In March this year I welcomed a new release of works for strings by British composer F L (Laurie) Dunkin Wedd www.dunkinwedd.com/welcome.htm At the time I noted that he is a composer of great versatility yet with a clearly defined personal style and that his music deserves a wider audience.
Dunkin Wedd’s versatility is shown to even greater effect on a new release from Con Brio http://thethirdrelease.com entitled Lorelei.
This new release features works for voice and tape as well as a work for choir and organ and is available as a 21 minute ‘EP’ length CD or as a download.
The title work Lorelei (completed 2015) is a tribute to the composer’s late aunt who lived near the sound of waves in Dorset, England. Three female voices speak words and phrases over the sound of waves recorded on the Dorset coast. The beautifully and atmospherically recorded wave sounds are soon overlaid with the word ‘Listen’ by the three voices, Helen Carter, Mary Rae and Carole Howlett who are set in an otherworldly acoustic. The music moves through repeated ‘verses’ or ‘words’ and, although there is no conventionally composed music here, there is a great musicality evocatively produced before the voices disappear, leaving just the sound of the waves.
Brancusi (2008) sets word sounds for alto with taped industrial and other sounds. The composer tells us that this piece honours one of his favourite sculptors, Constantin Brancusi www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artwork/669 and like that sculptor’s Bird in Space, speaks of where we have come from and where we are going.
In this remarkable work, Dunkin Wedd uses the device of musique concrete where, instead of notating ideas on paper for performance by normal instruments, he has collected ‘concrete’ sounds and abstracted the musical values that they potentially contain.
Bird song opens Brancusi behind which the sound of a stream or brook appears. Suddenly the sound of an aircraft and other industrial sounds intrude as mezzo soprano Susan Legg joins. A road drill brings an amazing rhythmic accompaniment to the soloist as do the many other industrial sounds, providing a rhythmic base. Susan Legg is quite marvellous as she flows effortlessly and beautifully over the sounds which at various times include a ringing phone and a crowd of voices. Later there are faster, shorter phrases for the mezzo adding a certain increasing frenzy to the music before the rumble of a storm is heard. The mezzo falls silent as sounds of rain appear, then the sound of birdsong making a wonderfully cyclic return.
It is difficult not to be enthralled and drawn along by this amazing piece.
Ruah - Meditations on the Breath of God (2006) is for choir and organ and sets sacred texts from the Tanakh, Ketuvim, Koran and New Testament, focusing on the Breath of God. It has for its aim the ideal of world peace and is also a thanksgiving for the gift of song.
Here the Tamesis Consort is directed by Jonathan Wikeley with organist Martyn Noble. Deep organ sonorities combined with the voices of the Tameses Consort open as sounds of breath are given in staccato phrases. Soon the hushed, whispered word ‘Generation, generation’ is heard. Slowly a sonorous choral sound arrives on the words ‘These are the generation of the heaven and of the earth…’ There are some passages that bring the most lovely harmonies as Dunkin Wedd combines his own individual style to that of the English choral tradition with tremendous results. There is a particularly lovely moment halfway through when the choir sing ‘Ah’ over a sustained organ motif. As the music develops there is some fine part writing.
One thing that shines through all of these pieces is the sheer musicality and poetry that Dunkin Wedd brings. The recordings from various locations are first class. Whilst there are no notes in the CD, the full English text of Ruah is given inside the front cover of the CD digipack.
Whilst it is the more conventional choral work Ruah that is likely to immediately appeal to listeners, I do hope that the other two works receive the widest circulation.