What is living and what is dead is the solo debut of Irish composer Simon O’Connor on the Ergodos label. An immaculately crafted, beautiful and poignant collection of nine piano pieces, this new album is the result of over three years work from conception to release.
“I wanted to create something that could make a profound emotional connection with people, music that could really draw listeners inward to themselves and awaken a sense of joy in the beauty of the world around them,” says O’Connor of the 57-minute long collection, which takes it’s title from a lecture given by the late historian and social commentator Tony Judt. “More than ever, I felt the need to create music that could reconnect every listener to a childish sense of wonder; music that takes it’s joy in simple melody and delicate harmony; music that is – at it’s core – an embodiment of optimism.”
Childlike melodies are pitched against ever-changing harmonic landscapes, in a desperate plea for beauty in a world gone austere. This is a wordless political polemic that cries out for more space, beauty, slowness and understanding in a time of pessimism and intellectual voids.
Listen to What is living and what is dead here.
Look, Stranger! is a two part composition for electronically processed solo voice. Commissioned to accompany a new exhibition of visual art, What passes between us, by Cork artist Padraig Spillane, the piece was installed in the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh in September 2017, and a performance of the work by Michelle O'Rourke and Simon O'Connor took place in Sirius as part of the Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival in 2017.
Left Behind – Songs of the 1916 Widows is a new song cycle composed by Simon O'Connor and commissioned by Irish soprano Michelle O'Rourke. Drawing on the experiences of women closely connected to the conflict, including the wives of prominent rebel leaders, O'Rourke and O'Connor have created a unique suite of compositions that offer an emotional, human perspective on a narrative that is too often told in baldly male heroic terms.
Beginning life as simple vocal/piano pieces inspired by the work of historian Sinead McCoole, these songs have been transformed with the addition of O'Connor's former bandmates from seminal Dublin indie-rock band The Jimmy Cake and the Robinson Panoramic Quartet. This small ensemble brings a volatile and dramatic energy to the retelling of the stories of Lillie Connolly, Grace and Muriel Gifford, Agnes Mallin and others.
"So much of our engagement with history is purely political, and so rarely we allow ourselves to read between the lines to find human realities" says O'Connor. "Sinead McCoole's book Easter Widows allowed us to consider the human cost, the real life narratives of the revolutionary period that we can empathise with and still understand today."
"More so than any art form, music can place us squarely in this emotional space" adds soprano Michelle O'Rourke."With these songs, we hope to give life to some of these feelings, these emotions and the sense of loss felt by many women and children left behind by men who were dominated by what they felt was a higher calling"
To order Left Behind, click here