Unruly Sun is a song cycle in 19 parts with music by Matthew Ricketts (left) and words by Mark Campbell (below). It’s inspired by Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature and was performed last night in Mazzoleni Hall by tenor Karim Sulayman accompanied by piano and string quintet. I was much more affected by this piece than I expected to be. The text covers a lot of ground; Jarman’s cottage at Dungeness with it’s bleak shingle beach and nuclear power station, AIDS and the loss of friends, a bad porn movie and, of course, Jarman’s garden (which also of course inspired Tm Albery’s Garden of Vanished Pleasures), and anger at Thatcher’s Britain and her indifference to those suffering from AIDS (c.f. Jarman’s The Last of England). These ideas are linked together by sections about plants and flowers and quotes from (I think) John Donne. So, the AIDS crisis and the burning tire fire of Thatcherism meets the Georgian tradition that links the Elizabethans to Edmund Blunden and beyond. It’s beautifully constructed and the somewhat minimalist, evocative and rather beautiful music supports without imposing itself. And the performance was stunning; beautiful singing, beautiful playing and cool projected images.
I’m having trouble writing analytically because this piece transported me for 70 minutes to other times and places; a fish and chip shop on a cobbled street in Bradford, sailing on the Blackwater past the place where Earl Byrhtnoth and his thanes fell, Dunstanburgh and dozens, or perhaps hundreds.of other images/memories. It’s not often I’m this moved by music and I’ve probably become less susceptible under the pressure of having to think about what to write about it but Unruly Sun was a kind of out of body experience. I hope there’s a recording sometime. nd that’s a wrap on 21C for this year.