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 Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Very Early" CD/LP/Track Review Very Early
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review Outlier
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 1, 2016
Read "B'shnorkestra: Global Concertos" CD/LP/Track Review B'shnorkestra: Global Concertos
by Paul Rauch
Published: October 27, 2016
Read "Buoyancy" CD/LP/Track Review Buoyancy
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Imagine Nation" CD/LP/Track Review Imagine Nation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 1, 2016
Read "Parodies: Jazz Music for Violin and Octet" CD/LP/Track Review Parodies: Jazz Music for Violin and Octet
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: March 21, 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!