Sí an Bhrú

for pianoforte and optional electronic track

Jack Van Zandt

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for pianoforte and optional electronic track

£6.99
£10.49
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Composer Jack Van Zandt
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

,

Duration

ca. 12'

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Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-jvz1sab1

Notes

Time and the River; Stonecutting; Spirals and Zigzags (Homage à Boulez); Dance of Renewal; Eternal River; Starlit Night.

Located along Ireland’s Boyne Valley, Sí an Bhrú, or Newgrange as it is known in English, built around 3500 BCE, is thought to be the oldest extant building in the world. The astronomically aligned Neolithic construction consists of a large earthen mound encircled by a stone wall lined with large, elaborately decorated stones. There is a stone-lined passageway that leads from the outside into a central stone-enclosed chamber with alcoves. Each year on the winter solstice, the rising sun shines through a small slit above the entry and light travels directly down the passageway, illuminating the interior chamber for 17 minutes. Commonly known as a “passage grave,” Sí an Bhrú is much more than a burial site—it is an encyclopedia of Late Stone Age artistic practices, and engineering, scientific and agricultural knowledge.

The musical structure of Sí an Bhrú takes the form of continuous variations on cyclic thematic materials that fall into several titled sections based on architectural, environmental, scientific and geometrical aspects of the building that suggested musical expression. Time and the River portrays the infinite, slow-motion flow of time in the progression of celestial objects, nature, the seasons and the nearby River Boyne. Stonecutting represents technologies that enabled the builders the ability to move and shape the giant heavy stones. Spirals and Zigzags (Homage à Boulez) is based on the shapes that decorate the stones, evidence of sophisticated abstract thinking as well as an acute awareness of nature. Dance of Renewal is an imaginary ritual dance for the winter solstice, propelled by a gradually emerging ostinato. A brief return to the piece’s beginning, Eternal River, leads back to the outside world and the timeless wonder of a moonless, crystal-clear Starlit Night. 

Architects and composers have been influencing and inspiring each other for centuries: a work of music in its metaphysical environment and a building in its earthly environment are closely related and deeply felt artistic expressions created by utilizing space in the context of time through direct application of the physical sciences and mathematics. The Neolithic building Sí an Bhrú inspired me by its 5,500 years of existence in the Irish landscape, the method and process of its construction, and its encyclopedic representation of Stone Age knowledge and experience.