I’ve been puzzling a lot recently over the language we use to describe what we are doing. Language is certainly not the theme of Counterflows 2015, but it could be. All of the artists invited to participate this year of course grapple with this idea, of how to communicate, through music, their ideas. Each has their own specific and highly personal language that they have developed and are developing (surely it must be an on-going process). Is music something different from language? Can we dance to language? Certainly if you read or listen to some of our poets or great orators there is a music created by words spoken.
I am genuinely excited by the international breadth of this year’s festival. It is one of the ambitions of the festival to look outwardly and explore what’s happening beyond our own backyard but as anyone that knows me realises this has to be balanced with supporting what is happening here. This is highlighted by this year’s choice of featured artist. Richard Youngs will stamp his distinctive voice throughout the festival with his Counterflows commission Experiment for Demolished Structures for four voices celebrating his determined creative development. Richard is fearless in his artistic vision. Counterflows bows to this attitude.
With artists from Mauritania, Taiwan, Brazil, Japan, France and many other countries performing in Glasgow in April there will be a glorious Babel of languages at the festival. The language of improvisation can be no better celebrated than with the bringing together of the master musician of Glasgow George Lyle and the New York prince of multi-instrumentalism Daniel Carter. And this year I’m particularly pleased that we have the voice of West Africa represented by the ecstatic singing of Noura Mint Seymali. The music of this area of our planet has been a big part of my musical journey, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and with the vast sub-Saharan expanses of desert and sky this music simmers with the soul of a fiercely proud people.
Poetry and I (extract)
The sin is that I wasn’t a stone
And the troubles of the world make me sleepless
And I shield myself with poetry
And it keeps me company when I’m far from home
And poetry is my satchel that I will always carry with me
It holds the taste and fragrance of the earth
It holds thickets of prickly branches
It holds palm fronds loaded with dates
It paints all the stories of love in my language
Its colours form the spectrum from grape to dawn
And I said bring the most beautiful of stringed instruments
So the universe may know how music flows.
Mbarka Mint al-Barra (Literal translation from Arabic by Joel Mitchell)