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21 Feb 2020

'Footsteps Quiet in Shadow' - Ben Lunn tells us more!

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Ben Lunn at DaDaFest Music Scratch 2019, photo by Brian Roberts

With DaDaFest-supported concert ‘Footsteps Quiet in Shadow’ coming up, 4 March at The Bluecoat, we asked composer, Ben Lunn, to tell us more about the line-up he has put together for it. Read on to find out about the new piece he is debuting, the other artists he’ll be showcasing and the renowned Welsh composer and personal mentor the event is an homage to.  

As part of the Create:Inclusion fund I was awarded by Creative Scotland, I have composed a new work for string quartet and electronics. Now, a concert of just one piece is often rather limited, and no matter the quality of the piece you are often left wanting more. So instead I have curated a concert to not only make a full event out of the premiere of my new piece, but also to celebrate composers who are particularly dear to me.

The title of the event, ‘Footsteps Quiet in Shadow’,takes its name from a work by my composition teacher, Peter Reynolds. The title comes from the poetry of Francesca Kay, a poet who was also very close to Peter. I studied with Peter from 2010 to 2014, however I required a lot of support and guidance after graduating from my Bachelor’s degree in Wales. Peter suddenly passed away in 2016 and it really struck me on a personal level. He was such a vital voice in my initial growth as a composer that losing him so suddenly, did feel like a foundation was taken away from me.

Beyond my personal relationship to him, Peter’s music, especially in the final ten to fifteen years in his life, is poignant, honest, and clear. His ‘Footsteps Quiet in Shadow’ is no exception. Harmonically the work builds its format upon J.S. Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concerto’. Without spending too much time on technicalities, the work draws upon the characteristics of one particular cadence. In the original work of Bach, the resolution is not particularly resolved, but instead is a calm anticipation of what is yet to come. When paired with the magic of Francesca Kay’s poetry the illusion and mysticism of both are intertwined creating a modest but profound work for string quartet.


Ben Lunn (left) and Peter Reynolds (right)

Peter Reynolds was many things; a modest man who never promoted himself, a man of incredible intellect who could always introduce you to even more than you could dream, but he was a caring and nurturing man who I do deeply miss – so it is quite a joy to put his music into this concert.

Thanks to Peter, I was able to discover music from the Baltic states, it was because of him I was able to fall in love with that end of Europe and to have the courage to go and study my Master’s degree in Vilnius, Lithuania. During my time in the Baltic, I was able to encounter profoundly wonderful music that has changed me as a composer. Because of this, I had to include two composers originally from Lithuania, Justė Janulytė and Justina Repečkaitė:

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Justė Janulytė

Justė now lives in Milan and is slowly becoming a bit of a superstar. She describes her music as ‘monochromatic’. This aesthetic focuses on exploring common sounding instruments and creating the drama and development through the texture and combination of colours. The piece I have featured is ARIA. This work composed in 2008, is a meditative and almost crystalline work. A poetic and powerful chorale which is transfixing and striking despite being so restrained.

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Justina Repečkaitė

Justina Repečkaitė, is a younger contemporary of Justė. I first encountered Justina’s music in 2013 and have been an admirer ever since. Her music is striking and austere. Focused and biting. Unbennant-2 is no exception. I initially commissioned this piece from Justina in 2015 to be featured in HA-SS Fest, Yerevan. The commission saw featured composers collaborating with painters from Armenia and were tasked to create pieces inspired by the artwork. Unbennant-2 is inspired by the work of Sam Grigorian. The painting shares its title with Justina’s work, and creates illusions of geometry and shape but never fully realising form. In the string quartet Justina composed, you hear these illusions created and floating around you almost becoming clear, but never reaching clarity. Justina currently lives in France, and it is a personal joy to bring her music to Britain for this concert.

The other two pieces in the concert are both mine. One is called ‘Kiek Pasaulių’ and was written two years ago. The title comes from a poem by Lidija Šimkutė. The poem simply asks – ‘how many worlds invoke darkness to look upon the moon?’. The work tries to create an energetic dialogue between ‘light’ and ‘dark’. Moments of density and moments of serene clarity. It is a short ditty and it is nice to bring it to Liverpool.

The final piece is ‘can’t you see….’ This work is composed as part of the Create:Inclusion fund I was awarded in July. The work tries to bring into question how much of what we see makes us understand the person or situation. Like all invisibly disabled people will know, we do not fit the ‘vision’ of a disabled person; however, we are still very much disabled. Alternatively, as Lennard Davis pointed out, once you see the disability you can never unsee it. So, people relegate disabled people to just being disabled regardless of everything they do. I wanted to explore this strange relationship we have with how people see us. Without trying to give too much away – the electronics in the piece serve to dilute and confuse what you see and hear. The two do not fit anymore and it has been fascinating to create an interaction between these two forces.

Admittedly this concert is built very much around me and what I love. However, I sincerely hope you can join us and share in this wonderful music.

'Footsteps Quiet in Shadow' will take place 7.30pm on 4 March at The Bluecoat in Liverpool. Book tickets from just £3 here: https://www.dadafest.co.uk/event/ben-lunn-concert


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