https://soundcloud.com/timothy-m-johnston/bright-shadow-for-theremin-and-two-pianos The term ‘bright-shadow’ is used by folklorist James Roy King to refer to the ‘transcendental region’ of myth and folk tale, ‘a world that embraces searches and quests, secret doors and casement windows, poverty and wealth, puddles and lamps, twilight and dawn’. Inspired by several folk and fairy tales, the structure of the music is primarily based on the legend of King Herla, as found in Walter Map’s 12th century De nugis curialium [Courtier’s Trifles], a compendium of wry satire and tall tales. The story describes the meeting of Herla, ‘a king of the most ancient Britons’, with the fairy king who, dancing in the forest, invites him to his wedding in the Otherworld. To his detriment, Herla forgets his agreement and, when the time comes, he is whisked away unprepared. After apparently surviving the fairy wedding (the dangers of dancing with fairies is a common theme throughout much of folklore), Herla returns only to find that centuries have passed in his absence, his kingdom is long-forgotten, and that he and his knights are forced to ride on neither dead nor alive. During the recent lockdowns, I having increasingly turned to using the time to study instruments which I have never previously composed for. This venture has already resulted in several pieces, the latest of to be recorded is my 'Bright-Shadow', for theremin and two pianos. In the popular consciousness the theremin is perhaps most associated with the clichéd sound effects '50s science fiction, or otherwise with borrowing from cello repertoire (no coincidence that Leon Theremin was himself a cellist). However, a new generation of composer-performers are working hard to write, and encourage, new, idiomatic repertoire for the theremin as a serious concert instrument in its own right. I found this creativity highly inspiring, and became very keen to turn my hand to contributing to this growing body of contemporary music. Not only was writing for the theremin a first for me, but also the recording process. I performed the piano parts from my study here in Wales, whilst the superb performer Grégoire Blanc provided the theremin line from the confines of similarly-locked down France a few weeks later. Whilst there is no substitute for the joy of live performance and recording, it was none-the-less a very rewarding process, and hugely satisfying to be able to continue writing and hearing my music in spite of the current global pandemic.
A recording of Sarah's recent online presentation SARAH ANGLISS London-based composer, performer and electronic artist Sarah Angliss aims to make music that gets under the skin. She performs live and creates music for film, theatre and the concert stage. Sarah’s highly inventive work reflects an eclectic musical background. A classically-trained composer and instrumentalist who specialised early on in baroque and renaissance music, Sarah cut her teeth performing on the UK folk scene. She also has a background in electroacoustics and biologically-inspired robotics. Sarah combines these disciplines to create finely-wrought music, hard to classify, where acoustic instruments are augmented by her bespoke electronics, Max and musical automata. The Ealing Feeder, for example, is a robotic polyphonic carillon she’s built to play at inhuman speeds, creating sound with an uncanny physical presence as it’s conjured by a machine on stage. Angliss mixes her robotics seamlessly with notated music, live electronics and bespoke patches devised in Max, a compositional tool she uses extensively. Thematically, Sarah is inspired by the meeting point of machines and mysticism and to contemporary expressions of ancient folklore in the city. This was the subject of Ealing Feeder (2017), an album steeped in the sounds of sirens, wrestling rings, the Thames and the London tree canopy. A transfiguration myth in the ancient song ‘The Two Magicians’ is reimagined in a masked wrestling club in Bethnal Green and the drowning myth ‘The Cruel Sister’ – in which a woman’s body is used to make a violin that speaks – is set around a sluice gate leading to the Thames today. The twin tracks ‘Raven (Thought and Memory)’ in her follow-up album Air Loom (2019) reimagine wireless networking by drawing on Norse mythology: myths of gods and their messengers reading the thoughts of all men and women as they traverse the world in invisible ships. A prolific live performer, Sarah plays regularly at live at venues and festivals championing new music including The Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Cafe Oto, Kings’ Place, LSO St Luke’s, The Union Chapel, Camden Arts Centre and BBC Radio Theatre, London; National Sawdust, Brooklyn; The Wales Millennium Centre; Cardiff; BBC Halls, Swansea; Centre for Contemporary Arts and Glad Cafe, Glasgow; Supersonic Festival, Birmingham; Supernormal, Oxfordshire; The Arnolfini, The Cube and Spike Island, Bristol; Star and Shadow Newcastle; Golden Lion, Todmorden; Elektriteater, Tartu, and many others. Sarah also applies her unusual sonic techniques to film and theatre and has been commissioned for the main stages of The Old Vic, The Young Vic, National Theatre and The Almedia. Her underscore for The Hairy Ape , Eugene O’Neill’s expressionist play from 1926 about the shock of modernity played in The Old Vic, London, and Park Avenue Armory, New York (directed by Richard Jones). Sarah has also created and performed live film scores for the BFI seasons G othic – the Dark Heart of Film and Sci-Fi Days of Fear and Wonder . In 2019, she composed a vocal, instrumental and electroacoustic score for Amulet, a contained horror set in London. Written and directed by Romola Garai, Amulet was selected for Sundance 2020. In November 2018, Sarah received a Composer’s Award from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – three years of open-ended funding that’s enabling her to continue experimenting alongside assorted commissions. She’s currently composing Giant , an electroacoustic chamber opera exploring the chilling betrayal of Charles Byrne (librettist Ross Sutherland; director and dramaturg Sarah Fahie). Giant is supported by Snape Music and funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. In 2021, she’ll be embarking on Buying the Wind – a timely collaboration with poet Hannah Lowe (funded by PRS Foundation for Music), exploring the wind and tide that have brought people, ideas, artefacts, fears, dreams and so much more to the UK, thanks to our elemental and defiantly porous border.