampton University’s John Hansard Gallery throughout 2018. His degree in music from Cambridge University developed into an interest in cross-artform performance and his events have included a night of drag queen poetry at Scottish Poetry Library in 2016, and a five-day reading of Emily Dickinson’s complete works at Berlin’s 2014 SOUNDOUT! festival. www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/iain-morrison
music Gemma McGregor ~
poetry Haworth Hodkinson
Gemma McGregor is a freelance composer, performer and curator whose work crosses the boundaries of musical genres and is often multi-disciplinary. Winner of the Ogston Postgraduate Scholarship and the W.R. Aim Memorial Prize, she was awarded a doctorate by the University of Aberdeen in June 2017. Gemma has received commissions, awards and residencies from Creative Scotland, Heritage Scotland, Hinrichsen Foundation, St Magnus Festival, Aberdeen Sound Festival, North Wales International Festival, Heriot-Watt University, Illuminate, Nordic Viola and the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust. Gemma is interested in depicting consciousness and exploring images of time and place in layers of sound. In addition to writing contemporary choral and instrumental music, she has been part of many interdisciplinary performances and collaborations. She has also created sound-art installations and written music for film.
Gemma’s first opera, The Locked Door, was commissioned by Aberdeen Sound Festival and performed in 2015. Her second opera, The Story of Magnus Erlendsson, was commissioned by St Magnus Festival, performed in 2017, and was nominated for a New Music Scotland Award.
Gemma is curator of the multi-disciplinary group, The Experimental Music Project, who perform regularly at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness. www.gemmamcgregor.com
Haworth Hodgkinson is a poet, playwright, and performer of the spoken word, as well as a composer and improvising musician. His work ranges from collaborations with other writers, musicians, dancers, film-makers, visual artists, actors and storytellers, to solo performances combining words and sound. His poetry and music are largely concerned with the changing seasons in the landscape of the North of Scotland, and the lives of the people who populate this landscape. His poetry is published in two collections, “A Weakness for Mermaids” (2007) and “Tractor Bastard” (2012), and a wide range of his music can be heard on the High Moss label.