String Quartet No.3 ‘The Devil’s Dream’

Composer: Seán Doherty (b. 1987)
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Composer: Seán Doherty (b. 1987)

Performance date: 26/06/2015

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 2015

Duration: 00:13:35

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: pf

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]) - [quartet]

I was
introduced to music through the fiddle tradition of my native Donegal. The
tradition is distinctive in Ireland: not like the languid lilt of the Clare
style nor the light patter of the Galway style, the Donegal style looks
outwards, across the sea, for its closest kin — to Scotland and to Nova Scotia.
Aggressive, driving, and un-ornamented, the tunes are as stark as the bogland,
the bowing as jagged as the cliffs. A leading of exponent of this tradition was
my teacher, the fiddle player James Byrne and this string quartet is loosely
based on two tunes that I learned from his playing: An Londubh and The Devil’s

died on his walk home from a seisiún in the early hours of 8
November 2008 near his home in Mín na Croise. This piece imagines this walk. Half-remembered
fragments of the slow air, An Londubh, slowly coalesce until its
full form is reached, into which the reel, The Devil’s
, intrudes as a danse macabre that demolishes the
air. The air comes, screaming, back, only to be subsumed by the reel once more.
After a quotation of the plainchant Dies irae, the reel itself
disintegrates. From the ashes of the Devil’s Dream, the air emerges
in its final, transfigured, form.

piece is written in memory of James Byrne [1946–2008] and for his partner
Connie, and their daughters, Séana, Aisling, and Merle.