This piece was first performed on 3rd May, 2013, at Leeds University. The performance was given by Jessica Clarke (vibraphone), Tom Coppin (guitar) with the composer at the piano.
It's ideas, moods etc. come from our time amongst the hills and lochs of Torridon, and with its people.
"Gold-dust echo" was written for Tom Coppin's "Finalist Platform" concert, at Leeds University, and I am most grateful to Tom and Jess Clarke for playing it. Its main theme is structured to be remotely reminiscent of a Piobaireachd ("Pibroch" in English): this is the classical music of the Scottish Highland Bagpipe - a strict variation form in which the pulse (always very slow) and metre remain the same, and the melody also the same or even simplified, but with complex grace-notes characterising the variations.
In this piece, this basic idea is heard in the first guitar tune over a pedal A (analagous to the bagpipe drone), repeated later in the piano with guitar decoration, and finally in the vibraphone, now transformed into the dominant major.
Many of the other restrictions of this ancient form I have sidestepped, and the harmonic language owes much to the possibilities of the guitar and vibraphone, and to their natural repertoire - with, I hope, some tentative elements of jazz influence. The main tune is framed by free-er material, mainly in lilting compound triple time.
Pibrochs are usually named after individual people or events. Pibroch is only a starting point for today's piece, so a mood or title could perhaps come from a different aspect of life, such as one of the many legends that are recalled in the remoter parts of the Highlands, where Clare and I spend a lot of time. Torridon's most iconic hill, Liathach, has a "Uamh an Oir" (Cave of Gold) in its south face near the village. The cave may now be virtually inaccessible and its precise location doesn't seem to be known (although it remains marked on Ordnance Survey maps!). The story, no doubt retold at many night-time gatherings, is that a piper once entered the cave with his dog. The piper disappeared, but eventually the dog emerged from the cave (or possibly from a cave on the other side of the mountain), covered in gold-dust. Faint strains of the pipes can still be heard in the cave... Gold-dust seemed somehow to suit the soundworld of the piece.
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