Language for Solo Violin 2017

Composer: Sam Perkin (b. 1985)
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Composer: Sam Perkin (b. 1985)

Performance date: 30/06/2017

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 2017

Duration: 00:17:18

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:Solo

Commission: WCM Festival Commission

Artists: Miranda Cuckson - [violin]

work was commissioned by the Festival and was written for Miranda
Cuckson and is dedicated to her. The work is inspired by Messiaen’s
transcriptions of the language of birds and his subsequent
compositions based on the material he found, it is an exploration of
human language.

the heart of this composition is the desire to confront the line
between language and music. This led me to two questions: To what
extent does language influence music? And at what point does
something become music?

main discovery was made after I started to notate the music of
a myriad of human languages. What I noticed is that until emotion
and human behaviour are involved, there is no musicality. For
example, in English, ‘love’ and ‘loath’ sound very similar
and there is no way of hearing any difference between the two when
transcribed and played by an instrument. This holds true for all
human languages, which are for the most part an arbitrary collection
of sounds. But if you transcribe an Italian couple having an
argument or professing their love for each other, music
appears. This discovery was inspired by Noam Chomsky’s
ground-breaking theory of Universal Grammar. The idea of Universal
Grammar is that language is hard-wired into the brain. The theory
suggests that linguistic ability becomes manifest without being
taught, and that there are properties that all natural human
languages share. In essence, this would mean that there is in fact
only one human language, with lots of accents. I went on to collect
many more fragments of human language, observing many musical
peculiarities hidden within. Now I cannot help hearing these musical
motifs when talking to people!

treasures of human language that I transcribed and selected for this
piece are, in each case, what my ear suggests to be some of the most
definitive recurring characteristics of each language. These
linguistic fragments are heard in a series of echoing interlingual
conversations. This one-movement work for solo violin has ten
continuous sections and closes with a global conversation – giving
the listener the opportunity to observe, to meditate upon, and
ultimately to gain a deeper understanding of our language, of our
music, and of ourselves.