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.