This project has become a rather big deal for us as we have been together since 2010 and never released our own album, even though we feature on many albums by other musicians. We wanted to wait until we had something really special to offer, and we think this is it!
Early in the life of Ligeti Quartet, we commissioned our friend, multi award-winning composer Christian Mason, to write us a piece for our first tour, in China. Sai ma, or Racing Horses, is based on a popular virtuosic show-piece for Chinese Erhu. It sparked a long-term collaboration with Christian, which started off being about horses and ended up being an exploration of throat-singing from different cultures around the world! The Songbooks project brings together our interests and values as a quartet - exploring classical contemporary music at its limits through extended techniques, other current musical genres, and the music of other cultures, and being a part of the preservation and evolution of older classical and folk traditions. The Songbooks are each based on a tradition of throat-singing and, in this first volume, specific songs from Tuva and Sardinia which were first transcribed and then recomposed for strings. Sivunittinni, by Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, is now a staple of our repertoire and works brilliantly as a partner to Christian's music.
We believe that this collection of pieces respects and celebrates the artists who perform the original songs and the traditions from which they hail - the Tenores di Bitti from central Sardinia and Ay-Kherel from Tuva. The music uses string techniques to bring out rich sonorities and celestial overtones (it is said that the high whistle tone created by the close harmonies of the Sardinian singers was the voice of the Virgin Mary!) combined with gritty, raw textures, occasional toe-tapping grooves, and strong, 'rosin and bow-hair' melodic delivery. The music sometimes sounds as if it has been electronically processed, mimicking the effect unit’s filters, chorus pedals and ring modulators. The Tuvan Songbook was nominated for a British Composer Award in 2017 and Ivan Hewett (The Telegraph) reviewed the Sardinian Songbook as:
“A brilliant recreation of the impassioned close-harmony tradition of Sardinia, played with pungent intensity by the quartet”.
The project so far couldn't have happened without the generous support of the Britten-Pears Foundation, City Music Foundation, RVW Trust, and St John's Smith Square, who funded the commissioning of both Songbooks, and have helped us get started on making the CD. We're also hugely grateful for the Kronos Quartet's mega awesome Fifty for the Future, which includes Sivunittinni. Working with them in NYC on some of the pieces in this project has been one of the most defining moments for us as a group and we hope our own project reflects what a legacy they're creating.
When we spoke about our project to one of the top producers, Leo Abrahams, he got really excited and shared his vision for the album. We knew right then and there it had to be him! After a trial rehearsal at the Lightship studio in London, we also knew this was the right place for us.
The City Music Foundation provided funding for studio time, and the editing and producing for three tracks that we can now show labels, and hopefully we'll find the right match for us!
Christian Mason - Tuvan Songbook (2016 LQ commission)
1. Dyngylday 3:43
2. Eki Attar 2:52
3. Kuda Yry 4:09
4. Ezir-Kara 6:07
Christian Mason - Sardinian Songbook (2018 LQ commision)
1. S’iscravamentu 6:04
2. Ballate a Ballu Tundu 10:32
3. Satiras 3:47
4. Muttos 3:53
Tanya Tagaq - Sivunittinni (2015) 9:59
Huang Hai-Hai, arr. Christian Mason - Sai Ma/Racing Horses (2012 LQ commission) 5:34
(Total album length 56:40...the timings are the producer’s educated guess before the remaining 7 tracks are edited.)
Studio - Lightship95 (Soup Studios), London
Recording dates - 25-28 August 2018
Producer - Leo Abrahams
Engineers - Giles Barrett and David Holmes
Production assistant - Tom Green
Understandably, most labels want to hear all of the finished tracks before they'll consider taking on the album for production and distribution. We desperately need your help to finish the other seven tracks and do the final mastering! We've got some exciting rewards for you, please get in touch with us if there's a reward you'd like us to add or if you want more information.
Should we raise more money than our campaign goal, we'll put it towards the commissioning of the next Songbook. Everyone who donates over £25 will get either a ticket for the première or a link for a video of the first performance.
Risks and challenges
There are relatively few risks in that we've already recorded the tracks, they now just need to be clipped, nipped, assembled, stacked, mixed, balanced, tickled and cared for. And Leo is our man. All we need is time, from us and from him, and time is money! The more uncertain thing is finding a label. We're 100% dedicated to releasing this disc, so the worse case scenario is that, should we not find any (or the right) label, we'll release it ourselves. Delays happen, the unexpected happens, but we're all in this together and we'll keep you updated as we go along. Making a CD takes longer than...growing a baby (no joke, Val did that)...but in the end it'll be worth it!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)