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Love & Lamentation
Simon Wickham-Smith was born on the south coast of England in February 1968 and
graduated from King¹s College, London in 1990 with a degree in English Literature.
Whilst at university, he met Richard Youngs and from that meeting developed a
friendship which has produced more recordings than he cares to remember. As a
solo performer, he has played in Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Holland,
Lithuania, the UK and the US and his work has been released on labels in Australia,
New Zealand, the UK, and the US. Not satisfied with making music, he has also
been a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition, and is also a translator and scholar
of Mongolian and Tibetan literature.
The Sandokai ("The Harmony of Difference and Equality") is a prayer
written by the eighth century Japanese Zen teacher Sekito Kisen. The basis for
this piece was a tape given to Wickham-Smith by a nun of a recital at her monastery.
He wanted to create of this sample a prayer without borders, a follow-up to
an earlier work, Ave Regina Caelorum (2000, released on Extreme Bukake [VHF65]),
in which he used the Latin plainsong of a prayer to the Virgin Mary in much
the same way. The organ sample at the end is from a piece by Erik Satie, whose
spirituality was equally strange and eclectic. All the samples have been stretched
and pitch-shifted beyond (immediate) recognition; to the ears they have melded
into something that seems at once both ethereal and solid.
The Kin-kindness of Beforehand grew out of his "Multiple Tongues"
project, a series of pieces in which Wickham-Smith exposed the spoken word in
many different languages to a series of digital manipulations. The Kin-kindness
of Beforehand is divided up into several distinct sections, each of which took
on a particular persona during its creation. For the composer, this was the
most complex of all the "Multiple Tongues" works, because he wanted
to use specific strings of words and the quality of writer Rachel Becker¹s
voice somehow to comment on each another.
love&lamentation started life as a setting for voice and electronics of
part of the biblical Book of Lamentation, but it quickly became clear that the
literal setting of words was not going to convey the melancholic intimacy that
needed to be expressed. As a teenager Wickham-Smith had heard Alain Gheerbrant¹s
wonderful ethnomusicological recordings of a blind Turkish troubador and had
fallen hopelessly in love with his voice and exquisite playing of the saz. About
the same time, through his friend Richard Youngs, he had discovered also the
ex tempore psalm singing of the Scottish Isle of Lewis. Fifteen years later,
he decided that these two could be made somehow to work together to show the
love and lamentation which he felt they both held in their deeper recesses,
and which he wanted to present in this new piece. The result is a strange melée
of feelings, repetitions and textures. From time to time we hear a somewhat
bizarre percussion sample, which he had first worked on in 2000. Part 3 opens
with an offcut from an unreleased (and now never-to-be-released) piece from
1999 called Deaf Piano. Veysel¹s voice starts the piece and revolves through
Part 2 in a kind of hippy trance love-in fashion. The congregation from Lewis
sing their melancholy in a sparser and maybe wilder wayand die slowly
away into the distance at the close.