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Aidan O’Rourke

Aidan O’Rourke, commissioned by An Tobar – The Tobermory Arts Centre


PRS for Music Foundation: What impact do you think your involvement in New Music 20×12 will have on your work?
Aidan O’Rourke: This opportunity opens my composition work to a much wider audience. Until now this work has been heard mainly within Scotland. I will be creating most of the new material on the remote west coast of Scotland and am excited by the juxtaposition of it then being performed in London during such a major international event.

PRSF: Tell us the story of how and why you joined forces with the performers you are working with on this project.
AO: I worked with the performers in 2008 on a piece of music I wrote to celebrate the 10th anniversary of An Tobar, Tobermory’s Arts Centre. The music was then recorded and released as a CD. We toured Scotland in 2010 where the music developed significantly. I look forward to working again with the group in 2012.

PRSF: How are you going to approach creating your new work? What kinds of creative input will the performers and community you are working with have on your work?
AO: The piece draws inspiration from the fact that TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) the first transatlantic telephone cable system was laid between Gallanach Bay, near Oban and Clarenville, Newfoundland between 1955 and 1956. I find this feat of engineering and subsequent communications floodgate highly evocative (the cable also provided the famous “Hot Line” of the Cold War, which allowed private conversations to take place between the world’s leaders).  This relates directly back to my studies in a previous life as a civil engineer.

The piece will be melody led and I will spend time developing these elements in Oban, the town in which I grew up. There will also be elements of improvisation which was key to the success of the previous An Tobar project. I aim for my compositions to conjure moods and landscapes which the performers then use as a catalyst to more improvised free playing.

PRSF: Who do you hope to reach through the creation and performance of this work and what do you hope they’ll take away with them?
AO: I hope the music is an extension of all the music making I’ve been involved in over the last few years. I’ve been fortunate to work in many genres and with lots of different musical disciplines. I hope the music I write instills what has been evolving within the folk music of Scotland over the last couple of decades. Music which is versatile and innovative, expressive and .

I hope the listeners can sense the land and seascapes that inspire me.

PRSF: Where do you draw your inspiration and influences? Which creator – musical or otherwise – do you most admire?
AO: I am very much inspired by the part of the world I grew up in. The people, the landscape, the climate, the sea.
I was brought up with traditional Scottish music and much of my writing stems from the strong melodic qualities of this music. I draw inspiration from the old players of this music alongside the likes of Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin and John Adams.

PRSF: Which Olympic and/or Paralympic Games will you be seeing in 2012? What was your best/favourite sport when you were growing up?
AO: I played shinty as a boy. That was my favourite sport when I was young, but didn’t mix well with fiddle playing. It’s not so popular outside the highlands of Scotland and therefore understandably not in the Olympics.

I enjoy mountain biking and running now so I look forward to watching some of these events in 2012.

A message from commissioning organisation An Tobar – The Tobermory Arts Centre

Fiddler and composer Aidan O’Rourke is one of today’s foremost Scottish musicians, renowned both as a founder member of Blazin’ Fiddles and Lau (3 times winners of the Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards), and for his superb solo releases Sirius and An Tobar. He has also featured on more than 80 albums by other artists, most recently guesting on the latest solo album by Idelwild’s Roddy Woomble (for release early 2011). An Tobar, The Tobermory Arts Centre is proud to be commissioning TAT-1 from Aidan to help celebrate the 2012 Olympics. Starting from the loose theme of bringing the world closer together, as the Olympics does, this new piece will be inspired by the first transatlantic telephone cable which ran from Oban (Aidan’s home town) on the west coast of Scotland to Newfoundland. For many years this cable carried the “Hotline” between Washington and Moscow!