In the legendary Irish tale Táin Bó Cúailnge, foster-brothers and beloved friends Ferdia and Cuchulainn are coerced by the manipulative Queen Medhbh to battle one another to the death. After a three-day battle that neither wants to win, Cuchulainn slays Ferdia and lets loose the most powerful, guttural cry imaginable, the cry known as olagón. Using the rich and conflicted notion of olagón as a starting point, composer/fiddler/electronic-musician Dan Trueman, sean nós singer Iarla O Lionáird, and poet Paul Muldoon are collaboratively creating a new evening-length work with chamber ensemble eighth blackbird. NOW QUEEN MEDHBH HAD BROUGHT ME IN AR SCATH A CHEILE A MHAIREAS NA DAOINE AND MADE ME TEA OUT OF HER WEE TIN These, the opening lines from the text Muldoon is creating for this project, give a sense of the rich possibilities presented by the interwoven languages. The second line translates literally as “we live in each other’s shadows,” but also has the broader meaning that we all depend on one another in various ways. The actual sound of these words is at once lyrical and rhythmic, full of musical and vocal possibility. Surrounding this line are two that invoke the Táin, but also reference a nursery song from Northern Ireland. In the sentences that follow, we discover Medhbh drinking martinis, suffering drug addictions, and ultimately collapsing in the parking lot, marked off by traffic cones. The sobbing cry ochon agus ochon o comes and goes throughout. This is an edgy, intense, trans-historical text, at once evocative of ancient myths and also the contemporary struggles of the post-Celtic-Tiger Ireland. We will weave excerpts from some ancient Irish love poems into this text, in part to provide reflective relief from Muldoon’s intense text, and also to bring more Irish language into the piece and the other worlds it conjures. This hour-long concert work will be wide ranging in tone and affect, at times drawing on elements of the traditional music of Ireland, Norway, and America, and other times engaging the raw urgency and sonorities of contemporary classical music, while avoiding nothing, including colors and grooves of popular music. The stage (which will be more of a concert stage than a theatrical stage) will center on the acoustic instruments of eighth blackbird’s six virtuosi, Trueman’s 5-string Hardanger d’Amore, and Ó Lionáird’s incomparable voice, while extending this world with pre-recorded voices of Ó Lionáird’s brothers and other sean nós singers, and also electronic instruments that extend the piano, the harmonium (which Ó Lionáird will play), the fiddle and the voice. This will be a rich world, both sonically and visually, one that will range from near silence, through near silent keening and impassioned song, to explosive rhythmic walls of sound. A presenter will be expected to provide back-line (the work will be amplified) and technical support for the eight instrumentalists, publicity, and a full day rehearsal/sound-check time in the space. A hall seating 200–800 with ample stage space is ideal. The Fall 2017 premiere will coincide with a CD release of Olagón.
This rehearsal will be open to the public and will take place in the gallery.