A new work for violin and piano
Developed and performed by Brigid Coleridge and Lee Dionne
In residence at:
Avaloch Farm Music Institute, August 2017
Yellow Barn Artist Residency, January-February 2018
Performances scheduled for February 2018
War Music is a new multi-disciplinary chamber project, developed by violinist Brigid Coleridge and pianist Lee Dionne. The piece explores ideas of the ‘classical’, weaving together free verse poetry, music for violin and piano, and physical theatre. The new work juxtaposes the template of the conventional violin and piano recital with scenes from Christopher Logue’s remarkable re-imagining of Homer’s Iliad.
Beginning in 1959, the British modernist poet Christopher Logue embarked on a life-long multi-volume project of ‘translating’ Homer’s Iliad, entitled War Music. With its jagged free verse and wide frame of contemporary reference, we find the text and the general treatment of its ‘classical’ subject riveting and powerful. The reader is plunged into the thick of battle, seeing, tasting, hearing an old story with heart-stopping immediacy. Desolation is the poem’s constant pedal-point, heard even amidst the violent rush. For our project, we have carefully selected a handful of scenes from the poem, that together make a poignant vignette amid the immense architecture of Logue’s text. Our small story begins and ends on the same beach: in between stark violence, Achilles mourns the death of his beloved friend Patroclus.
Logue’s text is an inspiration to us in our endeavours to understand our relationship with musical ‘classics.’ Each piece that we have chosen to bring into dialogue with Logue’s text reflects in some way on its relationship with a ‘classical’ style: Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant hails from his neo-classical period; Lutoslawski speaks old forms in a new voice in his Partita; Symanowski brings mythic characters to life in his Trois Mythes; Saariaho captures a twentieth century night in her Nocturne; Matteis imagines wildly in his 17th century forms. Our program interacts dramatically and vocally with Logue’s narrative, highlighting certain characters and moods, offering musical margin notes through the poem.
A key element of our project - and our answer to the challenge of Logue’s endeavour - is our wish to interrogate the recital format and our identities as violinist and pianist. War Music will feature the performers as mouthpieces for both music and text: we will theatrically speak the text and play the music. Our bodies will also be treated as second expressive ‘instruments,’ with particular attention being paid to gesture and choreography. Lastly, the violin and the piano themselves will take on identities in the drama - for example, the lid of the piano is transformed into the sail of a ship.