Lochan VI | On the wind colours speak

On the wind colours speak was composed by Angela Slater, performed by Ronan Whittern, and commissioned by the Uist Schools’ Hub (pupils Samantha Groza, Maisie Wheeler and Zantay Brindley and teacher Sharon Clark).

After my conversations with the Hub members in Uist I was struck by the different colours they described were present there in the sky, grass and water. I believe there is a deep connection between music and colour and this can be particularly explored in connection to timbre, density and texture. So, taking the imagery conjured up from our conversations, shared photographs and pictures I have embarked on musically representing some of the beautiful subtleties of colours and the more dramatic sudden darker colours caused by Uist’s ever changing weather. The Balivanich beach was described as having as many shades of blue as you can imagine. Another student described Uist as being unpredictable like a Picasso painting and mentioned the colours yellow, dark grey and crimson.

In this piece I have started to explore the concept of colour theory – a theory that investigates the basic principles of primary colours, and how mixing colours at different denigrations, density, and textures can change our perception of a colour. I have taken these principles to explore how colour within music can be manipulated through timbre, harmony, and instrumental colour and help to convey and evoke the dramatic Uist coastal landscape.”

Nevis Ensemble’s Lochan Sketches are a series of 10 commissions for composers to write short solo works for specific members of the orchestra. Each composer is paired with individuals from across Scotland to take inspiration from the country’s coasts and waters.

Each work received its broadcast premiere on BBC Radio Scotland’s Classics Unwrapped programme. The series is part of Nevis contributions to the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Angela Slater

Angela Slater is a UK-based composer. In her AHRC-funded PhD at University of Nottingham, Angela developed an interest in musically mapping different aspects of the natural world into the fabric of her music. Recent significant achievements include being selected to become a 2020 Tanglewood Composition, a Britten-Pears Young Artist through which Angela worked with Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Michael Gandolfi, developing Soaring in Stasis which received its premiere at 2018 Aldeburgh Festival. Angela recently became the New England Philharmonic’s 2018 call for scores winner resulting in the world-premiere of Roil in Stillness in April 2019.

Ronan Whittern

Ronan Whittern has played with Nevis Ensemble since its first tour, and specialised in the performance of new music. He is a recent graduate of the International Ensemble Modern Academy Masters Course, Frankfurt, where he studied with Johannes Schwarz, bassoonist of the Ensemble Modern. He has performed at festivals such as Impuls Festival, and Klangspuren Schwaz, and has performed with the Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Modern Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and worked under such conductors as Lucas Vis, Ilan Volkov, Donald Runnicles, and Thomas Dausgaard. He has had the opportunity to work with composers such as Sir George Benjamin, Sir James MacMillan, Enno Poppe, Bernard Gander, Stefan Prins, and Heiner Goebbels.

Uist Schools’ Hub

Uist Hub was set up during the COVID-19 lockdown in order to allow children of key workers on the islands to access schooling. Samantha, Maisie and Zantay had conversations on Zoom with composer Angela Slater, where the children and their teacher Sharon Clark shared their stories of living on the islands, as well as their photos and drawings. Now that the piece has been completed there will be a further session where Angela and Ronan will talk to the children about the music and how what they shared influenced the composition.