MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Now Listening: Brooklyn Rider’s The Butterfly

Martin Hayes & Brooklyn Rider_The Butterfly_Mini.jpg

The Butterfly adds another chapter to Brooklyn Rider’s innovative collaborations with such figures as with Béla Fleck, Gabriel Kahane, Kayhan Kalhor, and, most recently, Jonathan Redman — in the process, reimagining the potential of the string quartet as a medium.

On The Butterfly, the Irish fiddle master Martin Hayes joins with Brooklyn Rider to explore what the string quartet lineup can bring to Irish traditional music. They began their collaboration in 2009 and recorded these tracks in 2016.

Colin Jacobsen, composer and violinist with Brooklyn Rider, observes that Hayes “represented to us something essential about music that we sometimes felt was missing within the classical training we were receiving back in school. To me, it is the infinitely varied inflections, and the depth of expression within what could seem like a deceptively simple tune, which make Martin a master storyteller with his instrument.”

Martin became fascinated by the prospect of their collaboration. “Through the help of a number of brilliant arrangers who are fluent with
both string quartet writing and Irish traditional music, such as Ljova, Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna,” observes Jacobsen, “we found a framing for the tunes that feels true to some essential thing about both traditions.”

Jacobsen contributed his own arrangements of “O’Neill’s March” and “The Butterfly.” “I thought [“O’Neill’s March”] could sound beautiful through the layering and textural options available to a string quartet,” he explains, while for “The Butterfly” he wanted “to take the tune further out in the direction of contemporary classical string writing … to try to take this butterfly to a place it might never have flown before.”

The release also includes the premiere recording of “Maghera Mountain,” which Hayes wrote in his teens, alongside familiar material often regarded as “throwaway tunes … that are on longer taken very seriously,” according to Hayes. “In reality, these are simple, profound and very beautiful melodies.”

“Many of the major developments in Irish music have historically come through musical interaction with musicians from outside the tradition bringing with them new ideas and fresh energy,” says Hayes. “To collaborate, it’s important not to compromise on what is fundamental and core, but it is also equally important to be flexible. One must surrender the desire to control the outcome and allow people you work with to make their choices with freedom.”

Filed under: Brooklyn Rider, Irish Music, new release

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