Maes Howe, ‘The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone’ and buzzards over Embley Wood

January 14, 2014

Out on the road nearly two years ago, it was a joy to hear the work of  Sally Beamish featured on Radio 3’s ‘Composer of the Week’. While I was listening, parked in a lay-by near East Stratton where I’d often observe buzzards, there was something about Beamish’s discussion of a particular composition – The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone – that prompted me to turn the volume right up as the music was about to start, grab my camera, leap out and start filming the buzzards which were soaring overhead. That something must have been the striking observation she made about the Winter Solstice sun illuminating the passage of a Neolithic tomb in Orkney, discussed on this archaeologically-related forum:

For the piece The Imagined sound of sun on stone for saxophone and chamber orchestra she described visualising the beam of light which enters Maes Howe as like a stylus ‘playing’ the sound out of the stone (emphasis added).

I’d clean forgotten about the Maes Howe beam of light, but I’m sure it must have been that striking detail that spurred me to start recording the music and the wildlife as the sun blazed on the gravel of the lay-by. Listen hard for the plaintive mewling of the buzzards – just about audible – I think it complements the music well. It’s only an excerpt of Sally Beamish’s piece – either the battery/memory was going or I gave up, under assault from the big black flies brought out by the unseasonably warm weather!

I know it’s a bit naughty, I’m aware of ‘copyright issues’, but the recording was made on the spur of the moment as a creative reappropriation of a piece of music, setting it in a different context. Well, that’s my excuse…

The full title and recording details are here:

The Imagined sound of sun on stone for saxophone and chamber orchestra

Conductor: Ola RUDNER Performer: John HARLE – Saxophone Performer: Swedish Chamber Orchestra

BIS, CD-1161, 1-4 (Naxos).

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Thursday, 1st March 2012

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