From the hundreds and hundreds of concerts listed in this magazine ' each year. anyone could i be forgiven for expecting a recital by .the Scottish Early Music Consort to be the least likely to contain a piece of new music. Yet with typical enterprise and ingenuity in their programme planning. this is precisely what they do when they give the world premiere of . Lament: Autumn Wind by the Chinese composer Tan Dun. The reason this fits perfectly well into SEMC‘s role in Scottish music making is that the new work is written for early instruments.
Tan Dun. born in Beijing but now resident in New York. is becoming quite a well known name in Scotland, The BBC SSO commissioned Orchestral Theatre I and the Edinburgh Festival have commissioned an opera, Marco P010. to a i libretto by Paul Grifﬁths I on which the composer is currently working. While over for the SEMC‘s premiere, Tan Dun will also conduct the world premiere of another BBC SSO commission. Symphony, Death and Fire, at the Concert Hall of the BBC’s Broadcasting House in Glasgow on 27 March. Although Tan Dun is one of the younger generation of Chinese composers. ‘his individuality and depth of music substance already go beyond his generation.‘ says Tom Takemitsu, ‘I believe he is one of the most oustanding composers today.’ (Carol Main)
The Scottish Early Music Consort play Queen '3 Hall. Edinburgh on Thurs l8 and Stevenson Hall, Glasgow on Fri 19 and Sat 20.
30 The List 12 —25 March 1993
With the most straightforward of styles,
The Indigo Girls have
captured America’s heart.
. Fiona Shepherd thinks
they could repeat that success here.
‘Folk has become such a nebulous term now. When I think of traditional folk. I think ofloan Baez and The Weavers and Peter. Paul and Mary and groups like that. But we play acoustic guitars and I guess that‘s our link to the folk movement. Once you play acoustic guitars you‘re branded for life.‘
Morrissey thought that if you played an acoustic guitar it meant you were a protest singer. Indigo Girls think that if you play an acoustic guitar it means you can hear the words. So they'd better be good.
Okay. I admit it. for the tiniest moment. for one jot of a second. I was consumed by a swell of predictability and I did mention the f—word in the presence of an Indigo Girl, but it was a momentary lapse, I‘ve recovered now and I understand. Acoustic guitars. lyrical drive and impassioned delivery — these are the points at which Indigo Girls and folk tradition intersect, and the reasons for their blanket fortune in their native USA where they’ve been a consummate success story since the release of their eponymous debut album four years ago, a gripping baptism into the world of Emily’s poetic pen- portraits and Amy‘s strident stream-of- consciousness.
‘Amy always does the rock‘n‘roll thing. She plays her guitar as hard as I've ever seen anyone play an acoustic guitar. She's a very passionate performer. Rock‘n‘roll. I think. comes from your passion and not how many instruments you are playing.
‘I’m much more influenced by Joni Mitchell-style music and more jazz.- influenced in my early days. Our styles are so different. but we‘ve known each other so well for so long that the mysterious glue remains. It's very easy for us both to find the sensibilities in each other’s songs.’
Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have known each other since Emily‘s family moved to Atlanta. Georgia. when she was nine. ‘I started playing guitar then and Amy started I think when she was eleven. but we were playing nine-year- olds‘ songs. you know. sowing the seeds. I sang in church choirs all my life since I was a little girl and Amy and I both sang in the high school choir and all that kind of thing. My dad and mom both play piano. my whole family sings. so we grew up with music. Natural as breathing for both our families.’
Just as natural as breathing they fell into duetting. into writing seriously (though never together — ‘We did on one song. It was horrible. very forced. We just ripped off a bunch of Bob Dylan lyrics basically.') and — did you blink for a moment. then find out they were famous? — perforce into a nation's
‘ ,v a, 's Mufﬁn, i’
i consciousness. With the eff
‘ort required to twat a gnat. they look set to repeat the feat over here. (It is not known whether falling off a log is another of their talents.)
Although last year‘s Rites 0f Passage album saw them pursue a denser ‘band' sound (they perform with full band on this tour) and more ethnically eclectic arrangements. like a sort of double vision kd lang they have the knack of conveying something of their home environment without mawkish nostalgia.
‘Amy would describe it as the South being as rural as it is. there‘s a real connection to the land. She writes in very sensual images. nature as her driving force. And that‘s a very Southern thing. Also. we've read a lot of Southern writers like Faulkner and Fiannery O'Connor. And also the community down there. For a long time there was no record company poking its nose in the business. so people were just playing for the love of it. It was a very creative scene when we were growing up. It‘s still got that laid-back. friendly feel to it. It was always a very normal. homey atmosphere for us and that made us comfortable to write. I think our writing reflects that.‘
Comfortable? That's comfortable in the confront~your-own-demons sense, surely.
Indigo Girls play King Tut 's Wah Walt Hut. Glasgow on Fri 19.
am- A real band
Chris Barber is one of life’s enthusiasts. Set him off talking about his music, and he will respond with a mile-a-mlnute ilow oi observations and anecdotes. lie Is also one at British Ian’s most successtui survivors, with a band which goes back 40 years, and an even longer playing career. Yet his music has remained trash and pleasineg diverse, in a iieid where change is usually resisted (it’s not called traditional jazz for nothing).
‘For me, we really haven’t changed our policy, ever. People id i brought blues in when John Slaughter joined us in the ﬁlls, but my very first amateur band in 1949 played blues. it I play records at home, I play a George Lewis and a Charlie Parker, 3 Big Bill Broonzy and a Louis Armstrong, a Duke Ellington and a Dave Brubeck, and our
music has always echoed that approach, but that policy has sustained us over the years because we had a reason to play it. A lot of bands which tell by the wayside didn’t have that dedication to the music.’
it their approach ls rooted in traditional jazz, they succeed in giving a tresh shine to the hoariest oi tunes, while the sparkling ‘Battersea Rain
nance’ reveals a grasp at a much more contemporary idiom. There are no written charts (‘li it is too hard to memorlse, than it has no place in our kind at [an pertormance’), and the music is subiect to ‘continuous research. We are constantly trying to find the best way to play these things, and the emphasis on how we do specific tunes changes over time.’
As for the role of band-leader, the trombonist describes hlmselt as ‘a benevolent despot, that’s the only way to put it. The band was a co-operative in the 503, but i took over in the early 603 for business reasons when work got dliticult, because government by committee didn’t work in those circumstances. I always try to make sure that everyone teels involved in the music, though, and I believe our strength has always been that we are very obviously a real band.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
The Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band play Glasgow iioyai Concert Hall on
Tue 23. J