Eilean Fuinn

by Richard Skelton

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‘Eilean Fuinn’ was a multi-channel sound installation at the Scorrybreac Boathouse, Portree, Isle of Skye, from the 7th to the 23rd of September, 2017. It was written for the landscape of Skye in response to Bethan Huw’s 1993 film, ‘Singing for the Sea’.

The work is built on the supposition that both the land and the sea are endlessly singing to each other, in perpetual call-and-response, across the vastness of geological time. ‘Eilean’ is Gaelic for ‘island’, and, according to Dwelly’s famous dictionary, ‘fonn’ (genitive ‘fuinn’) means both ‘land, earth, plain’, as well as ‘air, tune, music’ – hence ‘Eilean Fuinn’ means ‘island of music’. The work can therefore be thought of as the ‘undersong’ of the land itself – a musica terrae or ‘ground note’; a sound to which our ears simply aren’t attuned.

‘Eilean Fuinn’ is primarily composed for the cello, but it also contains small fragments of the following traditional tunes, slowed down and transposed in order to imitate the land’s ‘prolonged, everlasting murmur’:

‘Cumha na Cloinne (Lament for the Children)’ played by Decker Forrest, on Highland bagpipes; ‘Oran Manitoba’ played by Hector MacInnes, on accordion; ‘Em Tog orm mo Phìob (Bring Me My Pipes)’ and ‘Am Iomramh Eadar Il’ A’s Uist (Rowing From Islay To Uist)’ played by Ronan Martin, on fiddle; and ‘Braes of Lochiel’ played by Frances Wilkins, on concertina.

The work was originally conceived as an endless piece of music, with each of its four channels of sound repeating over different durations (typically between one and two hours), thereby creating a constantly evolving effect as each channel moves in and out of phase with the others.

‘Eilean Fuinn’ was commissioned by ATLAS Arts with the support of Creative Scotland and Highland and Islands Enterprise.

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released October 19, 2017

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Aeolian Scotland, UK

Digital music editions from Corbel Stone Press & Sustain-Release.

All releases are the work of Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton.

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