‘Winter Variations’ is a mesmerising album for solo electric guitar in which Dave Flynn evokes winter soundscapes through eight spontaneously improvised compositions and one sound collage, all of which are based around a single chord ‘A Major 9’.
In the liner notes Flynn describes the process of creating ‘Winter Variations’:
‘The concept for this album came out of the blue, the blue of the night. One night, soon after returning from a trip to New York, I was listening, as I often do, to the RTÉ Lyric FM show The Blue of the Night, presented by Carl Corcoran. Carl often plays tracks from my previous solo guitar album ‘Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar.’ That night I thought it was high time I recorded a new album. But what to do? I had to find inspiration for something new.
A highlight of my New York trip was a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and its main exhibition – Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow. This exhibition focused on the work of the Zero Art Movement, which was founded by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and others in the 1950’s. Reacting against the dominant expressionism of the time, they sought to break free by, according to Piene, finding “pure possibilities for a new beginning as at the countdown when rockets take off – zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.”
In their work the Zero artists broke free from conventional art practice and developed their own methods, beginning with monochromes, developing these with lighting, mechanics and fire painting. The Guggenheim Exhibition was a stunning display of their vision.
It is only after recording this album I realised that the Zero Exhibition subconsciously inspired its creation, because the way I created it is like returning to zero. I sat down with a blank canvas and started painting and sculpting new music with my fingers, my electric guitar and some guitar effects.
I didn’t prepare anything, I didn’t write anything down on a score. I just started with one idea; that each piece would begin with the same fundamental chord, the Zero chord (AMajor9). The only other rule is that I wouldn’t change key and would keep A as the fundamental root note. I also used some special effects whilst recording. I improvised with the natural vibrations of each sound.
That’s it; I just pressed record and started playing.
The resultant music is something new to me, whilst I can hear echoes of some of my influences and past compositional stylistic traits, the whole method of composing this music is new to me and it has been incredibly liberating. I’ve returned to Zero.
I dedicate ‘Winter Variations’ to the vision of Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and also to Celia who shared that wonderful NYC trip with me.
Dave Flynn, Winter 2014
About Dave Flynn
Described as a ‘masterful guitarist’ in Sing Out! Magazine, award-winning guitarist/composer Dave Flynn has been praised internationally for the ‘power and grittiness’ (New York Times) of his work.
Founder and Artistic Director of the unique Irish Memory Orchestra, Flynn has worked with such leading artists as Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill (The Gloaming), Crash Ensemble, The Smith; Vanbrugh and Contempo String Quartets, Irish Chamber Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Rolf Hind, Irina Muresanu, New Juilliard Ensemble, the Prague Chamber Orchestra and Grammy winning producer Judith Sherman.
He has performed both solo and with the Irish Memory Orchestra internationally from Moscow to Japan, Germany to Estonia, New York to London and his music is regularly heard on radio.
His awards include the 2002 IMRO Composition award and the 2004 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Composers’ Award.
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