193

Michael O'Neill: Ontophony

By

Sign in to view read count
Michael O'Neill: Ontophony Ontophony means something like "the voice of being." Like several developments from traditional Scottish beginnings, this music was born in Canada: funding came from the Canada Music Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, et aliis Canadiensibus.

Bagpipes don't have so ancient a history in Scotland, contrary to common misapprehensions. The bagpipe arrived relatively late by general European standards, but the creation of a very distinctive Scottish instrument and music soon followed: they sound different from other bagpipes because they are different, and for complex reasons they seem to have taken on a major role in aristocratic court music.

The Scottish instrument's by no means to be equated simply with the pipe band and touristic drivel passed off not least on North Americans. The oriental parallels which receive glancing reference in the pages of this set's booklet aren't fanciful. Links between Indo-European art of far Northwestern Europe and the Indian subcontinent are hardly impossible. Some pipers have long been interested in raga, even playing it. Brigadoon's a Hollywood Hell!

The present set is comprised of one suite performed by four pipers, I think never more than three at the one time, with tabla and cymbals. It includes two sections, Being and Doing, each itself comprised by separate sub-sections. I lack time and space to discuss the physics or logistics of three-bagpipe harmony, but I wouldn't rule out ancient Scottish parallels as regards some aspects of the metaphysics.

Of the other items, "Luffness" begins with the sound of an oriental flute and continues with harmonising bagpipes, whose tuning has been altered by lengthening the "drones" (the upward pointing pipes which play constant notes), and percussion. A dance-like rhythm takes over. "Jedaya" is for two pipers with a huge array of rhythm instruments and the didgeridu, and its ideal of metaphysical sea music is not necessarily all that remote from the traditional classical piobaireachd (spelled phonetically "pibroch").

"Horse of a Different Colour" is founded on a traditional form with sophisticated compositional development. Described as a cross between traditional sextet and traditional quartet approaches, it might represent Michael O'Neill without his other blowing collaborators, audible fivefold on one set of pipes? I'm not sure it's five, since he's also listed as a percussionist. Amid alternations between what wouldn't sound unusual from a standard pipe band and the superficially not unattractive new music here, the most startling moment is the most sheerly traditional burst of music.

I don't feel guilty, awkward or in dereliction of duty, not knowing quite what to make of for instance a rapprochement of Japanese music with Scottish bagpipes. (Ages ago I inherited the pipes of a Scottish Highland musician who was on the first British military mission to Japan: my great grandfather.) If the initial complex tradition's more interesting and musically superior (founded on music initially made on other instruments) to a lot of better-known things, this set might overturn enough popular misconceptions to direct attention toward it. This music was well worth making, and I'm pleased to have had the chance to get to know it.


Track Listing: Being and Doing; A Walk Supreme; Migration of a Triad; Ontophony; The Shiftings; Astralis; Ogdoadic Zone; Re-entry; Luffness; Jedaya; Horse of a Different Colour.

Personnel: Mearingstone: Michael O'Neill: bagpipes, percussion; Andrew Bonar, Andrew Douglas, Andrew Hayes: bagpipes; Uzume Taiko, Bonnie Soon, Boyd Seiichi Grealy, Jason Overy: taiko, percussion; Neelamjit Dhillon: tabla; Alcvin Ramos: shakuhachi; Duncan Millar: snare drum.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Jassemblage" CD/LP/Track Review Jassemblage
by Chuck Koton
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "Infinitude" CD/LP/Track Review Infinitude
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 31, 2016
Read "The Only Way To Float Free" CD/LP/Track Review The Only Way To Float Free
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 12, 2016
Read "The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review The Unknown
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Mortality" CD/LP/Track Review Mortality
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Dream In The Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Dream In The Blue
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!