by Keith Hudson
Cutting the Chord
Eclectic ECL CD 9308
Any lingering doubts about the role of the harp in modern music must, surely, be dispelled by this magnificent piece of work. Scotland’s Savourna Stevenson has always been an adventurous boundary-breaker, but with this performance of her own compositions, written to commemorate the bi-centenary of the Belfast Harp Gathering on 1792, she establishes entirely new parameters for the instrument, while still maintaining a healthy respect for age-old traditions.
Adding their own touches of genius are Irish harpist Aine Ni Dhuill, ubiquitous double bass guru, Danny Thompson, and percussion expert, Jim Sutherland. The latter is also responsible for eerie, and enormously affective, wind sounds ( how he does it is open to speculation ) notably on the aptly titled Aeolian.
It’s one of two pieces that owe a big debt to the Scots/Irish baroque harping tradition, the other being Harplands in which O’Carolan and Rory Dall Morrision are transported into the minimalist realms of the West African kora, before adopting the characteristic decorative devices of South American. Basse Breton Rhapsody is a freer, jazz improvised piece, the title track is sublimely atmospheric and, rounding things off, is a quirky 10/8 blues.
If you think Scotland’s strongest intoxicant is a good highland malt, try this. Sip it slowly and savour every drop!