DAVID FENNESSY (b.1976): Panopticon for Cimbalom and String Ensemble (Psappha), Piano Trio (Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman) (Hebrides Ensemble), 13 Factories (Ensemble Modern; Johannes Kalitzke), Hirta Rounds (Munich Chamber Orchestra).
Catalogue Number: 04U064
Description: Fennessy first practiced music as an untutored rock guitarist at school, progressed to studying classical guitar, and then to a Master's in composition with James MacMillan. The desire for clear, punchy directness and the ability to make a musical statement from very simple materials seem to have persisted from those early days, although his range of technique and expression have obviously expanded greatly. A Panopticon was an 18th century prison in which a centrally positioned warden could continually observe all the prisoners in the surrounding cells. Fennessy's piece does not depict one, but the symbolism is clear; a cimbalom puts out a constant stream of repeated notes, which completely control the response of the surrounding strings, which reflect the hectoring clatter back, amplified, the rhythm, dynamics and harmony (from the overtones of the cimbalom strings) entirely derived from the dictates of the central instrument. The sinister clicking monotony of the music suggests the oppressiveness of the intrusively privacy-free jail. 13 Factories is about small cogs in big machines, whether they be mechanisms in factories or individual voices in society. Recordings of old looms from the Outer Hebrides, that sound like fragile, whispering echoes of the terrifying loom shuttle recording in Stockhausen's Trans, are played throughout on small handheld loudspeakers, while the ensemble and occasional electronic drones surround them with flecks and washes of colour and texture (and after Rehearsal Letter K (that’s what the track's called) an unnerving cacophony of mechanistic, saurian snarling). The Trio is essentially incidental music for a recorded conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman, from the 1960s. This slow, navel-gazing dialogue about the relationship between art and real life is played unaltered, its long pauses filled with instrumental gestures which increasingly become part of the dialogue; art intruding into the silent gaps in real life; the reverse of 4:33. Hirta is an island off the Scottish coast, inhospitable and uninhabited since the 1930s. Fennessy's piece is pure primitive atmosphere; performed without a conductor, a kind of 'free-pulsative' landscape forms out of overlapping, organic gestures that could be booming waves, lonely bird-cries, the wind, or wisps of mist.