Responding to content selected from Tŷ Cerdd’s archive, six artists worked alongside the cutting-edge collective of Angharad Davies (violin), Rhodri Davies (harp) and Siwan Rhys (piano) to create experimental works. Ranging from the Welsh hymn tradition of Codi Canu, to graphic scores created from images, designs and even ink-blots, the new works introduced the participating music-creators to avant-garde techniques and fresh forms of music making.
Francesca Simmons: PENNOD
Pennod is an open source video graphic score, with free instrumentation & optional electronics. The images are based on disparate sources from the Tŷ Cerdd archive, which grow & are manipulated to form their own narrative. The score blurs the lines between a traditional ‘graphic score’, standard notation & animation. It is available on Youtube for anyone to play.
The video score can be projected for performers & audience to view, or read from individual devices & synchronised. Make sure everyone can hear & see the score, then press play. Consider the score as another performer. Respond to the aural & visual clues it provides, & don’t be afraid to play with it, or against it, or around it. The score drives the performance, but there is no wrong or right way to interpret it.
Instrumentation is free & without limits. The audio of the score is based heavily around acoustic string sounds, so this may or may not influence your choice of instruments. But, all sounds are welcome – the use of prepared instruments, extended techniques, voice, electronics etc. It contains an optional electronics part. The handmade electric book shown at the start of Chapter 6 uses conductive ink to trigger sounds, & the original can be obtained from the composer for a performance. Alternatively, another way of interpreting this aspect of the score is welcome.
LLYFR TONAU ELLIS JONES, CAE'R GOR , LLANDDINIOLEN
The archives at Tŷ Cerdd were full of weird and wonderful finds. I was instantly drawn to the ‘Codi Canu’ books in their collection. I found my piece in Ellis Jones, Cae’r Gor, Llanddiniolen Codi Canu book - a Welsh hymn called ‘ Ni Allodd Angau Du’. Codi Canu is a Welsh tradition in chapels where chapel members who are strong singers and who know the hymns are used to lead the congregation in singing. I used a variety of found sounds and recorded material and placed myself in the role as a codwr canu. The musicians were asked to respond to the music I was making culminating in a live reinterpretation of the piece.
Emma Daman Thomas: O|||O||
In this piece I sought to find pattern and meaning in the absence of something I could recognise. As I can’t read music I found all the written music in the archive equally impenetrable and I was particularly drawn to Robert ap Huw's medieval notation. I enjoyed the fact that this particular notation was as cryptic to most observers as it was to me. The tablature is written as a series of circles and lines / zeros and ones and their precise meaning is much studied and interpreted but still remains ambiguous. I drew a simple graphic score, writing out Robert Ap Huw's 24 measures of string music onto paper in a triangular harp like shape.
I invited the musicians to interpret the patterns in the simplest way they could. For me this was by replicating them as a series of ‘o’ and ‘i’ vocal sounds, which were looped and layered live. Some of the ‘o’ and ‘i’ were represented by absence and presence. One thing that struck me when I visited the archives was the absence of people of colour. Although I knew in advance that the Welsh Music Collection was not comprehensive I still half-expected to find some dusty reference to a little known composer somewhere, or some indication of multicultural musical influences over the centuries. I collected any reference snatches alluding to Indians, Africans, Roma, whatever I could find, and spoke these words in the presence - absence patterns of the Robert Ap Huw notation. In this way the personal connection I was searching for materialised in glimpses, neither visible nor completely hidden, incomplete and unintelligible to the outsider. For a copy of the score please click HERE.
Amy Sterly: LLE ENAID
This work created for the CoDI Arbrofol project was inspired by visiting the Tŷ Cerdd archive during the Covid lockdown of September 2020. The silence that surrounded Cardiff and the interior of the Wales Millennium Centre as it was devoid of performances and staff was an eerie introduction to the archive. Walking through the dark empty corridors and finally entering the room, the sound of footsteps echoed against the concrete walls. Then the straining of the shelves as they rolled against their metal runners, moved the books and manuscripts slowly through the space. All the music silently stored away. It is a safe of souls. My performance is based on the experience of the visit, as well as recordings and manuscript notes that I looked at and recorded when I was there. The sounds are an assemblage of the experience.
Simon Proffitt: YSTAFELL GERDD
A score for 6 performers (harp, piano, 2 violins, clarinet, objects*) constructed entirely from things found in the Tŷ Cerdd archive, including the room itself. It is presented as if by someone who fundamentally misunderstands conventional Western notation, and believes that any shape placed on a stave, whether it be an ink stain, a rip, a company logo or a photo of the plumbing system, is as capable of conveying information about pitch, duration, volume etc. as any other. It asks the performer to be systematic, rather than impressionistic.
The title is both a play on Tŷ Cerdd and a reference to the fact that the music comes wholly from the room and its contents.
*‘Objects’ on this recording are items not from the archive, but that could have been from the archive – Welsh CDs, vinyl & cassettes, Welsh books & sheet music, lever arch files etc.
Angharad Davies, Rhodri Davies & Siwan Rhys:
FFRWYTHAU O NODAU
In the Tŷ Cerdd archive we found a 19th-century music theory book written by Owen Williams of Anglesey, Sacred Music set in the Welsh Language: Treatise on the Elements of Singing. The book contained a number of beautiful elaborate diagrams and drawings explaining music theory and notation, using imagery such as weighing scales, birds, plants, and people. We decided to use a few striking pages from this book to structure our piece. The title comes from the top of one of these pages which depicts musical notes as fruit hanging from the branches of a tree.
Fern Thomas: WE CONJURE A MOUNTAIN
This work responds to the presence of the archetype of the mountain in the Tŷ Cerdd archives which appears in both Welsh and English in many song lyrics. Like an alternative guided visualisation, or perhaps something closer to an invocation, the words and sounds in this piece offers a space for the listener to encounter the mountain as it is conjured from the depths of the earth. The piece is bilingual, sometimes with direct translation, sometimes each language taking its own path.