Leanan Sídhe for Bassoon and Ensemble (2015)
The Leanan Sídhe is an Irish mythological spirit of a Faustian nature. The name refers to a “fairy lover” whose contract involves inspiring poets and artists at the cost of slowly consuming their lives. The Leanan is part of a race of spirits from the barrows, including the Bean Sídhe (commonly known as banshees), and Cu Sídhe (a dog spirit, related to the legend of Cú Chulainn). The piece contrasts two vastly different harmonic worlds: standard equal temperament and the harmonic series with emphasis on “microtonal” intervals that do not exist or are out of tune in equal temperament. Meanwhile, the equally tempered portions of the work are based on a scale comprised of pitches not found in the lower overtones of the harmonic series, and are thus the “out of tune” notes, providing a harsh, dissonant language. The work is comprised of an introduction and three short movements, each blending into the next. The introduction displays the brutal aggression of the equal tempered section and leads to exposition of the solo bassoon. The first movement starkly contrasts the introduction with an open harmonic language, with an emphasis on the natural 7th and 11th . However, the sound soon begins to disintegrate into a flurry of equal tempered runs in the bassoon, echoed in other instruments. The second movement is in the form of a medieval Estampie, a lively jumping dance with a slow introduction, juxtaposed with a bass line constructed from a Habanera in 5/4 time. The movement reflects on the brilliance of the harmonics before it and attempts to imitate the sound of the 11th harmonic before also dissolving into chaos. A brief lament, based on the 13th century Lamento di Tristano, connects the second and third movements, before giving way to a violent finale in the Sídhe underworld, Tech Duinn.