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The Salutation (clarsach and tape, 2002)


Composing The Salutation I didn't want to write something which felt self-consciously modern. Rather I wanted to use the possibilities within electroacoustic music of saying something about the instrument, its music and its history. I started, then with a slow air which uses the instrument in a recognisable, characteristic way, and I also started to explore the kind of ornamentation which is traditionally associated with the clarsach.

The electroacoustic part, in other words the recorded sounds which surround the live player, stem in part from recordings of the clarsach, often transformed. The other sounds come largely from recordings of the voice of Margaret Hughes of Anstruther, which I recorded in the Spring of 2000. She talks about how she worked as "a fisher quine" in the late 1930s in Lerwick. I was fascinated by the rhythms of her speech which seemed to be so musical, and it seemed natural to try to find a link between her oral history, and the aural tradition of the clarsach. Other sounds put this into a sound context - the harbour in Anstruther, the ticking of a grandfather clock, and the sea.

The piece was commissioned by Catriona McKay who premiered it at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival in 2002.