James Robertson was born in Kent in 1958, but grew up in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire from the age of six. He studied history at Edinburgh University, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He is a poet, translator and essayist, and has published four collections of short stories and six novels, which include Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack and And the Land Lay Still. He also co-founded and is general editor of the Scots language children’s imprint Itchy Coo.
Fiddler, composer, producer, curator. With his trio Lau, in multiple solo projects and in collaborations, Aidan O’Rourke has pioneered a new sound in folk music and redefined traditional forms.
As a solo artist, Aidan is always looking for new ways to articulate the tradition. He has released five solo albums – Sirius (2006), An Tobar (2008), Hotline (2013), 365: Vol 1 (2018) and 365: Vol 2 (2019) – as well as the experimental EPs Music For Exhibition and Film (2015) and Imprint (2016). He was named Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2014.
As a composer, Aidan threads his heritage into diverse settings. He is a three-time winner of the PRSF New Music Biennial commission at the Southbank Centre; other commissioners include the Scottish Ensemble, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Sage Gateshead, Celtic Connections, the Tolbooth in Stirling, An Tobar, Cottier Chamber Project, Capella Nova and the Scottish Ensemble. In 2017 he wrote the official music for the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.
Kit Downes is a BBC Jazz Award winning, Mercury Music Award nominated, solo recording artist for ECM Records. He has toured the world playing piano, church organ and harmonium with his own bands (ENEMY, Troyka, Elt and Vyamanikal) as well as artists such as Squarepusher, Thomas Strønen, Aidan O’Rourke and Django Bates. He has written commissions for Cheltenham Music Festival, London Contemporary Orchestra, Stavanger Konserthus, ReWire Festival, Cologne Philharmonie, BBC Radio 3 and the Wellcome Trust, as well as collaborating with film-makers, video game developers and classical composers.
James Robertson vocals
Aidan O'Rourke violin
Kit Downes piano/harmonium
This piece is about storytelling: about how to tell stories without saying too much. James Robertson wrote a story every day for a year, each exactly 365 words. What began as an exercise became a valued ritual and a captivating collection of tales, from the supernatural to the philosophical. Aidan O’Rourke applied the same discipline to composition: a tune a day in response to Robertson’s stories. The music is rooted in Scottish folk fiddling with Kit Downes on harmonium adding jazz and French impressionism. The performance intertwines tunes with the words that inspired them. A series of fleeting, vivid vignettes.
This piece is part of PRS Foundation's New Music Biennial 2019. For more information about the project and to download the New Music Biennial album, please visit our project page: https://www.nmcrec.co.uk/new-music-biennial-2019
Commissioned by Edinburgh International Book Festival.
NMC Biennial is generously supported by the following committed patrons, funders and partners: